The Foot in the Door
It was only when the summer internship placement shortlists started coming out when I realized that there's such a thing as 'too much experience'. With the glittery eyed dream of getting a Day Zero summer placement and 43 months of work experience on my shoulders, it only took the blind eye of a few companies for my self-doubt to creep in.
By God’s grace (or the placement committee :P), I was shortlisted for the e-commerce giant – Amazon! While I somehow managed to reach the final round, I fumbled (too much introspection is counterproductive indeed). As I prepare myself for another disappointment, I hear my name being called. The PC representative sends me to the waiting area of L&T interviews, where the HR (luckily my college alumni) tells me that they have a role that extends explicitly from my past work experience in Edu-tech and they hadn't found anyone suitable for the role in all the B-schools they visited till then (and I thought my mom lied when she said I’m “special” :P). The role was mine if I cracked the interview, and 'I' was my only competition!
With just the right amount of confidence boost that I needed, the 40-minute-long interview went phenomenal, and the regular college day ended with an internship offer from the Corporate Technical Training division at L&T.
The Internship Experience: A Two-month ‘Screening’
The COVID-19 pandemic had left the entire world stricken with suffering. Everyone was scared and so was I, partially for different reasons. The country had gone into lockdown; many companies had rescinded their internship offers or cancelled the stipends altogether. I was lucky enough that my company honoured its promise and did neither, but my internship journey was going to be virtual in its entirety. That meant – no visit to the infamous L&T – LDA campus in Lonavala, no in-person team inductions or farewell, no company logo-imprinted goodies, no team discussions or brainstorming, and the scariest one: lower PPO probability.
Of course, I didn’t really have another choice but to ADAPT, EVOLVE AND THRIVE. The internship kickstarted with a day of interactive digital induction. And by the third day, I was starting my day with the daily stand-up meeting. The team was warm, welcoming, and receptive. At no point did I feel that I was 'just an intern'. The Division Head came across as a perceptive leader and invited my honest opinions at every stage. Combining my skill set, the current virtual setup, the long-term department goals, and my expectations from the summer internship, I was allocated two project tracks. The first project was developing a decision-enabling dashboard using Power BI based on historical data. The second project revolved around their website revamp, with a whole new set of internal marketing objectives.
Although an engineer by qualification, I had absolutely NO experience with the software gamut. So, the virtual internship gave me a chance to learn, develop, and upskill myself. Time flew; the two months were spent in daily meetings, weekly updates to my company mentor, fortnightly reviews that made sure I was moving on the right track and loads of self-learning.
Following this protocol to the T was necessary if I wanted to deliver and make sure the final output was aligned to the expected project outcomes.
I had the opportunity to implement two other smaller initiatives that optimized the team’s time utilization.
And come the day of my final review – besides the encouraging response to my project deliverables, the most memorable part was the fact that the entire team joined the meeting to attend my presentation. It was a wrap!
The Learning Diaries & The ‘Gyaan’
• Interviewing for your dream company is one aspect; getting shortlisted for it is another. So, focus on placement preparation more than the company preparation.
• I was wrong: there’s no such thing as ‘too much experience’. The right company, the right role – they will cherish you for who you are.
• Be yourself. Consult your seniors, but make your own choices. Don't get caught in the blind race of CV pointers and certifications. They're essential, but only if you gain the knowledge. The company HRs are too smart to call out if the certification is simply ‘bought’ and not ‘earned’.
• Everything is a learning opportunity. Adapt and revive. I was hired for a specific project but ended up doing something entirely different. The pandemic has altered our new normal. So instead of holding on to ‘what could have been’, focus on ‘what can I do to make the best of it’.
• Stay fearless. A summer internship is a once in a lifetime opportunity. So, make it worth your while. Give your best shot, but admit to any mistakes or roadblocks you’re facing. Acknowledge that it’s a learning curve and you’re still growing.
• Document everything, and ‘excel’ at it. From any confidential data-related requests to any meaningful suggestions, from instructions to feedback, it helps to get things written down on an email.
• When applying your MBA learnings, keep it practical (and not textbookish). The models & frameworks you’ve learnt are simply to organize your thoughts and approach. Avoid proposing or implementing solutions in the framework format. Innovate!
• Leverage your understanding of the project objectives to make a remarkable presentation. Your recommendations should reflect a macro-level perspective. Aesthetics and interactivity are underrated. Incorporate both in your final presentation.
• Be on a lookout for the scope of improvements – within yourself as well as your organization. Self-improvement will help you thrive, and your organization will welcome the improvement initiatives. Ensure both are relevant.
• Stay positive. Keep your eyes on the destination, but focus on embracing the experience. I don’t know the ‘outcome’ of my internship yet, but I know that the experience has fulfilled its purpose. The internship has ended, but the learnings will go on!