‘Sports stays. Sports always stays.’ It was history in the making and we were all part of the heritage which we were about to create. These words echoed in the auditorium and we (the interns) were inspired by the brilliance of the man addressing us. Make no mistake – it was not easy for us to have reached that point. It all started with one word, ‘PUMA’.
I still remember the day when it was announced that PUMA was hiring. Something just felt right about it. I felt a connection. One could argue that it had to do with my long-standing association with sports (Badminton, Table Tennis, Tennis, to name a few). But I believe it was more.
I was shortlisted for the hiring process and thus began my journey. I passed the written aptitude test and reached the following round. To me, this is where PUMA differentiated itself from other hiring companies I have seen. This round required me to make a one-minute video talking about myself and describing my vision of my first day at PUMA. The way I see it, this is a test at many levels. It tests a person’s communication skills, time management abilities, and most importantly evaluates if a person is capable enough to stand out in a minute. After this, were the interviews. As it turns out, I was indisposed and went straight to sleep soon after my interview was over. Suddenly, my phone buzzed, and then it just wouldn’t stop ringing! I woke up overjoyed to see that I had been selected to intern with PUMA.
As I’m sure many of you are aware, PUMA is a leading sports brand in India. This comes through in the very culture of the company. My internship can be compared to the most quintessential football match. There were seventeen chosen ones in the squad. We embarked upon this sojourn two days before the actual joining date. We were given a coupon to source a PUMA uniform (after all the players wear their nation’s / Club’s jersey, don’t they?!). Every good game requires a thorough warm up and we began our internship with a workout, the PUMA way of welcoming interns.
Every football match tends to have a gradual start that builds up over time. My projects began on a lighter note with my learning about the routine work of being an HR team player, thus, kick-starting the numerous (read: eight!!) projects that I had to undertake in the short span of two months. This, of course, did not include the smaller ‘side projects’ that also needed to be accomplished in the same timeframe. My mentor was extremely approachable despite being incredibly busy herself. It was around halftime (read: one month) when we were given the opportunity of interacting with the Head of Puma’s Asian business. Few companies allow interns such privileges and my interaction with him taught me what it is to have a vision, what it is to have passion, and most importantly, what it is to be ‘PUMA-fit’. His words, “it’s not over until it’s over” still ring in my ears, echoing the fighting spirit of the heart.
The second half of my internship was far more intense. I had settled into the company and the team, and it was now the time to deliver! I had to constantly juggle between work on the corporate side of the business and the retail operation of the firm. I will admit that this was new to me, and I found it difficult to manage due to my limited prior experience. The other way of saying this is that it was exactly the learning that I needed! I understood the importance of prioritization and learnt that large volumes of work can be coped with if only one learns how to parallel process. After a good first half, it was now time to reach the pinnacle, and to give my full-time score a perfect finish!
Many matches reach their peak during the final moments. Mine was no less. I was asked to plan and organize an event for the entire office in the last week of my internship. Coming up with a strategy that would involve everyone was a herculean task in itself, let alone executing it. This meant very long work hours and a shortage of sleep. My extremely intense labour reaped its benefits and we had successfully organized a great event. This also marked the end of our internships. It was the best way to bring the curtains down – with the highest note being touched and an epic finale. It was now time to bid adieu.
An ideal workplace should be one that people look forward to coming to on a Monday morning. There are very few companies that follow the mantra ‘work hard, party harder’ and PUMA is one such company that practices this methodology to the core. During my two-month stint, on the one hand, I learnt how to make interview calls, but on the other hand, I attended (and organized!) parties. I was fortunate to be able to sample corporate life whilst also learning to play Table Tennis, Foosball and Pool.
Akin to every player having to play his/her own unique game, we, interns were allowed the same freedom. I learnt talent acquisition by executing the hiring strategy in various parts of the country. I learnt talent engagement by organizing a whole event. Few companies trust their interns with such responsibilities. Vibrant culture with music playing in the office, happy faces sitting all around; all these things account for ranking PUMA among the top companies in the GPTW list of India.
A key takeaway for me was the difference between the theory we study in classrooms and the practical application in actual organizations. While theory deals with concepts in ideal conditions, it is rarely the case in an office set-up. It can be challenging for a new-bee to connect the two. I believe all problems in a domain have some common elements, and the theories we study can help us understand these. However, most problems also are unique due to various factors (industry, market scenario, etc.), and each of these needs to be dealt with independently. So, theories work only up to a point. After that, it is situation dependent.
To say that my internship was good would undermine my experience by leaps and bounds. The vast learning in and out of the job, combined with the spirited lifestyle makes PUMA a great place to be in. There were seventeen of us and PUMA taught us to roar. It taught us to be competitive and remain unfazed in the face of challenge. I know that I am now a better and more developed person than I was before my internship. I know I can do good to the society and I know wherever life takes me, whatever the situation is, I will find a way because ‘it’s not over until it is over’.
About the Author:
XAHR (formerly XIMB-HRM)