Small Fish in a Big Pond – Internship Saga
First of all, I’ll like to write this saga anonymously to provide greater details and to cover my shortcoming of burping more than allowed. My internship was with a laaaaarge Indian IT firm that made a good transition from being a Vanaspati company to IT. The internship seemed fine but I was more excited about the location because most of the people got absorbed in Bangalore and that is where best buddy lives. It was a chance for a reunion.
The mail with project details was expected in January but being true to its Indian origins, they sent us the mails in March. Thankfully for me the location was Bangalore and the travel was paid. I thanked my Gods because not everyone was so successful, one of my batch mates got Chennai and to make matters worse (or better) he got night shifts there. I was happy and packed, reached Bangalore a few days earlier and went straight to my friends place. It was a Friday and we celebrated in style.
The first two days of internship were induction and it turned out to be as mundane as expected, with customary GAS on the company and its wonders. The most interesting parts were filler ice breaking events that at times felt almost like ragging sessions because somebody could nominate you to show your talent on stage. The day ended with a small gift and laptop distribution. The second day was more interesting where we had to build a giant Lego structure within a time frame as part of the team building exercise.
The third day was the first day of reporting to our project locations. As it happens in laaaaarge organisations, small things take a lot of time and the whole day went in getting the laptop configured. I met my team and my point of contact but wasn’t able to contact my guide. The initial days were turbulent because they thought me of as a technical intern and gave a project on “one touch search using text analytics”. I had no clue of the subject, so used mother Google to prepare a brief PowerPoint presentation. But before I could decipher what it actually meant, I met my guide who turned out to be the most humble and wonderful person. He gave me a project on Digital Marketing which I was very happy to work on.
I had to compare the existing digital marketing solutions in the market, find the gaps in those solutions and suggest a comprehensive digital marketing solution for the company. The first month passed like a breeze with just research and study on the topic completed. There was nothing much to show on paper and nothing was organised. It turns out that it takes a lot of time to study and know a new subject. Also, that no organisation is ready to respond to an intern. I had to send out multiple mailers to get a reply. (Sometimes I used a fake designation to get more replies) In the meantime we formed a very cohesive group of interns and the foodie in me explored a variety of local delicacies. Andhra meals, bisibele bath, chow chow bath, akki roti, appam, hyderabadi biryani and an insane variety of dosas were my meals in office where I made a point to try everything on their menu out.
The first Big moment of the internship came when I got invited to a demo of a product along with all the big-wigs of the business line. I was a bit overwhelmed but remained an active listener throughout the meeting. The things didn’t add up. Ours was a large B2B company but the product was more B2C focussed. So, I asked just one question to my guide after the presentation – What do you want to do with this product? He jokingly replied – “If possible, Acquire them!!”
The second month was the actual grind. Almost everything had to be organised and presented in that short span. There were many revelations during this period. The biggest of them all was probably just how huge the domain of Digital marketing is. All we thought back in the b-schools was facebook and twitter. It was also the time of mid review where I had to run after my guide to get his suggestions while all I got was “OK”. Every time he suggested me to jazz up my presentation. It was hard to learn the art of jazzing up but I somehow managed to create an animated video which was jazzy enough for the guide.
The biggest challenge for me was waking up every morning at 6:30 in the morning because I had to catch the company bus. Staying with friends was a brilliant idea which I cursed every morning. Bangalore may as well be crowned the city of traffic jams. It tests your patience. Spending a couple of hours in the bus was what I got used to by the end.
The more serious challenge, however, was inside the campus. It was huge and full of people. In a laaaaarge organisation with one lakh forty thousand employees, it is very easy to get lost. Getting heard and creating an impression is a very difficult task. A challenge and a learning from this experience was that to make a mark in such organisation you need to meet the right people. Find the right person, create relation and make yourself visible. I did learn the importance of making yourself visible in the books but it was here that I understood it.
Bangalore might be the city of traffic jams but it is also the city of breweries. For anyone who likes his beers, the place is a heaven. There are so many micro-breweries to try. Nowhere else had I seen such long queues outside bars and pubs. But even the best of places on this earth can turn out to be boring if you don’t have the right company. Fun is where friends are. A five days a week internship gives you lots of time for fun and a large intake means you get to meet a lot of new people.
We went for several movies during this period, tried a lot of local restaurants, drove to Coorg and also to Nandi hills (just for the sunrise). It was my first trip down south and I just wanted to explore. A team mate of mine from Tamil Nadu also got married in this period. As it turns out their marriages take place in the morning while the reception of the guests is at the dinner a night before. The strangest thing however were the degrees mentioned on the entrance of the wedding hall.
The biggest learning that I got was that it is necessary to be proactive while on work. If you wait for an opportunity or do just what you are asked to do then you succumb to mediocrity. To create a lasting impression one needs to push the boundaries. Another learning was the importance of asking the right questions. We are all taught the importance of asking questions but when you are siting with the heads of the company, you cannot ask all questions. Their time is of great value and you need to ask right questions to right people.
The last thing which I figured out was that it is NOT the location but the company that matters. Everyone prays for a good pay package and a good location but having friends and enjoying the experience is equally important.
Just a few days before the final presentation I got my biggest shock. The guy who sat in the next cubicle had become a good friend. I told him that I expected very less interest of the top management in my project. It was then that he revealed that it is the only thing troubling the mind of the business head these days because they were in the middle of an acquisition. My mind ran back to the first meeting I had attended. It was not a joke. This is how it’s done keeping things subtle and secret. I was glad I had done a full analysis of their product as part of my project. My learnings from the internship grew by leaps and bounds in the span of a few moments.
The final presentation day saw us interns dressed in suits while others in the office wondered what we were up to. It is a difficult task explaining a large team what summer internship really means and that we are not permanent employees but we are being paid for sitting there in front of the laptops thinking of opportunities for the company and making PowerPoint presentations about it. The panel however knew what summer internship was and they were very receptive to our ideas.
This was followed by a one day closing ceremony where the top interns presented their works and were rewarded for their effort. And just like that two months were over. Probably the shortest two months of our MBA life. I made new friends, experienced the new culture and learnt a lot of new things. I had such a great company with me at all times that I hardly felt the pressure of the job. It is important to enjoy this experience and make it memorable rather than burdening yourself with pressure. It’s just a summer internship and not the end of the world.