Summer Internship Musings – By Anonymous
A summer internship is never short of surprises – good and bad. A mail is sent a month prior to the commencement of SIP with a project title and brief – and the madness begins (though by now we should have been used to it in a B-school). I frantically consulted a few professors about scope and domain as I had no clue about what to do – little did I realise that the people in my SIP organization were in the same boat; they just goad us to work hard to give them the ‘earth-shaking idea’. Oh yeah, that’s the mistake I might have made by opting to do an MBA – I am THE panacea for all organization’s problems and no one understands that I am a fellow human being in the learning curve (Freshers beware! the curve is very steep and you can compete with your experienced classmates only a couple of years into your permanent job).
So I land in Mumbai/Delhi with a rough sketch of a project roadmap, hoping to network with some co-interns from other B-schools. Company gives us accommodation – let us give them a hand; honestly, no one goes out of their way to look after us in burgeoning metropolises. So you check into your stylish apartment with co-interns and have some fun for the initial few days, checking out films in the multiplex nearby. The honeymoon period in office lasts for 3-4 days in the form of an induction – each executive from each BU comes and waxes eloquent of an open culture and conducive learning environment – not that it is false, but you need to figure out a lot of stuff yourself, anywhere, for that matter.
And before you know it, the grind begins. For the first couple of weeks, I just went to office, returned and slept – tired for no reason at all! The guide meets you daily (and grumbles about it later) for just 10 minutes, saying whatever comes to mind, ordering the intern about. My seniors had warned me about the Mid-Review crisis – where you realise that you have been executing stuff in completely the opposite direction. For now let’s keep the suspense…
So the standard way to get out of uncertainty is benchmarking – you frantically call your classmates/alumni in other companies and figure out how they approach the problem, hoping to get inspired by their practices. It is never enough. Just as when you think you can relax, your guide innocuously asks you – ‘are you working 16 hours a day? You have to get a ‘stretch’…Blimey!
But the inevitable still happens – the Mid Review crisis. You are berated for ‘not applying your mind’ and for ‘not being aggressive and energetic’. Suddenly you realise that some things which you had ignored in your first year started biting you hard – I had a very basic method of making PPTs – something unacceptable in the corporate world. I am an introvert and this project demanded lot of eliciting opinions from stakeholders. The world suddenly becomes a harsher place – your guide asks you – ‘tell me honestly, should I help you to the extent the way I have done? Other interns don’t get this amount of help from guides. You should manage your time better. Blah blah blah…’. Some terrifying questions started popping into my head – did the interview panel make a mistake last year by selecting me? Will a situation arise where I sell soaps as a streethawker (and not out of swanky marketing departments of FMCGs)?
A couple of days of feeling very depressed notwithstanding, I call up a couple of professors again (thankfully I attended all their classes and tried to participate in them so I was on reasonably good terms with them). They said “your guide himself may not be clear of what to do and is unable to communicate stuff in a way understandable to you.” Slightly bolstered by this, I mailed my guide an idea of what I thought the project would be and voila! He replies with a consolidation of what all stuff he was throwing at me a few weeks ago. I slowly start leveraging my parents’ contacts in the corporate world to talk to a couple of respected people in my industry to gain a better perspective.
Execution is the easier part and over the next 3 weeks, I really did spend 16 hours a day perfecting my PPT. Ideas were coming thick and fast and I really felt good about myself. Calls at 11 PM with alumni, sending mails at 5 AM to many company employees to meet them that day to solicit their views on the project, the list goes on and on. The share of criticism is lesser now – ‘we hired a premier B-school intern to give us something different and not run-of-the-mill stuff’ but that’s okay, I am used to it now. A couple of people slyly dropped hints about the much coveted PPO but in the end (not for my performance but from a manpower perspective) …I ‘ll tell you don’t worry.
Finally D-day arrives – the final review. After 40-odd iterations in my PPT I get ready to present it to my guide’s boss. I was pleasantly surprised to see pleasant smiles on their faces. A huge sense of relief flooded me – yes, I am not useless after all! The perfunctory feedback requisition – where I wax eloquent about the organization (don’t be harsh on me, you’ll understand when you intern), the farewell and the flight back home. And yes, no intimation about PPO so I guess I wasn’t good enough. Too much churlishness in the first month must have sealed my fate. I thank all my alumni/professors/classmates for their timely help without which I wouldn’t have made it. I am serious. They did help me out of a tricky, nay, risky situation.
I have seen that many do MBA just for money – my advice: don’t do so unless you are sure you can put up with so much uncertainty. Our parents managed with their degrees back then – I envy them. It is now a herd mentality which creeps in. What about me? I am still trying to figure out what enthralls me in life. I currently have no choice but to take part in the rat race – I shudder to think where I would be had I not joined a premier B-school. Lets face it – MBA gives us some respect in today’s materialistic world and ensures a slightly more comfortable life. I seriously hope that, like all twenty-somethings, I find my true calling sooner or later. Do you think you should have read this article from someone like me? I admire Nolan’s films and leave it to the reader to take a call.
(This anonymous entry is an official entry to the Summer Saga 2015 Competition. If you have an internship story that could compete against the best in India, give it a shot! Read the instructions here and start writing!)