"Now I've had the time of my life. Yes, I swear it's the truth."
Whenever I think about my summer internship experience, I instantly start humming the above song ‘Time of My Life’ by Black Eyed Peas.
Looking back, I would say they were the two most challenging, enjoyable, satisfying, enriching months ever! Of course, the icing on the cake was when, after my internship, the team recognized my work and said that I had done justice to the extremely challenging projects.
Let me take you through my HR internship journey step by step.
The interview process for Ola is quite different from other organisations. I was asked to analyse and provide solutions for mini cases. These cases tested one's business acumen, functional knowledge of HR and presence of mind. While I had extensively prepared for Ola cabs business and processes, I was asked to provide solutions for the challenges faced by Ola Money (little did I know that I'd have an interaction with the Head of Ola Financial Services during the internship!). There were a few more case-based questions that tested my functional knowledge of HR.
An important thing to note is that Ola doesn't care much about the jargon. There is no need to use fancy terms, and unlike other companies, one does not need to memorize the motivational theories. All that matters is that your answers must be backed up by sound logic with practical applicability. And while answering, avoid beating around the bush and be to the point with very sharp inferences.
Also read - Summer Internship Experience At Ernst & Young
First Impressions of Ola
As I entered the doors of Ola HQ, I was taken aback by the view in front of me. There were no cubicles but flat tables and bean bags around, there was an adrenaline rush - people were busy solving problems; the office radiated positive vibes all around. And then my eyes caught a few people playing with a dog! Yes, Ola is a pet-friendly office. There is a reason why Ola is named the best place where India would love to work for, four years in a row.
The Journey Begins
I was escorted to my department, where I was introduced to my colleagues informally. A Senior colleague took me for casual talk. During the conversation, he said, “if the rate of work is “X” in other organisations, it is “5X” here in Ola”, and this is what I witnessed in the next two months. I was given a laptop, and in a few minutes, my desktop was set, and in the next few hours, my inbox was loaded with emails from senior colleagues.
My Mentor - A Role Model
"In HR, there is a scope to do wonders, and at the same time, you can get away by doing nothing", were the words of my mentor in our first interaction.
My mentor was the pillar of support to me throughout the journey. In these two months, I finished reading two excellent books - HR here and Now and Work Rules. I also published an article on LinkedIn on Gamification in HR. These were the kind of assignments given to me by my mentor.
I vividly recall about how beautifully he explained to me the application of Snowball Effect and Covalent bonds in the workplace and life in general. I learnt the importance of creating an impact through the work one does and the nuances of how to influence without authority.
My mentor recognized and appreciated my every effort and would come and shake my hands whenever he liked something I did. The appreciation would motivate me to strive better. I realised that an effort that gets appreciated gets repeated.
Even though he had a hectic schedule, he would always take out time to discuss the direction in which my project was moving, right from valuable insights, to drawing analogies to make me understand the intricacies of the situations. From the very first day till the end, I enjoyed every interaction with him, and I had a tremendous impact on how I have come to view HR as a function in the organisation.
Projects At Ola
I worked on two projects, parallel reporting to two different managers. Both the projects were critical and any error, however small, would have grave consequences. Both the managers gave me more than enough autonomy for an intern to be part of the execution of these projects. The Advanced Excel lessons from Youtube which I took before the internship helped. Meanwhile, I’d also gather and exchange data with other teams working on different projects. The support I received from all the stakeholders and senior managers across the business units of Ola was exemplary. At the end of execution, the happy faces in the team were indicative of the success of the project.
If not for NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), I’d have loved to share the details in depth of how I approached the project and overcame the challenges I faced.
Few More Learnings From Internship At Ola
I collated the key takeaways from the interaction with my mentor and senior colleagues with the hashtag #TIL (Today I Learnt) posts on my twitter profile. Here are the selected few of those:
- Value Addition must be the prime factor behind any decision taken in business. Always ask - what’s the value added for a given action before execution?
- Any framework in theory, like Maslow's hierarchy, is there for giving a structure to the thought process. However, it should not dominate the thinking part of us. Hence I tweaked the Mcghee and Thayer’s three-level framework according to Ola and applied.
- HR is unique and beautiful as it deals with the intangible aspects of the business and yet a powerful function that drives the company towards growth and profit.
Experiences Outside of Work
The hot samosas whenever it drizzled, fun and banter in the office amidst the busy working hours, social activity of Ola - rejuvenating the old government schools of Bangalore, the team outings with my super cool colleagues, the team lunch on my last day of internship at Ola; these memories are something I’d always cherish.
Summing It Up
At Ola, the exposure is tremendous, and one grows along with the company. I was always pushed to work on meaningful challenges. The challenges and problems you solve create an impact beyond your imagination.
These two months journey at Ola are something that I would always treasure. The journey not only provided me with valuable exposure but also it shattered my earlier myths about the HR function and corporate life. It also made me realise how interesting can work be if you are surrounded by the teams which are conducive to your growth and learning!