Summer is Coming – Internship at P&G
Summer couldn’t come soon enough for me. I spent the whole of march stocking up ammunition for the coming war – fast tracking my MS excel lessons, reading journals & papers related to Supply Chain Management, making a planner and task scheduler, stocking up on formal office attire and tuning my body clock for the 9-5 cycle! I was excited, nervous & apprehensive.
On 25th March, I received emails from my guide & mentor welcoming me to the Procter & Gamble family. It was warm, re-assuring and comfortingly informal in a way that instantly made me feel good. Here was my first tryst with the P&G culture that everybody always appreciated & talked about.
On 6th April, I set on the 2 month long rite of passage that is a part of the holy MBA journey. The induction was fun as promised. We met interns from other B-schools across the country. We had gyaan sessions, games, coffee & lunch sessions and 2 days zoomed past me!
On the third day, the real game began. My guide briefed me about my project and handed over my workplan to me. The title sounded intimidating enough-“Logistics cost optimization through transportation efficiencies”. I didn’t have a clue how I would go about this. I took a deep breath and went through the work plan – multiple times. There was an approximate plan of action for me. I had 60 days ahead of me to prove my mettle. I was determined to give it my best shot!
For the non-ops folks, my project was about filling trucks better- making sure we filled every available inch of space so that it was worth every penny we spent on it. I had never observed trucks beyond the “HORN OK PLEASE” and its variant of messages printed on them. And now here I was trying to learn the game– Anna Body trucks, Punjab Body trucks, 32ft/40ft containers and all those other inhabitants of the highly unorganised, non standardized Indian transportation sector. And I had the task to ensure I utilize them to the maximum possible in terms of their weight and volume capacity.
Even though I was primarily based out of the Mumbai Head Office, it was important that I visited the plants & warehouses to internalize the system and come up with feasible solutions. My visit to the Mandideep plant & Luhari Distribution Center gave me a real time exposure to the many complexities of the logistics sector. To deal with so many variables in such a dynamic environment and bring in efficiency into the system seemed like a herculean task. I observed the entire truck loading process and spent long hours sitting at the docks trying to find those small areas where I could bring about ground level changes. In a company like P&G, where systems have been in place for long, coming up with improvements can be incredibly hard. You have to work with all stake holders and relook at every step of the process to find potential improvements.
In this process, I spoke to the ground level staff – the truck drivers, helpers, labour and security guards. One of the highlights of working with P&G was that the P&G culture was so deep rooted in the system that it was ingrained at every level of their human resource pool. There was respect for every individual and the urge to provide help & cooperation in every possible way when reached out to. For somebody who had developed so much apprehension after having heard so many tales of plant & shop floor life- this warm work atmosphere was a welcome relief! In fact, I enjoyed every bit of time I spent there. The little gestures like never leaving me alone during lunch break, accompanying me through the premises lest I get lost in the maze, answering my every small query in detail- all of these made me feel extremely comfortable.
As for my superiors, they stuck the perfect balance between hand-holding me when necessary and giving me the freedom to test every idea. It was empowering to be given the free-reign to alter any process as I deem fit. They pushed me and guided me when I needed it the most and helped me ask the right questions.
Needless to say, the 2 months of the internship were a roller coaster ride. I was working on a hard problem which, if solved, could generate real profits for the company. The challenge of the problem motivated me but the complexity and the scale of the problem meant long hours of frustration and head-banging on the table.
But in the end it all worked out. I was able to come up with an action plan that would significantly improve how P&G handled its transportation. I learnt a lot through my two months of internship – about people, processes & places! The inputs from my superiors thought me how to attack the problem with a top-down approach and keep pushing at the details for scope of improvement. Talking to the ground workforce allowed me to help them work better for the company. I realised it was not only important to tell them what to do but why to do it- that everybody is willing to work as long as they understand why they are expected to change their style of working suddenly. A lot of ideas come from talking to people who’ve been in the system for long. Their wisdom can be just as crucial as your knowledge. I took away certain key lessons from the internship-
- It is amazing what a great work culture does to your self confidence
- There is a difference between how an idea looks on paper and how it works out in real life. It is important to validate everything on the ground.
- There’s nothing like cold hard data to backup your recommendations. And getting that data is often the difficult part.
- Respect and kindness can help you crack the toughest nut when you seek help
- You can learn more by doing and pushing yourself to solve real-life problems than what any book could ever teach you
- Talking to many people is one of the key ways to diving deep and getting many perspectives
All in all, spending my summer at P&G was one of the best experiences of my life. I do not know just yet whether I’m going to land up there after graduation. But the lessons I learned there will stay with me for life. I now have the confidence to enter corporate life knowing fully well that I am capable of making real contribution. I also have a better understanding of myself, my limitations, my strengths and what I am capable of, If only I push myself.
Summer came & Jon Snow did know nothing. But now that is has passed, I definitely know a lot more! 🙂