Internship experience at Microsoft India, Sales and Marketing Division

The initial excitement…

The most awaited internship tenure with Microsoft Sales and Marketing Division began with a bang. I was invited to stay at the ‘Taj’ for a brief period of 15 days. Excitement had already crept into me as I went through the project briefing. It was a customer facing project that involved a lot of field work. I braced myself to enjoy the next two months, I was eager to be challenged against my strengths. During this internship tenure, I had a very unique experience in many ways,

– It was my first stint in a sales office

– I was the only intern in my office

– The average age of people in my office was about 32+ years

The Journey unfolds…

It was my very first day and I was welcomed with a bouquet of roses and a warm smile. It was a pleasant surprise and it also helped me to calm down the thousands of thoughts, running in my mind. Pretty early at office, I was scanning from one corner to the other. It was a well-designed and compact office that housed nearly 40 people. Simple but neat work stations, small but well decorated pantry, excellent hospitality, well equipped conference rooms and a fantastic location. It had been 10 minutes, then entered a guy in his thirties, well dressed and brisk, the very look at him hinted me that he is a senior manager. To my surprise he came straight to me with the smile that I experienced beforehand and greeted me. Thereafter I noticed that, the same smile was all around me from the security guard to my reporting director. The environment was so warm and I felt really comfortable on day one.

Thus my day began and I had my HR processes and meetings scheduled for the rest of the day, late in the evening I met my reporting manager who briefed me about my project. I was very much thrilled to be a part of it. I had to frame a strategy to land an Enterprise wide Agreement with two big conglomerates, it had been a challenging task for the past couple of years and my manager wanted me to crack the ice. At the first instance I was pretty much worried if I would be able to complete it in two months, but I really liked the kind of work I am going to do and the level of enthusiasm my manager showed towards me, so I decided to take up the challenge without any further queries.

Right after my manager briefed me about the project, I was on my own, the field was open and I was asked to play as I like. No mentoring, no instructions, the entire project was owned and executed by me and only me. Being a customer focused project, it demanded a lot of meetings with clients and partners. Whomsoever I wanted to meet, my mentors tried and scheduled a meeting right away. There were no ifs & buts, I was given at most autonomy, right after every customer meeting, feedback discussions happened with respective account managers and immediate actions were triggered wherever needed.

Third day into my internship my manager asked me over a cup of coffee, if I had already started meeting the CIOs of the group companies. I was literally shocked. The amount of trust these guys had on me was amazing. My team never thought ‘He is an intern, will he be able to represent the company alone to such high profiled people’, they were very clear that their biases shouldn’t get on my way. Every morning the very sight of my team would push me to give my best, they trusted me so much.

Throughout this journey, I never got caught in my comfort zone (as I was the only intern). I enjoyed the sales environment, those never ending conversations with customers & partners, dashing and slashing of tables, celebrations for the deals that were converted, IPL/ movie reviews, heated political debates, poll predictions & the list kept growing.

While I enjoyed my work, there were instances when I was challenged to the core. But every challenge made me stronger and humble. According to me, the biggest challenge for every MBA graduate out there is handling multiple stakeholders & extremely different personalities day in and day out. From collecting information to getting your work done, you need to maintain synergies with all these people, which unfortunately turns out to be a difficult task for many of us. However great the organization may be, these are the ground realities. Bureaucracies, jealousy and the craze for money is deep within most of us. By passing them and deriving value (in the form of information/ help/ advice/ work) out of people is a really challenging task.

The second challenge lied in making our customers speak their mind out. Unless we understand our customers we are not going to succeed. We need to listen to them, their thoughts, their pain points, their expectations and their concerns. Also not all our customers are welcoming, we need to set the IIM badge apart when we are on the field, else our ego is not going to let us win. But once we establish our credentials and crack the ice, I promise it’s going to be a wonderful conversation.

All through these two months, every day gave me a new insight and a new learning opportunity, be it on the field or at the desk. I developed a lot of patience, humbleness & perseverance by the end of two months. I was confident enough to walk into a CIOs room and have an engaging/ meaningful conversation. I was able to handle various types of people hailing from conservative to collaborative cultures. In the meanwhile, my documentation and excel skills were also horned as part of the process.

I still remember the first day, my manager gave me two golden keys, ‘Out of the Box Thinking’ & ‘Honest, Unbiased execution of the project’. Believe me it worked great, I never wore a Microsoft hat in these two months and I was straight forward in my feedback and recommendations. It helped me to come up with new ways of cracking the long pending issues and also it gave me a different perspective about customers & Microsoft.  In the corporate world sustaining your individuality is a big challenge and my manager made me realize how important it was to innovate and succeed. Overall it was an awesome experience that could be cherished forever. Lot of learning, lot of challenges, lot of celebrations, and a lot of new people into my life. It was a bit sad to leave the corporate life once again but the beautiful heaven at IIM Bangalore welcomed me back with loads of smiles as always 🙂

Makesh Kumar M

IIM Bangalore