The Indian Summer of 2014 – Internship at Stryker


The Indian summer of 2014


The story starts with the funny aspect of my ignorance where I applied for a company about which I knew squat and the eye opener came in the company presentation where I was slipping into intense drowsiness. My strategy to classify every unknown company as a trading firm failed this time because the smart lady on Dias was talking about medical devices. The two crisp suited salt and pepper haired gentlemen beside her seemed serious and I sensed that it is not going be an easy one hour. They dazzled us with their fortune status and various agency recommendations for best company and workplace. Adjusting my specs, I confirmed the company name to be Stryker Corporation and asked a silly question – “How your sector is any different from the pharma sector? “, which turned out to be a hit and they went on explaining the nuances.

Somehow I crossed the cutthroat hurdle of group discussion and reached the interview stage. Upon entering I met Director, India Operations of Stryker and he welcomed me inside. It was relief seeing a single barrel rather than facing a whole arsenal of panelists. Post certain generic questions I managed to get the panelist intrigued and he explained to me many things in detail while people waiting outside were biting their nails thinking how long I have been killing it in there. I came out with a victorious smug smile further dampening other’s confidence. By evening it was confirmed that I was to intern with STRYKER CORPORATION, a US based fortune 500 medical device manufacturer with revenues crossing 9 Billion USD mark.

Post days of boisterous merry making came the first day, the booked cab and I was in front of the behemoth of a corporate campus known as Vatika Business Park in Gurgaon. Enamored by the 8 floors of plush white offices, I was greeted by a nice HR lady who then introduced me to other co-interns. The day comprised of interactions with top management, product & division trainings, free snacks, free food and loads of free coffee. My first induction to corporate culture couldn’t be any better as it comprised of best people who were enthusiastic about their work and made us feel welcomed.

Next day we were assigned our mentors and as a surprise appeared the same gentlemen who interviewed me as my mentor. It was nice to have a familiar face to deal with and it becomes further pleasant if that guy is my mentor because he is an absolute down to earth, passionate and caring guy. I was to work under him in services department along with two other interns who luckily were my batch-mates. He offered us 3 projects to choose from which we decided upon rather peacefully. He then offered a 4th hobby project to anyone willing and some subconscious motivating voice demanding me to take charge made me squeak and finally I was the overly enthusiastic guy with two projects on hand.

My first project or as I call it “My smart grab” was a dream project for the company as well as top management. The objective was to establish Stryker India’s refurbished capital equipment business in India and my job description was to create a comprehensive launch plan covering every aspect i.e. Marketing, Finance, Operations, Branding etc. The business had promising revenue generation capabilities and scope was identified through certain primary surveys. The only chink in the armor was a certain government agency which just couldn’t fathom the idea of this business and thus declined the license appeal. That is when the avalanche started in my mere two months and for first 2 weeks, whomever I approached seemed depressed seeing their dream project rotting because of a regulatory tussle. My smart grab did not seem so smart now after all and the smile on my co interns’ faces said it all.

I approached my mentor with broken spirit and a long face when I noticed that he made an even longer one regarding my project. His suggestions somehow alluded that I should wait till the big shots grab that license and focus on my other hobby project. Now that hobby project demanded me to benchmark the technical service of Stryker India against the medical device industry. I was required to find the current satisfaction level with technical service of Stryker India and find areas to improve upon. I quickly came up with a primary survey which was finalized post several hard earned meetings with my busy mentor. Forgetting about the recent setback, my war was on and I was determined to make it big in the hobby project.

The world came crashing when I arranged for contacts of certain biomedical engineers in major hospitals and dialed a few numbers. The thing was that they are an extremely busy lot with a vast hospital to manage and a short temper. They judged me to be a salesperson within seconds as I couldn’t use my Stryker credentials because it was a third party survey and also the Gurgaon landline numbers have been branded as sales calls. Post 14-15 rejections I entered my mentors office with somewhat similar long face and he said – “Oh yeah, we did not consider that. Let’s scrap this project”. Let’s scrap the project? What does that mean? The guy with two projects finally has none on his hands and co-interns’ smile is even more smug now.

Post 4 weeks was the mid review. No one took notice what I was doing post my projects being scrapped. But my plan was not to fail miserably in the very first deliverable. Despite being brought to a halt I did not give up and determined to push through these projects on my own. I visited 7-8 hospitals in the nearby regions and found those biomedical engineers sitting in their dungeons deep inside the hospital. I waited, begged and chased those people for their time and finally managed to get certain responses for my survey. I adapted a different strategy for the phone calls where I lied through my teeth to grab people’s attention and then finally get their opinions about technical service by companies. I let go of the company phone also and spent personal balance to make the calls look more authentic with a personal touch.

On the day of mid review, my mentor, the good man he is, tried to dampen everyone’s expectations by narrating the difficulties I faced so that it doesn’t hurt me bad. But what came next was a shocker to him too because without his knowledge I had brought keen insights which could prove pivotal in turning around company’s technical service experience. My main project was not that much of a hoot but this one surely did steal the thunder and it felt good to be applauded in the end and more over the surprise in my mentor’s eyes was worth it. He lauded me for my tenacity, dedication, efforts and post that saw a glimmer of hope in my projects which made him actively participate in them.

The fun side of my internship was when we all got an opportunity to organize an Intra Company Sports Tournament all on our own. I took charge of the branding, designing aspects of the event as well as conducting two sports on my own. This was a brilliant opportunity to know wonderful people across all floors but it was one hell of a task too to manage everyone’s expectations and making the event a hit. The three days flew by in fun, frolic, chaos and busy collecting happy memories with people working hard to improve health standards worldwide but still brimming with numerous other talents. Our efforts were appreciated and we felt a part of the inner circle of the organization where there was no distinction in employees and interns.

The second half of my 8 week internship took me to 40 more hospitals, got me in touch with more than 250 biomedical engineers pan India for my hobby project. While I did not give up on the refurbished capital equipment business too and went on to talk to every department in the firm concerned with this business. I had to forgo the plush white luxurious office and get in heat to talk to more than 60 surgeons for branding purposes, meddle with busy sales teams all India to know their opinions and suggestions to launch this business successfully. The task did seem scattered at first but once I brought all the data on a big white board (I know..cliché..!!), the bigger picture became clear and I was able to connect the dots easily. Not only such tough projects made me realize that every theory in the book is not feasible but also helped me understand that no one can ever put into words whatever works out there on the field. Above all I brought so many learned professionals in my network that it is richer than it ever could be.

The judgment day arrived finally on Friday, 13th June. The top management with their gray hairs, serious looks, expensive suits and very less time on their hands filled the board room and upon entering I felt like I have come to crack a billion dollar deal. I distributed the heavy reference manuals and went on with my presentation as smoothly as I could explaining how I covered every aspect to give them a “ready to go” plan for business launch as well as practical insights to improving their technical service. The fight against time was lost marginally but in the end I was able to achieve the convinced look on their faces.

While writing this article for summer saga contest, I realized my story was like a Karan Johar film with a heavy plot, grand sets, promise of grandiosity, stark realities, conflicting emotions and finally a joyous happy ending making everything alright. I left that building not only with a fat cheque and a sense of relief but much more. I left the place with memories of a wonderful time, learning to be practical in my approach, importance of knowing your customer before everything, importance of connecting with people, tenacity to pursue beside hurdles and above all knowing that I contributed my part to making a difference in improving people’s life. My two months might help shape my next professional twenty years so everyone leaving for their internships, I recommend you to take it as seriously as your first job as it might define what you might become.