THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A FIN-INTERN
Seldom has any city left as indelible an impression on me as did Bangalore. It is the city that I embraced for my internship at a blue-chip firm in the finance/banking domain. While I will present my experience of both the stay and the work to my potential recruiters as ground-breaking and life-changing, I will spare you the hyperbole since you aren’t a recruiter, rather just an unsuspecting reader! I have read numerous accounts of people’s internship experiences and so would you have. I don’t know if this will be better or worse than them, but I can promise that it will be from the heart and not the brain.
To begin with, my internship was not exactly 60 days, it was a few days shorter – lesser number of days to sport formal attire! I belong to one of the top few B-schools in this country and hear classmates talk about their super-cool projects in the ITCs and HULs of the world with complete abandon. I can’t help but get jealous since my firm is too big on confidentiality/secrecy/whatever-they-choose-to-call-it and thus, I have to keep mum during such intellectually stimulating conversations. Anyways, the said company is a so-called ‘good’ company and my role was in the Investment (Equity) Research division and thus involved playing with Excel sheets, listening to conference calls (that are more soporific than sleeping pills) and writing serious looking reports. Err, correction: this was the work of a full-time employee. And my work was to assist a certain full time employee (my mentor) in his daily job and complete a certain project.
Broadly speaking, my project was related to demand projections for certain companies (stocks) under the firm’s coverage. This involved understanding the markets in which these companies operate and figuring out how those markets will perform going ahead and by correlation how the demand for these companies will pan out. Now, now…this is not as gassy as it sounds. It did involve a fair bit of data crunching and going through company models that were as long as the Mahabharata! And all this sounded like ‘Sanskrit being read out to a horse’ to me until my mentor stepped in. My mentor was the all-purpose antibiotic to all the virulent work-related issues that a newbie like me faces in the workplace. I do not remember the last time I had trusted someone so blindly to guide me in the right direction as I trusted my mentor. The consequence of this immense trust combined with my limited skillset was heavy on the poor guy- he had to teach me everything from the keyboard shortcut of ‘paste special’ command in Excel to the basics of accounting that were explained during a lecture that I slept through! It is to the credit of that man that he never said a no and never got impatient with the smallest and the silliest of my doubts even though he was years ahead of me and had every right to do so.
Now, even though my mentor acted as the road-roller to make my way in the organisation smoother, one can’t help but encounter obstacles that none but oneself may overcome. The biggest obstacle in my way was to apply things that I had learnt; for example, I knew what a Sum of the Parts analysis is but to find out the real-time challenges one faces in applying it to value a stock, was an eye-opener on why finance is considered a difficult branch to work in. Also, a typical B-school curriculum does not equip one with enough technical skills (like usage of MS Excel) to sail through one’s work with ease. This made the internship an uphill task.
But the difficulty of this uphill task was countered by the pure wonder that Bangalore was. This was my first foray out of Northern India and needless to say the city threw its own delights and surprises. It was vastly different – right from the auto rickshaw drivers who spoke a mixture of English, Hindi and their local language to the ladies around who stuck to customs like drawing rangoli and braiding their hair with a gajra at a scale I had never seen before. The contrast of Taco Bell not very far from a ’99 dosas’ outlet struck me like the bolts of Zeus; although this isn’t uncommon of a metropolitan but my over-alert mind, eager to take in the new city, was examining things in far greater granularity than I would do in my home-Delhi.
The different language and the friendly people (minus the annoying, staring men) made my stay an enjoyable experience. Surprisingly, one of the most enjoyable aspects of my stay was the office environment itself. Since I am a fresher, I believed office to be the boring place where all uber-aspirational people go to save the world. Saying that I was in for a shock is an understatement! My office was full of people who worked furiously and played fantasy league even more furiously; who talked to clients like one bargains with the vegetable sellers and fling friendly abuses at each other with the same ease. During many pre-placement talks I had heard that becoming successful at work requires you to bring your ‘entire’ self to work-hobbies and abuses included-and I saw it with my own two eyes!
This was my perception of this amazing place that I worked at. I often wonder what the perception of the permanent employees there would have been about me. Did I appear as unsure? Probably yes. Dumb? I’d like to believe not. Did I appear as someone not very sure of her preferences? Maybe; but this was actually the case. I had heard ‘n’ number of people say that a first job, most of the times, is a testing phase where one sees the difference between reality and perception about the chosen job. Thanks to these kind words, I entered my office with a tentative, experimental approach-with the attitude of a student entering a Chemistry Laboratory about to perform the most crucial experiment of her life. Thankfully, my experiment yielded good results from which I could draw understandable inferences (unlike the ones that I drew in my school’s chemistry lab!). It was thanks to the organisation and the friendly, supportive people there that I never felt like an outsider, rather just someone who is trying to find her feet in this line of work. The sheer amount of knowledge that there was on offer was overwhelming and no one ever refused me help. I have come out of the place a little more knowledgeable about finance and lot more confident about the company and the role-so much so that I eagerly await a call to go back!
I am quite sure I would also have appeared as a bit arrogant about my own college to people from the so-called ‘lesser’ colleges in the beginning. God knows I regret being so nosy after having interacted with senior people within the firm. These interactions drilled into my head the fact that no matter which college you are from, the only thing that will be important in the long run will be your willingness to work, your determination to succeed and your hunger to achieve your goals in life. The only job that a certain course or college does is getting you through those glass doors, beyond that everything depends on your capability.
My biggest takeaway from the internship, however, had nothing to do with the awesome-ness that was my firm. My takeaway (read realization) was inspired by an overdose of formal clothing, feet breaking sandals and upholding a professional demeanor. The realization was: college life is precious. Once you start working in an office environment, you are expected to behave in a certain manner- I mean you cannot wear flip flops and pyjamas to office like you might wear to a lecture! It taught me how to cherish the college, its environment and everything else about it while I still have the time to be here. And trust me, I will not crib about assignments, tests and strict professors for the rest of my time in college!
As I write this, I am in my college and having returned from the proverbial fiery pits of Hades, i.e. having obtained the much coveted ‘Internship Completion Certificate’, am all set for the next academic year. With the benefit of hindsight, the only preparation required for ‘those’ 56 days was lessons in how to adapt to a new environment and to carry a truckload of confidence with oneself. Also, charging oneself with extra sleep can’t hurt; the sleep reserves will come in handy when your finance role demands that you work 15 hours a day! In the end, I can honestly say that my takeaways from the internship are more critical and bigger than the deliverables mentioned on the Internship Completion Certificate! The beauty of Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, the kindness of my mentor and most other co-workers, the compassion of my PG owner towards an ill me – these are takeaways that no amount of A4 sheets will ever be able to contain.