Disclaimer: The views expressed in this essay are solely my own. They do not represent the views of my employer(s), past, present, or future in any way.

For context, I did my internship with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) under their flagship Strategic Leadership Program (SLP). This essay won’t talk about the work I did there for obvious reasons. It is also not a review of the culture and the perks. I intend to write a detailed internship review at some point in the future, but this essay will solely focus on what I learned from my experience.

Sad. Alone. Miserable. For a long time, I thought those were the three words that I’ll say if I get asked about my first ever corporate internship. As I reflect on my experience, I realize that is not true at all. Sure, I could say those three words for the sake of saying them, but that would be a lie. In fact, the internship was a tremendous learning experience overall. This is an attempt to document the lessons I learned during my time here.

This essay is modeled after my Year 1 of MBA at IIM Ahmedabad essay and might be helpful to future interns embarking on their first-ever corporate internships.

Learnings

Document everything. Beyond a point, it becomes impossible to keep track of all the data gathered from secondary research. I’ve also noticed that documenting the entire thought process helps later on. You can look at the scribbled pages and see what you were trying to do. It does not matter what you use to document the process; a notepad, a Word document, stickies, or any other tool. As a bonus, documenting what you’re thinking about helps you write articles such as this.

Ask for clarification often. A friend with corporate experience told me that it is common in the industry to be handed very open-ended problems, and it is up to us to prioritize what to work on. That means it is pretty important to ask questions often and clarify the expectations and approach you wish to take. Otherwise, you might need to redo many things, which would be very sad.

Seek feedback frequently. I realized this quite late into the internship. I would work on something, get stuck, and think of a solution for days. Of course, it did not help. The more prudent thing to do is ask people for feedback on what you are thinking about and proceed from there. More often than not, it helped me reconsider my approach and develop something useful.

Communicate very clearly. I thought I had decent PPT skills before the start of the internship. The first few weeks blew that impression away. What is obvious to you may not be obvious to others. The color combination you thought was the best may not be the clearest to the others. To paraphrase the words of my manager, “It does not matter if you have too many slides or too much text, what matters is how effectively you can get your point across. Try to communicate what you were thinking, and try to back up everything you write on any slide with logic.” A very wise person, indeed.

PPT. One of the most important skills that I learned during the internship, if not the most important, is how to make nice presentations. Instead of dragging around boxes to snap into place, you can align them in the middle, center, left, and right! You can even distribute boxes horizontally and vertically! 1

Don’t count the number of traffic jams. As dumb as it might sound, I actually measured the distance from the office to my place in terms of the number of traffic jams. One junction, one toll booth, and a second toll booth. It worked out pretty well until it did not. One day instead of three traffic jams, there were only two, so I missed my stop. I had to walk about a kilometer extra as a result. That was fun, though.

Try to get as much work done in the workplace as possible. Night after night, I thought, “Yeah, this is the night that I will crush the entire project.” Nothing happened in reality. Maybe this is true just for me, but I have been more productive in the workplace than in the hostel.

Get enough sleep at night. Getting consistent, good-quality sleep at night is a real challenge with everything to catch up on and people to catch up with. I tried my best to do it during the first few weeks of the internship, but it became impossible a few weeks later. Unlike in college, there is no scope to sleep during the daytime. In college, I could work on an assignment the entire night and then sleep during the day after attending the classes. That flexibility was not there during the internship because, surprise, most of the world work during the day.

People are generally happy to help. If you reach out, people are usually glad to help. I thought I would be interrupting people’s day for the longest time if I reached out to them for help. But, I realized that you can get your work done much faster if you just reach out to relevant people for help.

Nobody knows the correct answer. During my undergraduate and even at B-School, the professors would have an answer (often correct) to my questions. That was not the case here. 2 Sure, the team gave me feedback on whatever I did, but none knows the correct answer. It was frustrating at times, frankly, because I would get stuck at a stage, would think about the problem and possible solution approaches but would not be able to come up with anything substantial to put on a slide. It made me feel very dumb, ngl.

Stipend can buy happiness. This is debatable. Okay, maybe it can’t buy happiness as a feeling but it does give you access to various things that can make you happy. I think Trevor Noah puts it very succinctly in his book Born A Crime.

For the first time in my life I had money, and it was the most liberating thing in the world. The first thing I learned about having money was that it gives you choices. People don’t want to be rich. They want to be able to choose. The richer you are, the more choices you have. That is the freedom of money.

In summary, I did not have many expectations going into the internship. It was more of an exploration for me to figure out which aspects of it I might like and which ones I won’t. I would not claim that I have figured it all out. Nonetheless, it has been quite an experience in terms of learning and growth. I don’t get intimidated communicating my ideas to people and am more open about coming up with solutions, however silly they may seem at first. I’m happy that it happened, and at this point in life.

In the meantime, I can’t wait to go back to IIMA and enjoy whatever time I have left there. I also hope to use the skills I learned during the internship in my Term 4 classes. I’m looking forward to so many things; I don’t know about anything specific, but I think the remaining time at IIMA will be awesome. I suppose I’m just happy at this point. Cheers!

Notes

  1. If you make PPTs, you know what I’m talking about! 

  2. I understand that even in academia, after a certain point, nobody would know for certain what the answer is, but I hope you get the point. 

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