Internship at Shell Technology Centre, Bangalore
As a most memorable, fun-filled summer culminated last week in a Pre-Placement Offer from Shell, largely putting to rest my placement worries, I felt the urge to share my experiences through this article, in the hope that many are able to avail of this wonderful opportunity in the future.
Shell is one of the largest Oil and Gas companies in the world, and has 3 Technology Centres, one of them being at Bangalore, where we interns worked.
Three points to note about Shell Technology Centre, Bangalore (STCB) before I go further:
STCB floats its internship as late as in the middle of the even semester.
STCB takes interns with the purpose of giving as many as possible a PPO.
STCB intends to expand in India, and is largely increasing its intake.
STCB generally offers internships to pre-final year undergraduates of Mechanical Engg., Mining Engg. and Petroleum Engg., and pre-final year post-graduates of Chemical Engg. and the Earth Sciences.
The process began by submitting applications on an online portal, followed by telephonic interviews of shortlisted candidates. These were essentially non-technical, and had to do with showcasing your ‘people skills’ through prior projects and activities you’ve been part of, and a set of situational questions. Being a pre-final year DD student, I was allowed to apply on the special provision that my DDP topic was in line with a project going on in Shell.
There were 20 of us from across 4 IITs (B, D, M, R) and ISM Dhanbad distributed among various departments in the company, given work on live businesses broadly classified under Upstream (dealing with exploration and extraction of oil), Downstream (post extraction processing and refining) and Projects. We were later joined by 2 students from MIT Pune.
We were blown away by the initial accommodation given to us: a week-long stay in a condo apartment at a 4 star hotel! It was indeed quite cruel to move to PG accommodation (a short distance away) 7 days later, which we soon got used to, nonetheless. We travelled to work by the local Volvo buses, which are quite frequent. People in formals, wearing a badge much like ourselves, are a common sight in Whitefield, where my workplace is located.
I was part of the PACO (Process Automation, Control and Optimization) team under Projects, and my project was titled ‘Extremum Seeking Control of Oil and Gas Wells’. While I was familiar with methods of Control and Optimization, the domain of artificial lift, wells, reservoirs, extraction and oil in general was entirely new to me, and hence I had to first acquaint myself with related terminology through literature review. The problem was simplified by dividing it into 2 parts to tackle 2 sub-problems, understanding the assumptions, the related models and equations and then simulating them on MATLAB.
Office timings here are 8 am – 4:30 pm, and in compliance, one would find the office nearly empty by 6 pm. People at Shell (especially foreigners, who’re often at the helm of project teams here) strongly discourage working beyond hours or on weekends. They value their free time and need to rest, and believe that having to work overtime is a sign of inefficiency at work. Hence most of us would be home, or out on treats from generous buddies after hours!
In fact, if you’re lucky to be part of a fun loving and generous team, several outings and dinners, and in even luckier cases, tickets to an IPL match with the project team may come your way! I was.
One of the best things I felt about Shell is the ease with which one can approach any employee for help, irrespective of his position in the hierarchy. Often, hurdles I encountered at different stages in my project required inputs from different people to be resolved, ranging from seniors a few years older than myself, to experts having almost 40 years of experience in those domains, and mostly outside my team. Not once was my request to meet or talk to any of those relevant people turned down. What is important here, however, is that your own team takes note of the efforts you take to overcome difficulties by interacting with new people, who may be outside your comfort zone.
Assessment of your progress is also made through a Midterm Review and a Final Presentation, apart from the day-to-day observations your team makes about you. The Midterm helped me set my final goals for the internship from among a variety of possible options, as well as was a reminder for me to interact with more people from outside the team, something I hadn’t done much till then. The Final Presentation was a more professional affair, with a presentation to be made strictly within 15 minutes to a panel of technical and HR people, followed by a question-answer session testing my technical ability, my understanding of how my project fits into the bigger picture, soft skills and methodology.
I wonder whether I was elated, or just relieved that I was among the 14 interns who’d made it! What marred my happiness was the fact that 6 of us had not, given the close bonding we’d developed over the interim. The internship left us all overwhelmed by the scale at which Shell works! Working on live projects made it a little easier to comprehend, and gave us a sense of achievement as our work would possibly be used by the company.
The relaxed office timings afforded us interns a lot of free time, and while we explored the city, visited Nandi Hills nearby, caught a movie, played Laser Tag and did many more things, all these activities fade into the background in comparison to the incredibly hilarious times we had with each other, constantly pulling each others’ legs and discussing the most random things possible! While our PG (shared by 7 of us, each a sample in his own way!) was not as lavish as the 4 star, it was always full of life – noise and laughter!
I’m extremely grateful to my DDP guides for the opportunity, and my buddies and mentors at Shell for a most enlightening experience, and will cherish the epic times I spent with my co-interns for long!