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Leffin Christopher is a 3rd year Undergraduate pursuing a B.Tech in Aerospace Engineering.
After eons of prepping for the most demanding task required from us during an intern, I found out…
No, I’m going to let this be a clichéd cliff hanger and make you drudge through the whole article.
Having done a core intern in a start-up the previous year (which was pretty neat considering that new ventures in the aerospace sector are a rarity), I decided to jump on the ‘banking’ bandwagon to see what the hype was all about. Though I read the news and know common finance jargon, I did not know much about finance. I was told that the banks did not seek a background in finance from the interns so I went ahead and signed the IAFs.
The screening test was a breeze. Simple mathematical logic questions to be solved with agility and precision. All it warranted was that you keep a cool head through the test. Thirty of us were selected for the next round. This round involved solving one moderately difficult probability problem in under half an hour. But rather than verifying the answers themselves, they interviewed us on our approach to the problem and thought process.
This was immediately followed by an HR interview:
HR: *Starts going through my resume* Tell us about yourself.
Me: I’m Leffin, from Pune. I like to … (goes on for about a minute)
HR: *Doesn’t listen to anything
Me: *Running out of things to say now* (It’s been a couple minutes. Give me a break already, even my intro with seniors didn’t last this long!) *Breaks golden rule about never telling useless stuff*… and my hobbies include trekking…
HR: *Doughnut glaze in eyes* Trekking?
Me: *Sweating profusely on the inside* Yes.
HR: You said you’re from Pune right? You’ve been to the nearby ranges and the forts?
Me:*Confused* I have. Sinhagad (the only name I could think of off the top of my head) and many others.
HR: Okay, Consider this situation. You are the supplies manager of a fort atop a hill and are at war. You also have a number of spies among your enemies. Tell me what all will you take into consideration, including information from the spies, to decide on what supplies you’ll need to prepare for the war.
Me: *states everything I could think of for 5 minutes*.
HR: Thank you. You may leave.
(The above conversation may be exaggerated.)
Half an hour later, I was selected as one of the two students for the intern!
The Citi Life:
The first 2 weeks of the intern were spent shuffling between conference rooms as they took us through various trainings (basically, a crash course on credit card analytics). During this time, we also had to raise requests to access the various software & tools needed (We needed to raise a request for the internet too). My team was based out of Atlanta and only a new recruit and I were in India. So from week 3, I had to make calls to the US on almost a daily basis for any kind of communication. Monday evenings (Monday mornings in Atlanta) were set for the team meetings and Thursday evenings were set for discussion on my progress with the project.
Most of the employees on the floor were young and sociable. One time, I had some issue with one of the software and told my ‘buddy’ (that’s the term given to your mentor), who in turn elevated the incident to another person, who had a chat with the IT guys in the U.S at 1am IST the following day and had it sorted. They also have loads of fun. Everyone on the floor got a mail if someone had brought sweets or any other eatable. The floor also had a ‘fun’ team which managed events and snacks whenever possible.
My project, which I was given for the course of my intern, was to figure out the efficacy of a certain process ‘trigger based credit line decrease’, given its intense operational costs. The work was interesting, needing me to talk to different teams to gather information and compare the operational costs with the theoretical loss cuts which can be made possible with the aforementioned process. In the end, I had to give a presentation with my findings and any suggestions. This meant I would get to learn SAS (a statistical analysis tool), understand the way corporate projects are being handled, improve my cross-team communication and handling skills and get a peek into real world data of volume of accounts being handled and profits and losses of financial institutions.
On the downside, I wasn’t given a lot of freedom on how I wanted to go about with the project. I was instructed with a set procedure to follow and approach the problem. Even the presentation’s template wasn’t in my hands. The project wasn’t very difficult or time consuming but I had concrete, yet relaxed, deadlines. This caused a major annoyance as the slack timeline meant that I was finished with a part of the project well ahead of the deadline and had to wait until the deadline passed to continue with the project. I used this time to exploit the training programs they had in their intranet which varied from software training to management courses.
The previous two paragraphs described my project and did not apply to the other interns. Each intern was assigned to a different team and your project experience depended a lot on the team you are in.
Remember the cliffhanger? So after conditioning myself to wake up early for the intern, they let us know that the intern starts at 1PM, rather than 8 or 9AM, and goes on up to 10PM! Though this had its obvious advantages such as sleeping late, waking up late, you missed out on having time to relax and unwind during the weekdays. Leaving the office at 10 PM meant always being the last order in restaurants and not being able to make it to parties.
The office is in Nirlon Knowledge Park, Goregaon. It has 4-5 eateries nearby and lush gardens surrounded by cascades of water to unwind whenever we feel like. A coffee machine to have coffee at any time of the day was the icing. There was no rule on the timings. Usually people ate lunch at around 3, had a tea break (I say tea break because coffee breaks were perpetual) at 6 and had dinner at 9 before leaving at 10. There was a bus service to the office and a cab service from the office. All in all, the work environment was very pleasant with no pressure whatsoever.
Tips and Takeaways:
I will end this piece with a few tips, not that I’m in anyway adept in giving advice (or taking, for the matter):
Keeping a cool head and being confident goes a long way in impressing HR under the direst of circumstances. If I’d not kept a cool head, I might not have been able to answer the HR’s seemingly bizarre questioning.
Try to complete tasks well ahead of the timeline. This will keep you stress free and will allow you to explore other opportunities to learn. I’d slowed down my pace because of the far deadlines, hoping to catch up nearer the deadline. But my software crashed in the middle and I had a little trouble catching up to my deadline that week.
Try to do a little more than what is asked for. Not only will this keep you in the good books of your higher-ups, it will open up new avenues of improvement in your project or in the team’s goal as a whole. Seeing the free time I had, a team member suggested I try and understand the strategy being implemented in the trigger process (not necessarily required for the completion of my project). In this process, I noticed an error in the logic which happened to be a big deal in terms of the strategy’s efficiency.
This intern has been an enriching experience and full of memorable incidents. I have learnt a lot about finance, corporate formalities, time management, and personal development. The most significant takeaway, however, from my intern was how much one person can impact the corporation as a whole and its clients. My work in these two months could potentially affect the profits generated by one of the six portfolio’s Citi handles in the US. Personally, I do not believe that you are just a cog in the machine if you work in a corporate giant.