Apart from all difficulties that were bombarded on Udita, she choose to shine. Be it language or culture, be it scorching heat or long distances, be it being the only girl in unit or great parts of learning, she nailed it all. She blossomed her own rose in the middle of chaos and ensured that only fragrance is spread not the thorns.
“Just as the pure white lotus flower blooms unsoiled in muddy water, our lives, which are supremely noble, can continue to shine even amid life’s harshest realities,”- Daisaku Ikeda
This line was my national anthem all throughout the internship. Before I start telling you about my journey with Larsen and Toubro (L&T EBG) I would like to share a small experience that would be an encouraging note to those students who are in a dilemma among few most crucial things before sitting for any interview i.e. (Brand of the company) and/or (Stipend) and/or (Job Role/Project) and/or (Culture). When I was recruited for L&T in December 2014 with Human Resources as my specialization and Project as Competency mapping, I had a mixed feeling of joy and sorrow. I had few set priorities in mind even before companies even started approaching my college- Brand, good project and a healthy working environment. The stipend was the last thing in my agenda. The only motive of the stipend is to keep employee motivated and I think at intern level I was more focused on learning, hence this parameter never bothered me much.
With high hopes when I sat in the interview, few things were clearly communicated-
1) I have to work in a factory environment- make my hands dirty. There won’t be any AC cubicles and corporate culture for HR to enjoy! Exception- I was an experienced IT professional having worked with MNC before.
2) The majority of employees in the organization are Marathi. Exception- I was a North Indian, didn’t know the “m” of Marathi!
3) The nature of the job is to be on the toes continuously, talk and interact with people with respect to the project requirements. Exception- I take time to open up with people
4) The location was not Mumbai but Navi Mumbai! Exception- I hate travelling
5) Stipend was not discussed
What a joke! It seemed like the whole universe was conspiring against me. Few of my additional fancy dreams to work in MNC with a good corporate culture, a posh location seemed to be shattered. The only thing I knew was that the project they were offering will give me an edge and expand my capabilities to a different level if given an opportunity. With brand and project criteria’s being fulfilled and not even knowing where Navi Mumbai was, I accepted the opportunity being offered to me. I and one more batch mate got selected for the same.
With a whole lot of anxiety I went and searched for the location of L&T in Navi Mumbai. Nothing can be worse than this- I had to travel almost 3 hours daily in a LOCAL! Fortunately, my parents and sister were extremely supportive who encouraged me night and day to accept new challenges in life and that this might become the turning point of my life. I never knew that my journey with L&T would actually prove to be a turning point.
CULTURE SHOCK- As I entered the premises of the organization on my first day, I found that the words of the interviewer were perfect. It was a factory from top to bottom enveloped with a mass of workers. I got too scared as every next worker was staring at me. I and the other intern were the only two ladies in the whole unit, this thought made me mad!
Somehow, keeping all the internal anxieties behind, I met my mentor in his office. My mentor was an experienced HR professional who was polite and very down to earth. This was a blessing in disguise because for an internship to be successful the role of a good mentor and his insightful guidance is very crucial. I came from MNC culture wherein Sir/Ma’am was unknown to all, the first name was everyone’s identity. While L&T being an old and structured manufacturing organisation had its own unique culture. It took me some time to adapt it but then it gradually came in my nature. My mentor gave me a brief about the project that I was expected to execute and laid the importance of knowing the organization and its people.
INTRODUCTION- Though the day started with lot many fears, but the second half was extremely delightful when my mentor introduced me to all the HODs and their teams of the various departments in that unit. I could sense the question marks on the faces of the people as if to ask me ‘what have I come for?’ But gradually, when they became familiar with the concept of the project they became a part of my research within no time. I started planning to meet with various departments and holding interviews both with the HODs and their subordinates separately to know the business they were into.
HEAT OF MAY-First major challenge was that I had no cubicle to sit as was stated earlier, I was made to sit in a store room that had the cartoons of AC piled up at one corner but unfortunately there was no AC in that room. In the scorching heat of May along with the extremely hot environment in the factory premises, it was like a constant battle every day. It was even more challenging because I am too sensitive to heat; I usually get severe headaches and rashes on my skin. My request to have a different room for seating was not entertained much. That filled me with anger, but I pacified myself with a belief that things would fall in place after some time. The only sigh of relief was my project that revolved around two main areas- First to make Job descriptions and second was to perform Competency mapping activity for all the employees till Tier 1 category.
COMMUNICATION- The next challenge was the mode of communication. As soon as I encountered the people they started the conversation in Marathi. It took some time to make people understand that I will learn Marathi gradually but due to time constraints they need to bear with me and converse either in Hindi or English for two months. The best part was that people were very warm and understanding in L&T hence, building a bond was not difficult. Even in due course of time I got the opportunity to learn few words with a good understanding of Marathi which made people like me more as they could sense my efforts.
COMFORT ZONE -I started interacting with people on daily basis, explaining them about the concept of Job descriptions and competency evaluation. Being a future HR leader, I made it sure that I was able to convince the people about the benefits they would receive out of this activity else no one would like to take interest in an HR activity. I could realize in my continuous interactions with people that gradually I was overcoming my hitch to open up and initiate conversations to a large extent. This made me feel happy each day that I am finally coming out of my comfort zone!
LIVE LEARNING- Till the time I was in college, I learnt about JD only in books while this was my live project to make JDs for so many employees! In the process I learnt what all aspects need to be covered in the JD, the different parameters to be looked- responsibilities, daily activities, summary of functional competencies etc. and how to evaluate the JDs based on the interviews I took initially.
COMMUTATION- I got so engrossed in my work on a daily basis that travelling 3 hours daily was not a big task for me now. Rather, I developed a deep appreciation that my internship helped me in overcoming my second weakness of hating to travel. I am glad that I can travel freely without any fear!
FOOD and CULTURE- Another delight that made me happy in going to office was “FOOD”. Since, the time I was in Mumbai I had been changing Tiffin’s every next month or eating some junk from outside. Lunch had always been an issue, but here the food was delicious and free of cost. The beautiful aspect in L&T is that the company does not differentiate between the blue and the white collared employees when it comes to culture! There was a single canteen and everyone was allowed to come, sit and have food wherever they want. This developed a feel good factor both at the workers and the HODs level. At the same time, the workers in the canteen were very humble and helpful. Many a times, I missed breakfast due to conference meetings fixed with the HODs, but they always made it sure to ask me if I required something to eat.
GROOMING- The second innings of my project began within no time and that honed my technical and analytical skills to a different level altogether. I learnt how to make a competency evaluation sheet, what all parameters need to be taken into consideration, how I have to calculate the competency index and find out the performance level of the employees. I worked on excel here even more than what I worked in my last organisation. From Pivots to tables, I got the opportunity to brush up all my excel concepts and even learn many new functions with the guidance of my mentor. Also, I am ardent reader and follower of the new trends in HR because of which HR Analytics had always been in my mind. Getting to work on this project helped me use the analytics part of HR and understand the real implementation of Big Data. So, for me, it was now not just a fancy word in the HR fraternity but an in-depth knowledge of how to make the data speak.
LOWER TIDES- As a basic requirement the sheet required the ratings both from the HODs and the individuals on the performance of the employees at various parameters. Many employees were not even willing to fill the sheet with reasons such as these activities were not useful for them. It took me a lot of time to crack such hard nuts because their grievances were deep rooted. Few were veterans in the organisation who had complained about pension plans while on the other had there were few youngsters who had complained about training issues. I took active measures to bring their grievances in front of the management in a subtle way so that I do not offend anyone. The management was glad that I took keen interest to bring such topics to the table. They decided to deal with the matters to develop a strong talent brand. These incidents made me upset many a times, but I use to remember my anthem and kept going ahead.
HEALTH IS WEALTH- I cannot forget to mention one of the major challenges that were a turning point not in my life but for the betterment of the organisation. Being a manufacturing sector and no ladies in the unit, there was only one ladies toilet in the whole building and that too was not maintained regularly, the reason would have been that ladies were never a part of that unit. Hygiene became a major concern for me as the flush was troublesome every other day. My regular feedback about the hygiene factor finally encouraged the organization to maintain it properly and got it cleaned on a daily basis thereafter. This change would not have taken place without the support of my mentor as he always uses to make sure if I had any issues or concerns. I was happy to bring some change for the better. One of the daily practices that I noticed in the company was that a track of regular cleaning record was maintained for toilets, drinking water filters, dustbins and disposals etc. It was very systematically done which made me realize that it was indeed true that L&T is considered a very structured organisation.
LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT: L&T has always been considered number one when it comes to learning and development, training etc. I too experienced the same in these two months of my journey. There was a workshop on ‘Presentation skills’ that was supposed to happen in the office and was open to all the employees. My mentor asked me to attend the same for some new learning’s. The best part was that the T&D team emailed us two days prior to the event to get a 5min presentation prepared on the topic we like so that we can have a pre-presentation and a post- presentation check. A video shot of all the participants took place that helped everyone to review their strengths and weaknesses during the delivery of the presentation. This was the first time that I encountered some of the best practices of conducting such sessions in an organisation.
APPRECIATION- Finally, two months passed within no time and project was at the verge of completion. I made presentations both in the Navi Mumbai unit as well as the corporate office in Powai in front of all the Senior HR heads. It was very much appreciated. I was extremely happy to get such a fantastic feedback after so many struggles.
They liked my work so much that they requested to carry the same activity for the other units of L&T as well so that they could standardize the process and the project. To complete the activity for the other units, I was supposed to extend my internship for 4-5 days more cutting down my holidays before the college reopens. But, somehow I did not feel bad about it. Rather, I was delighted that my work was appreciated to such an extent that I was getting the opportunity to contribute to the organization by delivering a process that would not be dumped in a file but would actually be implemented and standardized.
FELICITATION- I finally worked and delivered both the activities of the project for all the units successfully. This was not the end. Don’t worry I am not talking of any more struggles now; it’s the beginning of the happy moments. I received a farewell from my mentor and his team wherein he invited all the HODs to felicitate me with a gift and certificate of appreciation! I was completely overwhelmed when each and every HOD along with my mentor spoke words of appreciation for me and my work. That very moment all the hardships and struggles paid off. They mentioned it explicitly that never before in the history of L&T a farewell ceremony has been organized for trainees.
Hence, they conveyed me with this kind gesture that my presence meant a lot to them. I cannot ignore the fact that for a girl who easily used to forget people’s names (and for me pronouncing Marathi names was difficult being a north Indian!) was now in a state that she remembered the names of all people in that unit along with their surnames with pronunciation in place! This was a learning too. Taking HR as career ahead I cannot afford to forget people. They are the pillars of HR fraternity. It helped me develop a great connect with individuals!
I want to close with what I started but with certain amendments-
1) I have to work in a factory environment- make my hands dirty. There won’t be any AC cubicles and corporate culture for HR to enjoy! Victory- I had wrong perceptions about the manufacturing sector. It has its own charm and must be explored.
2) The major population of employees in the organization is Marathi dominant. Victory- I can now understand Marathi and with the help of my fellow intern I am quite familiar with few Marathi words. Looking forward to learning a new language.
3) The nature of the job is to be on the toes continuously, talk and interact with people with respect to the project requirements. Victory- I enjoyed to be on my toes and talking to people. Sometimes we assume wrong things about ourselves. So, basically I now knew that I am not an Introvert!
4) The location was not Mumbai but Navi Mumbai! Victory- It is a mind game. Initially, I had problems in reading a book in the train, I used to feel sick. But after this continuous travel experience I not only started utilizing my time in the train by reading books but also overcame the fear of travelling sickness.
5) The stipend was not discussed. The stipend was quite less but for me the happiness derived from that farewell was far more than the monetary benefits.
I cannot skip mentioning the fact that 15days prior when my internship was about to end, the AC was fixed in my room. Initially, it annoyed me that why is it now being fixed when I am about to leave. The whole summer I was struggling with the heat. But then, I gradually stopped grumbling when I looked at the positive side of it. The new interns and employees sitting there will enjoy something that happened in my presence. None has to face the same problem ahead.
TOKEN OF THANKS: I want to thank my mentor from the bottom of my heart as he had been a constant pillar of support all throughout my internship. I have heard so many instances of my fellow batch mates wherein their projects were finalized when one month was completely passed; some were not able to meet their mentors due to their busy schedule while some were very upset on the fact that they did not get a good challenging project.
There was a time when I had a mixed feeling of joy and sorrow and a dilemma if I made the right decision to take up an internship in this organisation. But, I am glad to share that the exposure that L&T gave me as a trainee was remarkable! L&T is considered a very structured organisation because it has a very rich heritage and culture which is difficult to beat. If I need to give a full form to L&T that would be learning and Training!
I am also extremely happy to share that my project was highly appreciated by my college faculty and was nominated for many national level competitions. I am on the verge of cracking those in the months to come.
MESSAGE- I would only like to convey a small message to all the upcoming interns. Life is not a bed of roses. We usually get upset when we do not get what we wished for but trust me life has a lot more in store for us if we are willing to work hard and explore the opportunities amid difficulties. We must not count the number of times we face a hardship but count them as the number of times we get the opportunity to have a different experience that will last for the rest of our lives! The extent of happiness derived from encouraging the future generations with such challenging yet worth mentioning experiences is far more than any materialistic victory in the world!
My motto- “Amid difficulties find opportunities!”
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