About the Author: Pranaysinh Parmar from NIT Surat, shares how he got his internship at the last minute and the valuable lessons in humanity he learned during his 2 months at IIM Ahmedabad. He also shares useful tips on how to email professors when searching for research internships.
I had been striving, exploring all avenues, for getting a management research internship since March. All my friends had secured their internships in various companies by the end of March and I was the only one in my group who was still searching for one. I had two options, either I should accept an industrial internship or I should take risk by denying the safe option (industrial internship) and keep on e-mailing to the professors for research management internship. I chose latter. I had my final exams starting from 25th April. I tried hard till 24th April, and once even came very close to getting an internship at IIM Udaipur. I had a telephonic interview with a professor who seemed interested but unfortunately his requirement didn’t match up with my skills, so he denied diffidently. My exams got over and my friends went to different companies to pursue their internships and there I was, alone, and still without one. One day, my phone rang. “Am I talking to Pranay?”, said the gentle voice on the other end. I said, “Yes.” “Pranay, I am Akshay from IIM Ahmedabad. You have mailed to the professor Ankur Sarin for an internship. Am I right?”. “I am his PhD student. We have seen your profile and want to talk to you. Can you please come over here for an interview?”
We agreed to meet on 4th May. I danced on the floor. I hadn’t got the internship yet, but still, it was a sublime ecstasy I experienced after that call. I got a hope. I started looking on internet for every small detail that I could get related to that project. I went to IIM Ahmedabad on 4th May fully prepared.
How I got the Internship?
Before telling you about the interview, I would like to share the application strategy that I followed. Things that I kept in mind while mailing to the professor. Firstly, look at your future goals and decide the area where you want to do an internship. Try to connect your current profile with that area. Show this connection while mailing to the professors. Don’t email them randomly. Look at their profile, their research areas and if you find something common between your interest and professor’s research area, then only mail. In your cover letter, briefly explain two details. Why you specifically want to work with this particular professor and why he or she should select you means how you are going to be helpful to them for their project. Cover letter must be short. Don’ forget to attach your resume, transcript and other certificates.
Coming back to 4th May, the interview day. I went to the F8, Computer Center, where the interview with Akshay was to take place. He looked at my resume & asked some formal questions, then he put aside the resume file and asked me two more questions. At first, he asked me what I knew about the project and the resource center. IIM Ahmedabad is one of the four resource centers for RTE (Right to Education) in India. Based on my earlier research, I gave a satisfactory, lucid, answer. Then he bombarded his last, very common, question. “Why do you want to work in an entirely different field? Why didn’t you go for a technical internship?” The project was ‘Implementation of Right to Education in Private Schools’, and it had no connection with my current engineering study. I gave him a clear and convincing answer. I am presenting some part of my answer – “Sir, currently I am in the second year. I will have two more internship opportunities in the next year. At that time I will surely go for technical internship. Being a second year student, I have very limited knowledge of my field. So I don’t think I would be able to grasp more from a technical internship. Rather I can utilize this time to improve my personality, my communication skills, my critical thinking ability etc. I would learn how to work efficiently in a group as these are the skills that can be learned or improved only through the experiences. After four years, apart from technical knowledge, one needs soft skills too to succeed in any field.” Here, I think I won the battle. I correlated every task of the internship with a skill I had. I told him how that specific task would be helpful to me, and why I am the perfect candidate for this post on the basis of my skills and extra-curricular activities. He seemed convinced by my answers, wished me good luck and told me to wait for the final results. I got a confirmation email after some days and my internship commenced at IIM Ahmedabad on 16th May. I was going to work there as an intern for two months till 15th July.
First Two Days
First day I went to F8 office at 10 AM where I was accompanied by five other interns. Akshay came along with other Research Assistants (RAs) and explained the project in detail. We had a discussion cum debate on the 25% quota in private schools under RTE for poor children. This was the beauty of this internship. During the entire internship, we were always encouraged to fight with the idea, to look at the both sides of the coin, and not to judge anything just based on one’s own perception.
Literature review : This is the most tedious and cumbersome work for beginners, but it is the basis of the entire research work. It takes a lot of time and a healthy discussion. Akshay and other RAs helped us a lot during this task. Questionnaire development : Based on the different literature available, we prepared two different questionnaires; one for the children (15 pages long) and other for the parents (40 pages long). Data matching: It was an excel work. It might look like a tiresome work, but one could learn a lot from this experience. Piloting : We tested the questionnaire in the field by conducting the interviews of parents and children to check the efficiency of the questionnaire. We visited suburb areas of Ahmedabad and interviewed people living in abysmal poverty who were to benefit from the RTE act. We had some heart touching, emotional experiences during piloting. At one place, one poor man asked his son to get a pouch of water for us from the market. Upon asking, we came to know that he thought we might not like drinking water from his home. My colleague, Shivani, immediately stopped the boy, put aside the questionnaire for a while, talked with them politely, making them feel that they are as human as us and then we continued the interview again. Seriously, financial status shouldn’t define the dignity of a person. Later on while contemplating on such incidents, I realised that it is us who discriminate against these people. How many of us, the so-called civil people, think even for a second before insulting our maid, driver, labour, or any other poor person for a scanty mistake? We don’t care because we know they are not going to retaliate as they want the job badly. But it hurts their feelings, their dignity. People should talk to them with respect as they are humans too. We also visited some schools in Ahmedabad to understand the ground realities of the RTE implementation and found many anomalies. We included all these complaints in our report and presented it to the IIM.
Conclusion : Atmosphere of the internship was really friendly and felicitating. We were treated like a friend by RAs and like a student by the professor. The ambiance of IIM Ahmedabad was mesmerizing. I still remember the places I went to with my colleagues in Ahmedabad, the food we shared at the IIM canteen, fun we had in F8, and the knowledge we received from the RAs and the professor. It was an incredible experience! Two months were like euphoria to me! I did learn several things, apart from academic stuff, from this internship which I see as my real stipend. Follow your passion, respect all human beings, never ever lose hope, and last but not the least, believe in miracles!
Editor’s Note – Like Pranay, if you are looking for a meaningful internship that counts, check out these internships on Internshala.