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You think he knows nothing? Well, he probably feels the same about you.
Still tugging on my weirdly knotted tie, barely a triangle, I entered the elevator with a bunch of smartly dressed people. Corporate Mondays, I thought, sniggering silently. The enthusiastic voices around me seemed to announce otherwise. As I looked around in awe, the door opened to a blue and red logo, and along with it, the slogan symbolizing their greatest invention. “Citi never sleeps”.
There are tech giants, there are startups and then, this. A bank. My preconception? A bunch of people screaming wildly at their phones, clocking in at 8, leaving at 8 (much Wolf of Wall Street). But what I’ve experienced this past month has been nothing short of a discovery. And in case you’re wondering, we’ll come back to the opening quote later.
This is Citi’s second internship program through the PT Cell. The selection process was fairly straightforward – an aptitude test, followed by a programming test and three rounds of interviews (2 programming, and one HR). The aptitude test was, well, an aptitude test; the programming test simple – Java, C and C++ being the languages you could use. The interviewer tested my knowledge of Databases (still fresh, thanks to an ongoing course). The HR round consisted of generic questions like the reason I wanted to join them and where I saw myself in the next couple of decades.
Meta-intern stuff: The office, accommodation, etc.
The first three days were spent in a reputed hotel along with other interns, with a food allowance that would have cleared my canteen balance for the remainder of my stay here. The hotel stay gave us ample time to look for a suitable accommodation, not included within the internship package (sadly). The transportation to and from the office, however, was provided by Citi.
Citi has eight floors of offices embedded inside one of Pune’s newest IT parks in Kharadi, and bundled together are other reputed companies like Barclays, Eaton, Symantec and Vodafone.
Each intern is given a workspace – with dual monitors and a remotely accessible machine. Tea/Coffee is free and there are vending machines all over the place to grab a much-needed snack while the code compiles. The office complex has four cafeterias with countless vendors offering all kinds of cuisines. In case you believe in Vodafone Tuesdays and Sub of the Day offers, the cafeteria does have Dominos and Subway outlets.
The projects allotted to the interns were varied in nature, ranging from enhancements to implementing new ideas, from Angular based UIs to implementing mapreduce in Hadoop and automation scripts in VBA.
My project was to implement a Proof of Concept (PoC) involving addition of a layer of abstraction to one of Citi’s core applications. I had 7-8 weeks to build a rule engine and expose RESTful APIs via NodeJS and Express and finally consume them via AngularJS. I’ve been working on web technologies for a while, but working on the MEAN stack was a first-time experience.
Apparently the MEAN stack was newly introduced at Citi, and there were just about a dozen people who were actually using it. So, we started off a NodeJS community within Citi and conceptualized a workflow model for Citi from scratch. Overall it was an enriching experience.
People here are an enthusiastic bunch and you’ll almost certainly find someone ready from a game of carrom or a discussion on the newly smartphone any time of the day. Apart from that, (most) people are really helpful; they’ll point out that missing semicolon in your code without getting all frustrated.
Work timings are flexible, there’s no 12-hour tab. There were days when I worked from 11 AM – 5 PM, and yet others when I stayed up till 2 AM, working 14 hours. There are special rooms wherein you can have your much-deserved afternoon nap, or you can simply spend the night there if you feel like. Citi also offers a kwench subscription, with hard copies of most novels at your fingertips. There are regular team parties, in-office pizza parties and some teams even go for treks on weekends. There are also regular learning sessions wherein you get to hear about cutting edge technologies from brilliant people all over the world including authors of reputed programming books.
The bad parts
Not all teams are flexible with the technologies you’re allowed to use. If you’re working with a team that is in-charge of a very high risk system, chances are that you’ll spend more time learning their workflow than on actual programming.
Goes without saying, sites like Facebook/Gmail, etc. are blocked, and your torrent client will have to wait for your PG/Apartment’s Wi-Fi connection to get seeds. You can bring your own devices (BYOD) to the office, and use them to access Citi’s intranet after taking appropriate permissions.
The office is located at one of the most prime locations of Pune (Kharadi), and there is no dearth of places to eat and chill out. Overall Pune is cheaper than Mumbai in most aspects, with most of the taxi services like Ola, Uber, and TaxiForSure running all over the city. There are ample places to go around nearby – Mahabaleshwar, Matheran, Khadakwasla, and Lonavala – all within 80 km of the city.
I had a lot of fun (thanks to an amazing team and my co-interns), I learnt a lot, played around with new technologies and learned finance fundae. My opinion of working in a Wall Street company drastically changed over the past two months and I’d surely look forward to work with such an organization again.
Now, coming back to the opening quote. This is a place where you’ll find all sorts of people – programmers, non-programmers, programmers who prefer legacy over hipster technologies. Each and every one of them is skilled in something or the other – and the more you interact with them, the more you can learn. From finance fundae to building your own MVC framework scratch, the person sitting beside you can teach you a lot. And that’s the reason you’re there. To learn.