Hello there. I see that you’ve been sucked into the overhyped mess that the intern season is. If you’ve seen some of it already, I know it’s hard. Don’t worry though, you’ll be fine. I’ve written this to distract you from your current bout of existential crisis. There are general fundae at the end of this thing. Feel free to go straight to that section (click here) if you’re not looking for company specific information.
I am currently interning at Anheuser-Busch InBev or AB InBev, as they call it. “What company is that?”, you may ask. Basically, Budweiser. Beer. Also, most beer other than Budweiser. AB InBev is the world’s largest brewer and is one of the largest FMCGs in the world. They are also the world’s largest company which does not give free beer to its employees. With that, I probably have answered all your questions.
Whatever I write here is based on 4 weeks of my experience here. I have 4 more weeks to go, so keep that in mind.
AB InBev came to campus in late September with a Data Analytics profile. Being vaguely interested in Data Science and based on a preliminary Google search, I signed the IAF. The company had an impressive Pre Placement Talk describing their work culture and values, which is when I decided to go for the interviews. There was no shortlist. Everyone who signed the IAF was called for the first round. The first round was a GD which had HR questions (weird, I know). Those who got through the GD round were called for the case round. Everyone got an hour to solve a case study which then had to be presented to a panel with the solution. After the presentation round, some people were called for a personal interview (some, including me, were not). It was an exhausting day long procedure. Throughout the selection procedure, the emphasis was on analytical skills, problem solving and whether you were a cultural fit for the company (whatever that means). The recruiters didn’t seem to mind if the applicant had no prior experience with data analysis or R, Python etc. I had done basic case study preparation a day before the interview, and that helped me a lot.
To give you some context, AB InBev has two offices in Bangalore: GAC (Growth Analytics Center) and the GCC (Global Capabilities Center). The company hired 30 interns from different colleges in India who were then distributed among the two offices. The GAC has teams that do pure analytics for AB InBev’s operations around the world (Sales Forecasting, Pricing etc.) whereas the GCC handles Finance and Operations for its worldwide markets. Interns hired by ABI for analytics in the past have had to work with teams at GAC with people who have been doing analytics for quite some time to guide you. People from GAC will tell you how they’re all young and shiny and cool, do analytics and have a playstation console in their office and how in comparison, most people at GCC do finance/operations, don’t know analytics and the most exciting thing to do in their free time is to stare at the coffee machine. This is probably the first time that ABI has hired interns to do analytics with teams at GCC, and I am one of them.
Jokes apart, the GCC gives you a proper corporate office experience. The company follows a five-day workweek and working hours for most interns are roughly 12 Noon to 8 PM (there’s an intern from insti who has to work from 4 PM to midnight). The timings are somewhat flexible and generally no one would bother you for the hours if you deliver work. People here are generally helpful and willing to explain to you their work if they are free. There is no dress code and the workplace has an open-plan office layout (no cubicles). People are encouraged to directly interact with anyone they would like to, no matter how senior. A noticeable number of people working in the office are foreign nationals, so there’s also potential to do some international networking. Not saying that I am taking complete advantage of it, I have the social skills equivalent to that of a wooden chair, but to each their own. There are two eateries inside the office, both of which offer good food at cheap rates.
Sometimes, the company feels like a multinational startup. It has become the largest beermaker through a series of acquisitions over the years. Therefore, there’s a lot of reorganisation and work to be done, and you’ll find people to be busy most of the time. One thing that I have noticed about the company is that they are very ambitious and want ownership over each part of a business process. They put a lot of emphasis on their culture and principles.
My project is related to cash flow forecasting in the company’s Europe markets. Like most leading companies, AB InBev is incorporating data science into all their operations. The fact that I am the only one working on analytics in my department is a bit of a challenge. Since not many people in the office work on analytics, you’d often have to navigate your own way through the chaos. This is one area where I feel the internship program could have been much better: Guidance. I’ve had to spend a lot of time online looking for resources that would be helpful for completing the project and trying to connect with people in the other office to help me out. My project sponsor, Michal, who is also the department head is from Belgium and takes a lot of personal interest in the project. At the end of each week, I have to present my work progress to Michal and team. They have high expectations from this project, because if done right, it will streamline the company’s cash flow management in Belgium, its largest market in Europe by volume. Till now I have had to interact with several teams in the office and understand their business processes. For the remaining part of my project, I might have to get in touch with the domestic sales team in Belgium through teleconferencing. Overall, you get to know a lot about the business side of things and get exposed to people from many different backgrounds.
I would like to point out that other interns at GCC have had varied experiences. Some of them got projects with poorly defined structure and goals, and in some cases their projects had nothing to do with analytics. Most of them would agree that their managers were underprepared to deal with analytics interns. Over the last 4 weeks, they have been making transition to more suitable work and honestly, it would be more appropriate to give a final judgement on the intern program at the end of two months. To put it briefly: The work culture and company are remarkable, but they could have been better prepared to deal with interns. (I am just trying to give you a complete picture here, be wary of summer blogs that depict certain internship programs as joyous flowery rides.)
The internship season can be stressful. Do not let the rejections affect you too much. You think people who got selected on Day 1 have it all sorted and found the perfect job that aligns with their interest? No. They are as clueless as you are, they just can’t do anything about it because they have secured an intern now. They’ve found a social acceptance milestone that’ll let them postpone facing an important question: “What do I want to do with my life?” Whether you have an intern in your hand or not, spend time figuring out what work might interest you, observe how the hiring process works, and if you see what I saw, find some time to laugh at it. Most hiring procedures are arbitrary and designed along the most convenient route to shortlist 10 people from 100, not to find the best person for the job. Remember, you are not your resume. You are better than a piece of paper. You’ll be fine.
Try to find as much information about the companies that you apply for. Get in touch with seniors who’ve interned there in the past, get as many perspectives as you can. Try to gauge how seriously the company takes its internship program and find out about their work culture. Do not hesitate to sign IAFs that seem mildly interesting, and for the love of god, do not skip PPTs. The best way to get a good idea of a company and its people is to interact with them in their PPT and interviews. If an IC or someone from the placement cell tells you that you shouldn’t sign an IAF if you’re not interested, tell them they are wrong. In most cases, there’s no way to know if you’re really interested unless you’ve talked to recruiters from the company and understand what they’re looking for. Apparently, no one from the placement cell has ever walked into a shop and walked out without buying anything if they didn’t find something of interest. An ideal recruiting procedure would let you decide if you still want to work for a company after you’ve been through all the rounds, before the results. The placement cell’s job is to protect a student’s interests, and that won’t happen anytime soon unless more and more students bargain for it.