HUL internship experience
Hey! I am Abhijeet, a to-be fourth year undergraduate from the chemical engineering department. I am pursuing an internship in the Unilever Leadership Internship Programme (ULIP) as an R&D summer trainee. I found out about this opportunity when I was browsing the internship blog. I wanted to explore the FMCG sector, and getting a chance to work at HUL, one of the best consumer goods companies, was like a dream come true for me. Let me walk you through my journey of landing an internship at Unilever.
In June 2020, I was browsing the past year’s internship blog. Seeing all the selections at various companies, my heart was racing. There was a bit of anxiety, a lot of admiration. ‘Will my name be there on this year’s blog?’, I asked myself. That’s when I knew I had to prepare hard for the upcoming intern season.
In the next couple of months, practising aptitude tests, attending the PPTs, filling out the applications, checking the internship portal hourly… All the usual stuff was going on. I applied for HUL’s R&D profile because I wanted to explore the FMCG sector and solve industry problems by applying chemical engineering concepts.
The HUL selection process started with filling out the application form. It consisted of general questions related to personal information, interests, etc.
In the last year, HUL had conducted a group discussion round, but this time they held an online case assessment round. In this round, 3 questions were given and one minute was given at the end of each question to prepare an answer. At the end of that minute, a five-minute video would have to be recorded, answering that question. The questions were related to operations such as new product development, improvements in the current process, etc. and required instantaneous problem-solving skills.
After this round, the final interview round was announced. I was very surprised that there was only one interview, that too was scheduled for only 25 minutes?! In the interview, mostly technical questions were asked. The questions were related to previous projects, favourite subjects in chemical engineering and the scenarios from the previous round.
In terms of preparation, I perfected an intro, briefly covering the internships and projects. I revisited the details of the project and previous internships. Prepared answers to general HR questions and brushed up some basics of chemical engineering concepts. Browsed the Unilever website to get to know the company’s values, its R&D vision.
I anticipated that a project in R&D would be related to either process development, product development, modelling or optimization. But to my surprise, the project was not related to chemical engineering at all and instead was about a business process digitization. The project allotted to me was creating a Data-Driven E2E Innovation Engine for R&D which enables the vision of “To innovate boldly for people and the planet”.
My role in this project was to map as-is vs to-be processes and to perform fit-gap analysis. This involved having conversions with multiple SMEs to get to know the current process. This was an outstanding opportunity to speak to a lot of experts from various business roles across different regions and improve my communication skills. I got to learn about how Unilever business works, especially R&D.
The Unilever Internship Programme is very structured and offers excellent guidance at each stage, for every need. Each intern is mentored by 3 anchors viz. Tutor (like a manager, who directly supervises the work), Coach (a senior executive, usually at a directorial level, to provide a birdseye view of the impact of the project), and buddy (an informal companion, usually a previous ULIP intern now working as a manager)
Working from home made connecting with people difficult. Work hours were flexible, yet maintaining a work-life balance was challenging due to the lack of a standard stopping point. In a normal scenario, the internship would have taken place at either the R&D head office or a manufacturing plant and would have involved activities like actual lab experiments and improvements in plant operations. But internships this year were related to literature reviews, theoretical modelling and simulations, digitization projects, etc.
Reading past years’ blogs, I thought I would miss out on a lot of really cool activities, but Unilever made sure the virtual nature of the intern didn’t stop us from having fun. Be it Abhishek Upamanyu’s virtual standup, pizza party or a box full of goodies, and a personalized stationery set, Unilever made sure that internship experience was as special as it could be!
I’d say the biggest takeaway from this internship experience was the exposure to FMCG business, where I got to know the Unilever organisation, its business processes, company’s values and its vision. This internship was a tremendous opportunity to improve my soft skills.
Finally, some points to keep in mind for the interview. Prepare a strong intro, revisit your projects and internships to summarise the work and its impact in simple points. Go through the basics of the core subjects, especially related to your projects. Your answers will most probably decide the direction in which your interview will go. So if you don’t know an answer to a technical question, simply say so.
Thanks for reading, hopefully, you got some value out of this blog. Take care, stay safe!