Once Upon a Summer – Aroon At AmEx

This series is an attempt to capture the memorable experiences of students who have spent their summer doing interesting work. It has evolved from our previous series – ‘Internship Stories’ – to accommodate summer stories apart from those on conventional research or industrial internships. Find all the articles of the series here.


If you’re seething with rage at being a good-for-anything-but-a-good-non-core-intern Dual and lust for revenge on your smirking can-sit-for-DB and can-sit-for-GS BTech batchmates, American Express feels for you. In fact, they bro up and unfailingly reject perfectly wonderful BTech resumes while shortlisting for internships. And then, to rub it in their smug faces, even from the ones that get through, they take practically zero BTechs. Of course, that’s just one incredibly base and sordid reason to love AmEx. You also have the hefty stipend – enough to cover three semesters’ worth of tuition and hostel fees (valid only for the 2012 batch though – we just dodged the fee hike bullet) – and the free 3-star accommodation.



The customary selfie


For the learning experience seekers (*cough* maggus *cough*), AmEx also does imbibe some pretty important skills in you. Although this varies from intern to intern, the learning curve does increase, even if not substantially, in the form of professional experience, technical knowledge or just plain life skills.

AmEx recruits very early on – often on the first day. Their resume shortlisting is unpredictable  (so much so that a large number of people later suspected that JEE rank was the main factor), but I later learned that they follow a very standard procedure. The shortlisting team looks out for something (anything) that makes the resume stand out from the stack, due to the sheer volume of resumes they have to go through. This probably brings in some level of arbitrariness as well, and hence the general dissatisfaction after they announced the shortlist.

Unlike DB and GS (for which, according to legend, the applicants have to recite Dante’s Inferno while juggling polar bear cubs and balancing on a strand of human hair on the top of Mt Olympus), AmEx conducts just a couple of short and painless interviews. One of them is usually technical, where they might throw a couple of puzzles or probability questions at you and quiz you based on wherever you tell them your interests lie. The other is mostly HR, where they ask you about life, the universe and everything (42 is not a reference they’re likely to get, so I’d advise against even trying). Both of these are over fairly quickly and as long as you’re honest and pitch your strengths well, you should stand a solid chance. In my case, given my background in Economics in 11th and 12th, and fluff I picked up in my Management minor, I managed to impress them with terms and definitions I only have a decently vague idea of.

We, the four Duals they selected, two each from Elec and Mech, were made to wait unforgivably long (6 months, to be precise) before receiving the official offer letter. They informed our intern location also impossibly late – a week before the internship, when they were booking our flight tickets (for maximum effect, imagine four students talking to company representatives on the phone with the ‘are you freaking kidding me’ memes for faces). Another crib that all of us had, given that we knew jack squat about finance or analytics, was that they did not provided us with reading material we could use to get ourselves acquainted with the field before joining. One relevant tip here that any future intern-selects might find useful – read up a little on SAS, SQL and Machine Learning to gain an edge over your co-interns.   

All four of us interned at Gurgaon. There is a secondary campus in Bangalore, but 16 of the 18 IIT interns they selected were allotted to Gurgaon. The accommodation provided there, as has been mentioned earlier, is exceptional. Two interns share a comfy double room with the usual hotel attractions – A/C, LCD TV and the like. Breakfast is free and once you manage to get your Hazmat suits on, to survive the smoke and the dust, and explore the locality, relatively cheap lunches and dinners can also be arranged in dhabas and stalls.



Life outside work


AmEx has a famed workplace and has been voted the best company to work at a record number of times. My experience justified this tag, as I found everyone to be extremely helpful and forthcoming. They have a pull-up environment (which was a welcome change) and take a genuine interest in your insights, even if you’re just a lazy intern (a label fitting none more than yours truly). While they take their work seriously, they also know very well how to unwind and can be sources of all sorts of gyan on topics ranging from politics to nightlife.

Unfortunately, interns do not have a say in what project they’re assigned. Each intern was assigned to a team, consisting of about 10-12 people and most were assigned either a project that followed up on some earlier work or a domain which needed initial research. Each intern had a personal mentor who directed his or her work in the right direction. In my case, I had to take up a project that my team felt promising but did not want to formally take up without a little research proving that it was indeed worth investing with manhours. I was unable to provide any definite say either way, but unwittingly managed to infuse my mentor with enthusiasm for the project, so I can take at least a little credit if some good comes out of it.

I had expected to be introduced into the world of finance and imagined myself seamlessly wading through equity and debt markets, but my project, and most others, had very little to do with finance. My project was also not related to anything that I had covered in my institute courses. My work basically required just a lot of data analysis. AmEx has standard tools that one can use to that end and they’re pretty neat (and along the way, I also learned how to properly use MS Excel, which I consider a big plus), but there was not a lot of fun or satisfaction that I could derive regularly from my work, so I slacked off, as did most of my co-interns. A lot of them managed to recover later and put together enough matter to present conclusions in their end term reviews, but my haphazard analysis justified no definite conclusion. This probably was a crucial factor in the company not awarding a pre placement offer to me, along with a couple of other co-interns.



Inter-IIT Football – playing football with interns from 5 IITs


Overall, the internship was wonderful and fulfilling. There were interns from all 5 major IITs, and the exposure you gain from such a diversity in opinions and thoughts is priceless. We also ended having way too much fun – going clubbing in Delhi’s famed Hauz Khas Village, putting all nighters to play Mafia, enjoying getting wet in the toxic Gurgaon monsoon showers like toddlers, playing football in the only public park (the odd green spot in the map) in all of Gurgaon and playing paintball in the middle of an inner-city village. The professional feel of the office and your coworkers, intertwined with their sincere yet fun-loving attitude, makes the AmEx office also a must-experience. The work may not excite you enough, and while that does end up becoming an important factor when deciding where to work as a permanent employee, it is easily overshadowed by other exciting things the AmEx intern experience has to offer. It is definitely one that I’d recommend strongly to anybody who doesn’t strongly and immediately need to sort out what they’d like to do their entire life.

Disclaimer: The views are not to be construed in any manner as the official views of IIT Madras.
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