The ‘Philosophy Bug’ bites most engineering undergrads in their 3rd yr. I was no exception and I found myself, asking profound questions like “What is the purpose of Life, the Universe and Everything?”, “Which internship will help me chart a career path?” etc. After knocking at several doors, I landed an interesting internship, more by accident than by design, at a Start‐Up called Harness Handitouch, a seemingly nondescript company founded by a Bored‐Business‐Consultant‐Insti‐alum!
The Job at Hand
Being a Tech Start‐Up, my primary deliverable was to build & test a prototype of a low‐cost Surface Computer, which was to be one of the products of the company. One may note that, product development tends to get highly inter‐disciplinary, and is seldom department specific. Interestingly, the size of the company was less than 10 employees (including 3 co‐founders and 4 interns). Consequently, the broad understanding was that we didn’t have a designated role, per se. One was expected to be whatever the company needed him/her to be – tech expert/market researcher/logistician etc!
Duration: 3 months.
Location: City Centre (Business Lounges), Chennai.
To begin with, there’s this obvious freedom from the banalities of formal attire, awkward “Good Mornings”, “Yes Sirs” etc, as most people in this line of business are young or at least pleasantly informal.
Then, there was a lot of flexibility in office timings and leaves within reasonable limits, as long as deadlines were met on time. Your mentors would of course, expect some sort of a work plan for, say, the next two weeks.
Things moved at a fast pace, and the interns were expected to keep up with it. If anyone needed help with troubleshooting (which was quite often), the thumb‐rule was to scream and call for help. As far as the work was concerned, it was fairly challenging and exciting – No mundane excel sheets or presentations to make. If you were required to do something, the drill was simple – Research. Learn. Implement.
Also, the Mentor(s) in start‐ups are interestingly, young enough, to bond with easily, yet old enough to give you some sound career advice. My mentor happened to be the co‐founder, himself, an Insti alum, who happened to be in Business Consulting at a noted firm in London!
The Gambit and the Payoffs
A Start‐Up Internship is not very fashionable yet, in insti. Very few dare to take that leap of faith, quite understandably, as it is not as glamourous like a summer in a bigshot company that can shell out PPOs, or some sort of research internship in the Swiss Alps! If you seek some brand value to decorate your resumé, this shouldn’t figure very high on your priority list, for there is none!
However, almost every start‐up offers handsome stipends to their interns (to the tune of Rs. 10k+ p.m.). More importantly, what it does bring to the table, is some solid work experience (that you can even boast about in your CVs, given your performance and work). Opinions are sought from the interns during brainstorming sessions. Interns are treated as stakeholders (like the founders) in the success of the company and not just as mere trainees. Your work and the decisions you make as an intern have a huge impact on the company as a whole, which is very unique to such internships.
To Sum It Up
If Starting‐Up figures somewhere on your career plan (as is the wont of most Insti alumni in recent years), then this would perhaps be the best opportunity you would get in the undergrad life, to understand the nitty‐gritties of setting up an enterprise before taking that plunge yourself.
But if it does not, and you have a summer of vettiness ahead of you, well… there’s always that cash to earn!
Lastly, the rush of experiencing the cutting edge of a revolution is certainly worth the effort!
Disclaimer: Assertions made above, are based on opinions of the author and hence, not necessarily objective. Likewise, the author, in no way, encourages the reader to take this anecdote as Gospel.
Editors Note: A good lol at the disclaimer. In his enthusiastic account Mr. K.Pramod has forgotten to mention how really friendly co-interns can get in start-up companies. An added perk, surely.