Summer Internship amidst a Pandemic - Richaa's experience at BCG
One of the most memorable and crucial experiences of one’s B-school’s journey is the summer internship which every MBA student looks forward to. However, this year the COVID induced lockdown converted all such experiences into a virtual one.
In today’s story, we share how Richaa Agarwal, IIM Lucknow (2019-21) landed a summer internship at BCG, made the most of this different experience despite the pandemic and what her advice to aspiring consultants would be.
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10th – 10 CGPA | 12th – 95.8% (Commerce)
B.Sc. (Hons.) in Economics from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata
2 years work-ex at Deloitte in the Global Transfer Pricing area
PGP2 student at IIM Lucknow (2019-2021)
Interned at The Boston Consulting Group in summers (PPO Holder)
I recently completed my 8-week internship at BCG and was offered a PPO after that. Although the virtual setup induced by the pandemic made me quite skeptical about the experience initially, these 8 weeks turned out to be one of the most enriching and exciting periods of my life.
MY LIFE BEFORE IIM LUCKNOW
Now that I reflect back on my journey it had all started at the time I was preparing for CAT. I was extremely nervous about how I would simultaneously manage my hectic schedule at Deloitte and the exam preparation. However, I decided to bet on my capabilities, and against my family’s advice of choosing either and not juggling both, I decided to appear for CAT 2018. I worked hard and burned the midnight oil and with the support of my friends and office seniors managed to score a 98.54 percentile in my first attempt to convert IIM Lucknow.
As a student who had excelled in academics all her school life, I was determined to diversify my palate in college. To that end, I took part in various business and case competitions which greatly helped me increase my general knowledge, decision-making abilities, confidence, and stress management skills. Additionally, I chose to pursue Actuarial Science and had cleared three papers by the time I was leaving college.
It was my stint at Make A Difference that helped me discover my interest in the social impact area. For two years, I taught and mentored underprivileged children, partook in several cleanliness drives, and helped in reviving a positive spirit at old age homes. Such experiences cemented my understanding of life and helped me find true purpose in my activities.
My two years at Deloitte proved to be a learning experience in the true meaning of those words. From communication to interpersonal interactions, my time there helped me grow into a more well-rounded person. After being promoted in 18 months - I knew I’d done some things rights
HOW I BAGGED A CONSULTING INTERNSHIP AT IIM LUCKNOW:
Right at the outset, I had decided that I wanted to make the most out of this 2-year journey. I became a part of the Admissions mentorship and class representative committee – this helped me create many connections and I also challenged myself by taking the responsibility of many people on a day to day basis.
Consulting, as a field, had always intrigued me and so naturally, I aimed at interning at one of the top 3 companies in this domain. I can break down my preparation for the internship in the following manner:
1) Getting to know others’ experiences –
I started off with meeting a few seniors who had interned in consulting firms to know more about their experiences, what had been their preparation strategy, and sought advice on how I should go forward.
2) CV Iteration process –
CV is one of the most important parts of the summer preparation. The fact that most recruiters shortlist you on the basis of your CV should be reason enough for you to make it as favorable as possible. Your CV should truly reflect your journey and your potential in the best possible manner. Hence, I started with drafting one with my list of achievements, work experience, community leadership, academic projects, etc. I consulted a lot of seniors continuously and after several iterations, I had finally made a version that reflected a balanced profile. Since your CV will be finalized within 2-3 months of joining the B-school, there is not much you can alter in your profile. However, the idea is to showcase yourself in the best possible manner in the 1-page CV.
3) Interview preparation –
The next phase of preparation was getting ready for the consulting interviews which comprises two things i.e. the case prep and the HR questions prep.
A) Case prep - Case in Point and Casebooks from ISB, IIM A and IIM L served as a good starting point for developing case solving abilities. Moreover, I formed case groups with my friends and we used to discuss and solve cases amongst ourselves. I often used to go to seniors to solve cases and get an overall feedback on my prep level. Additionally, the consulting firms that I had a shortlist from had assigned a consultant buddy to help me with my preparation. I made it a point to solve at least a couple of cases with each of my buddies and work on their feedback.
B) HR Prep – Apart from the case prep, I also prepared for questions like tell me about yourself, why do you want to do consulting, why this firm etc. I feel that these questions are very crucial and give the interviewer an idea about your personality, skills, interest area etc.
4) The interview day –
I think the two most important things on the day of the interview is to remain calm and confident. The idea is that always remember it is just an interview, if it does not go well, there are always other opportunities to try out for. My first interview was lined up with BCG and I approached the cases with a fresh mindset. I ensured I asked relevant questions and kept the interviewer engaged throughout the course of the interview. After a set of two interviews with BCG I was selected as a summer intern.
THE INTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE AT BCG:
I was very excited to go to Mumbai for my Summer internship in April. However, due to the pandemic, it was converted to a virtual internship. Nevertheless, I took it in my stride and decided to make the most of it. My key takeaways from this 8-week journey would include learning how to be more adaptive, learning how to think on my feet, communicating more effectively and taking better ownership and responsibility of my work.
My first module was around designing the contract management review process and the second one entailed creating a digital blueprint for my client. The continuous support and guidance from the case team and mentor helped me remain in focus and keep working effectively throughout. There was constant feedback on the work I presented which helped me to quickly improve on my weaker areas. I learned how to prioritize work effectively, improve my communication, work together and make an impact as a team.
Despite the COVID scenario, BCG ensured that each intern got the opportunity to work on live client projects, and interact directly with the client. They ensured that there were regular catchup calls with the interns to ensure things were running smoothly. A lot of virtual sessions and weekly intern quiz nights were organized to keep us fresh and energized throughout. Even within my case team, we had weekly fun sessions to improve bonding within the case team.
ADVICE TO CONSULTING ASPIRANTS:
Overall, to the aspiring interns, I would like to say that during your internship:
1) Understand the work:
Ensure that once the module is given to you, you spend the right amount of time in understanding the work, client and industry. This will help you get a good start on your module.
2) Set expectations:
Check your understanding of the work with your seniors and be clear in terms of the timelines and deliverables they are expecting from you. This has to be done on a regular basis so that you remain on track throughout.
3) Take regular feedback:
This is one of the most crucial things. Ensure you take frequent feedback from your superiors in order to understand the level of your performance and to ensure improvement on your weak areas.
4) Reach out in case of doubt:
In case you are facing any difficulty, do reach out to your case team or your b-school alums in the company. There is always someone who has been in a similar situation as the one you are in and they will guide you on how to proceed in situations of crisis.
With the PGP-1 starting online, I can imagine the added stress of going through this journey alone from home. My advice is to have faith and consistently do the right thing - the rest falls in place.
All the best!
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