An Internship At A Startup Helped Me Convert My Passion Into A Career

After graduating in mechanical engineering, I appeared for GATE even though I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do M.Tech. As I had almost two months before the actual admission process would begin, I started searching for internships through Internshala. I decided to intern at a startup as I wanted to learn the nuances of running a business. I sat down and started listing the skills which were required for the field of business development/analysis and ticked upon those that I already had. I got a fair idea about the things that I needed to work on. I also read the JDs carefully to understand what employers exactly wanted from the candidates. All this helped me in providing a detailed response to the questions like ‘why should I be hired’.

Soon I received a mail that I was shortlisted as a Business Analyst intern at Barometer Technologies and an interview was scheduled. Their business model was to change the archaic way in which the bar inventory was being done. As it was a startup, I looked into CrunchBase for all the investments done in this company till that particular date. Then I searched on YourStory for any media profile about them. After getting a grasp about their business model, I started looking for similar models around the world. I found some models in the US and read about them to understand how differently they were operating. Then I checked the pain points that the startup was aiming to solve and what sorts of regulators were involved. I also read some reports by management consultants about the market size, growth potential, and some stats about the industry that the startup was operating in. I’ve always believed that if you can quantify the views that you want to convey, it carries far more weight. Thus, I always try to have some stats with me.

The co-founders had scheduled the interview at a client’s site, which turned out to be a bar at Breach Candy Swimming Trust, one of the most high profile places in South Bombay. With the raging sea as the backdrop, the interview started. They asked me a bunch of questions on my goals, academic background, and some technical questions on SQL etc. I was also asked to share some instances from my life when I didn’t give up and overcame the odds. As the last question, I was asked to sell the product to them, imagining they were the clients and I was the co-founder of the startup. I gave a satisfactory pitch and even included some stats. Next day I received the email that I had been selected for the internship! I was the first intern/employee of the startup and it was a really great moment for me.

Battling Mumbai’s traffic, I reached the office just on time on my first day. I was asked to find answers to some questions like the reasons behind the problem that we were looking to solve, the different regulations in India etc. Soon I was engrossed in my work. Then lunchtime arrived and, to my surprise, both the co-founders took me out for lunch. We went to a South Indian restaurant, and it proved to be a great ice-breaker. We shared some jokes and talked a lot about sports before resuming our work. There were two boards to chart the progress on the tasks that we were undertaking as a team. Later I was asked about all the questions that I had to find answers for. Wherever I went astray, they corrected me and asked about my process while finding the required information. It was about time to leave the office and to my amazement, I didn’t want to! It had been a truly productive and wonderful day.

My primary job was to create a database and maintaining it. This also included studying the backend of our app and giving recommendations on how the database should be linked and how SQL queries should be executed for optimal performance. I also had to constantly observe the best apps available in the market and to share the same with our developers if we needed to develop a particular functionality at times. As we were a small team our responsibilities overlapped, but the exposure was great for me as I was able to try my hands on different things which I couldn’t have otherwise.

Once I went along for a business meeting with a high profile client. It was my first experience of pitching an idea to a client. I was almost a spectator there, but I heard everything with keen ears and an open mind. Explaining to someone who is a novice when it comes to technology the need of using a technical product and how the investment would add value to his business, was a Herculean task! It is like tug of war and in the end, you always want to be on the winning side! This was one instance that I’ll always remember, and I’m sure it’ll help me in future when I’ve to pitch an idea to someone.

Two important things that I learned during the internship was to be tenacious and perseverant while charting unknown territories. In a startup environment a lot of issues and bottlenecks emerge on a daily basis, so one has to prioritize and resolve them. Taking initiative and ownership of work was another lesson that I learned. In retrospect, I think the most important learning, which I never actually thought about, was to be extremely courteous while talking to clients and stakeholders. Small courtesies do go a long way in forging relationships and building your character. In a way, this was, for me, Business communication 101. After the internship was over, the experience that I had gained helped me in grabbing my first job too! I’m still in touch with both the co-founders and they’ve helped me in my professional development. I plan to do an MBA soon, and they have already agreed to send me their recommendations!

I believe that the proverb, “Well begun is half done” applies in every field of life. So, I would just like to advise all students to start smartly. Your application is your first impression on an employer, the most important one, and so it should be as strong as possible. Thus, do your research diligently and explain clearly what you bring to the table.

About the Author: Himanshu Jagtap graduated from G.H. Raisoni College of Engineering and Management, Pune. He shares how he did an internship at a startup and turned his passion into a career. This article was first published on Internshala, an internship and trainings platform.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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