Jayesh had a rather remarkable and action-packed summer (from the COVID viewpoint at least) with three enviable internships- Summer Research Assistant at Brown University, Research Assistant at Imperial College Business School and Strategy and Operations Intern at Coursera.
He is a dual degree student in the chemical department and although he probably knew that research might not be his true calling, he nonetheless decided to follow the conventional path and try for a research internship. He started emailing as early as August (whilst in his third semester) and it was finally in January that he got his dream internship at an Ivy League School- Brown University. Jayesh refuses to publicly release the number of emails he sent out (only a few close friends of his are worthy of this knowledge). But it wasn’t that he couldn’t get an internship in these months, he, in fact, got several. One in Taiwan, one in France, another in Germany and then in Michigan USA. But he was adamant that he wanted a top university (although he says it doesn’t matter much, now) and stopped only after he got into Brown.
Sadly, the day he received an email from the institute for the COVID break (he remembers the date- 13th march) was the same day his professor emailed him to switch to a remote internship. Jayesh was disheartened (the trip was special; he was to see his brother’s convocation in the USA) and his detailed itinerary of the forthcoming trip lay meaningless. However, after consulting a few seniors, he decided to continue with the remote internship and also started emailing professors from business schools for an internship in management as a side project. This turned out to be far less tedious and within a few days of emailing he had an internship as a research assistant at Imperial College Business School.
What was on his CV that got him selected we ask, his modest reply is that it was very normal, the way CVs in 2nd year tend to be. He says that what matters more is the way you present yourself (instead of saying JEE rank 2271, try writing top 0.02 percentile). For the Brown intern, he had nothing extra, his course projects were what he presented. However, for the Imperial Business intern, his work in ShARE (a global project with a European MNC) and his social work intern (at an NGO) were what bought him extra credit. His ECA (cultural, sports activities) and interestingly it was working for Rendezvous Marketing which formed a major topic of discussion in his interview. For scholastic achievements, Jayesh immediately mentions writing his JEE result followed by a long pause, after which he recalls that he is the DR 1 of his department (I am tempted to add ‘bade log’; but he calls it ‘perks of being in dual degree’). He says that technical skills are the most important and he made it a point to mention these in his cover letter (it was nothing mind-blowing he claims- just python, R, MATLAB, visualization tools). The professors want people who can code, do ML, data analysis and although he didn’t know ML and data analysis at that time, he learnt it during the course of his internship through a few online courses on Coursera etc., he adds.
His business project focused on a rather prosaic problem (I refuse to go into the technical details of his chemical project) - Is there a difference between the 1st and the 100th review that customers write for a particular product (in terms of emotional and factual content)? Turns out the customers who write the later reviews tend to give more personal/ emotional feedback as compared to the first reviewers whose feedback tends to be more factual. He reminisces his brainstorming sessions with the PhD student he was working with and recalls the interactive sessions of sentiment analysis as he talks about his project.
When asked which research internship he enjoyed more, his answer is instant- the business one of course! At which, afraid that he’s doing injustice to Brown University he adds that the interaction there was pretty great too but the business intern was where he could see actual results or ground realities even though the theoretical chemical research had its own challenges. As he describes the interaction level for both internships (at least 3-4 calls each week with the guide), a rather interesting and much-debated question pops up when he mentions that his prof was of Indian origin. The Indian origin factor- helpful or not? Jayesh responds that although he had thought the opposite, the Indian origin factor helps! (in his case at least).
At this point, having already stretched the interview to almost an hour (I digressed a lot, the discussion was too interesting), I asked two last questions- how did these internships help you? And of course – your advice to your juniors. The answer to the first was interesting, Brown University, of course, gave him the exposure of working at an Ivy League School collaborating with people from across the Globe but it was the Imperial Business School research that landed him an internship as Strategy and Operations Intern at Coursera. This led to a lengthier discussion on which of Amity University or IIT Delhi is a better potential customer for Coursera, but I digress (again).
His advice to juniors is quite straightforward- start emailing now, don’t be too disheartened if you don’t get a response to the initial emails; perseverance is the key and lastly- don’t write ‘Summer’ Internship while emailing professors in Australia.
Interviewed by Gopika Arora