Could you tell us something about yourself?
My name is Pradeep. I am a fourth-year chemical engineering student. In my free time, I usually watch Anime and TV series. I also play badminton.

You had done a research intern at IISc after your second year. Did it help you with your third-year internship?
My idea was to first explore research before going into anything else. My second-year intern just made me realize that I am not ready for research. It’s slow paced. It just gives you content to talk about during your interview as it is something you have explored. Nothing more than that.

Did your PORs and other responsibilities that you had taken help with the selection process?
Yes, sure. I was in Shaastra, Saarang and I&AR. More than what you are working in, they look at the role that you have played in that organisation. Every company looks for instances where you have shown a certain kind of behaviour and have done something outside of your curriculum. Your PORs help with this. It’s something that would help people get material to talk about. So, the idea is to sell yourself in the interview as the ideal candidate and they since are generally looking for managers, working in teams is a big part of the job profile. It doesn’t matter what kind of PORs you have in insti as long as you have something that you can talk about.

What is the selection procedure?
PNG’s selection procedure is a little weird. The kind of things they are looking for is different and very unique to PNG. The first round would be a psychometric test. PNG believes in ‘people’ more than the knowledge that they have or the skills they possess. All that matters to them is whether you are a perfect fit for the company. Even during the course of the internship, they are going to look at how well you fit into the company. There are certain sets of questions that they ask based on behaviour and situations and what would you do and what your approach would be (mostly multiple choice questions). They look for consistency as well. They will ask you questions in a vague manner where all the options look the same. It is very difficult to cheat your way out of the test. You can access the internet as well but in the end, it is you who has to answer the questions. It is a pass/fail test. If you pass they call you for the aptitude round. A lot of people apply. More than 200 people apply and about 20 get in. It’s very random. They don’t care about your CG or what kind of profile you have. They just look at whether you will fit in or not. Aptitude test is a cakewalk. Just some math and English questions. But that also eliminates a lot of candidates. The interview is a very strange aspect. Everyone comes out smiling. It doesn’t feel like you are talking to a corporate official. The kind of interview is HR. This is the place where they subjectively judge you. There is no right answer to it. And again it is situation-based. They will put you there and ask you how do you get out. For me, they asked this ‘You are the manager in an industry and you have chanced upon a better way to go about with some process. How would you go about convincing the team?’ I first asked how well does my team know me to which they replied that they know me well and respect me a lot. So, answering these questions need some right structure and based on your first answer they change the questions. It can go on to like a 10 fold or 15 fold question. This one question went on for like 15-20 minutes for me. I replied that I would first confide with one person, my friend. My closest buddy with whom I share everything. They found and that interesting and asked why and so on. In other types of questions, they will ask you to quote circumstances and instances from your life where you have joined something and shown some change. Here is where my second-year intern and PORs helped. I had 3 rounds while the rest had 2. The third round was just why do you want to work with PNG and things like that. My interview was taken by this person who has been with PNG for 28 years which is more than what I have been on the Earth! So, you can ask them questions afterwards and they make you feel very comfortable. It doesn’t feel like a stress interview. More like a convo over some tea. That is one thing that made me feel that I should work with this company.

Are there any incidents that made a difference in your work at PNG?
My experience in PNG was quite different from that of the other interns. My role involved talking to a lot of people in the factory. In fact, by the end of the internship, I knew everyone in the factory. I interned at PNG Goa where my main role was to bring in new tech to the company. This was something very different as even they weren’t sure of what to do. I was quite confused in the beginning. I had to make my own goals. What makes a good intern is the kind of guide that you have. You can have guides who will hold your hand and guide you throughout and it would be a smooth sailing process. Or you can have guides who will tell you this is what I want and let me know if you face any problems. My guide was the latter and that is good because at the end of the day after you navigate through the company you have that sense of ownership. You feel, ‘Yeah, I did this work’ rather than ‘My guide helped me do it’. That is quite different from what I have heard from my friends. It might seem like I am pitching the company but it is what I genuinely felt. When you enter the factory you can’t figure out who is the plant manager or the operations manager. Everything is flat. They have an admin office and they have no cabins. You can sit with anyone and anywhere. My first day was spent getting used to the fact that there is no corporate hierarchy (there is obviously one but they don’t make you feel it). My plant manager was some 30 years into the company. The way he talks to me and the way he talks to the other employees is the same. You don’t feel like an intern from day one. You feel like an employee there. There is no training period as such except for safety training. They just tell you your deliverables and ask you to start figuring things out. Ultimately, as I’ve said before you have to dig your own way out. But it’s a very friendly company and you don’t feel like an outsider. They focus a lot on work-life balance. It is a 5-day working company with 8-4 working hours. You do get a lot of time to chill out and roam around with your friends.

How important is CGPA for the internship process?
Some companies have a proper CGPA cut-off. Even though the companies themselves might say that they don’t, if you have person A and person B with similar profiles and one with a higher CG, then they would obviously choose the one with the higher CG. It is just a number to judge how academically strong you are. Some companies do give a lot of importance to it but frankly, PNG isn’t one of them. There is no criteria or cutoff as such but there are some companies who have rigid criteria.

How useful are the courses that we study here?
That really depends on your project. I knew a guy who got a really chemical-specific project where he had to use all that he learnt during the coursework. But the kind of work that I had to do was nothing related to Chemical Engineering. At PNG what they look at, is the growth – how you were when you joined and how you are at the end of the intern. They look at how quickly you adapted to the change that they put you through. It is more about the learning than the job. As I mentioned earlier there is no formal training. They believe that if you have the fundamentals needed to work in the company, then you can learn anything on the job. At least in PNG, they don’t have any prerequisites unless you are in a very chemical-specific role like Energy Management Systems where you need to know things like heat transfer. But if you show some mastery in a particular field and have a lot of interest towards it, then they will make sure that you get all the project related to that.

Any other thoughts or words that you like to share?
There’s something which I too haven’t done i.e. is to see how good a fit a company is to you. Usually, when the company comes for presentations, what people look at is, whether there is a CG cut-off or what the stipend is. That’s the only two things people are interested in. You have to also see what the work culture of that company is and whether you can fit into them. You can get to know that by asking your interviewer (when they ask if you have any questions for them). If that person has spent 28 years (like my interviewer) in the company he/she must certainly like some part of it. You can ask them about their experiences working there. This is what you should consider rather than the stipend because that is just a short-term factor. You will most probably spend it during your intern itself! Some people get multiple offers and are given just a day to decide. So, having that long-term thought is important as this is like a stepping stone to your career. You will have to give enough thought if you are a good fit for the company and whether the company is good for you. Apart from that my message would be to have as much fun as possible in the second and the first years because once interns and other things start, it gets a little more serious. Till then chill out and have fun!

Author: Divika Agarwal(BT-CH ’21)

This article is part of the series – Intern Guru. To get regular updates on all our articles, follow us on Facebook at /chennai36 and Instagram at chennai36_iitm