Sreeharsha Gunda was a Biological engineering dual degree graduate, currently enrolled in the Global IT Leadership programme of Astrazeneca. Astrazeneca is a multinational, science-led biopharmaceutical business, ranked seventh in the world for its research and development.

The two-year programme comprises four rotations, each lasting six months. You could be working on business process change, implementing cloud-based technologies, developing mobile applications and lots more besides – building expertise in all facets of IT, from project management and business analysis to application maintenance and design, and interacting with internal customers across the business. At the end of the two year programme, you can choose the permanent job you want.

Insti Life:

Sreeharsha was always a management consulting enthusiast, and said that his insti life and non-core passion was shaped by his PoR’s. He was never a “maggu” in insti, and being fresh out of Srichaitanya into the insane depths of freedom insti has to offer took its toll on his first year cgpa. He managed to increase it from 6.3 to 7.1 in his third semester, and said, “It only takes one semester to increase your cgpa if you put fight, maximum 2″ He was saarang hospitality core, Alak general secretary, and a Student General Secretary candidate over the span of his first 4 insti years. He effectively learned how to handle offices of ccw, Deans, student community and hostel secretaries, and gained brilliant insight into how the student administrative system works. The qualities he had learned in his PoR’s have shaped his ability to get along well with his colleagues in Astrazeneca.

When he was Saarang hospitality core, the 2015 floods occurred, and catastrophe struck for the hospi team when no one believed that IIT Madras was safe to come to for Saarang. He said it was one of the most stressful insti periods and taught him a lot, in terms of efficiency, practical thinking, and how to solve problems in emergency situations.

To choose a PoR (Position of Responsibility), you need to think of three things- the first being the value you are giving to the position, the second is what you will learn from it and the third is the impact you can make. Every responsibility involves a few conventional things that need to be done and having done them, the institute is your oyster, and you can bring into play as many new ideas as you want to.

BE Placements:

On being asked about BE placements, he said that they have very few core companies. Most of the non-core companies are open to them. He wishes he could have sat for schlumberger due to personal interest. Astrazeneca was his backup option. With his experience in insti he thought this would be a relevant job. When he started solving cases, he loved it. However, his prep was a little different, and he expressed regret on not having had a partner to discuss cases with, someone who knew about how to solve cases and provided an alternate perspective. He claims that this was the reason for his falling through. He was shortlisted for auctus advisosr but couldn’t clear it. Day 3 was Astrazeneca and The Hindu, and he was shortlisted for both of them.

Placement procedure:

Astrazeneca is a biopharmaceutical company but it has its own IT, its own operations and commercial interactions. The Hindu offer was a business strategist role. It had 3 rounds of interviews, all three case-based. He cleared all three and placed onto the final list.

Astrazeneca had 3 rounds as well-first was the resume, second was a presentation interview, which was something that made this company’s shortlisting process stand out since it truly tested your expertise, and third was group task. The case Sreeharsha was allotted for the second round was-”Using innovation technology, how did you solve a real life problem”. He told them about his saarang experience, how he came up with a new way to register students. At the end there were a few situational questions. Sreeharsha claimed that the situation questions they asked at the end tested everything he had put on his resume. In the third round, group of students were given a 2D picture, and had to create a 3D model from it. It was a test of both engineering as well as leadership, and lasted for a full day. Sreeharsha had to run between the hindu group and astrazeneca for that day, and claims that it was a very tasking ordeal. He advised, “You have to manage placement slots carefully; if you have multiple slots talk to the placement team because I know a few people who lost opportunities because they couldn’t handle multiple slots.” He did well in the last round and was selected. Between the both he chose astrazeneca because it was a global role and he got a chance to work across fields within a company, and being a management consulting enthusiast, the spectrum of jobs really appealed to him.

Job Description:

His current rotation within the company is R&D IT. Astrazeneca has 3 different structures within R&D-One of them being iMED or innovation medicine. He is a business analyst, and has to act as a bridge between scientists and Informaticians who work with various softwares in the process of innovative designing of the drugs. Biological engineers act as the link between biologists and engineers. Though he can change his rotation, he feels he has found an ideal role and won’t this time. Currently, he is looking into Next Generation Sequencing in R&D.  Astrazeneca is the leader of pipeline and of drugs in development stage. They love innovation and science and they play to win. They want to see if you’re a guy who follows science and can bring what you learn onto the field. They check your entrepreneurial attitude-can you take smart risks. These values were tested in the interview, and the job. The best thing about the company is the culture- it’s flat meaning there’s no hierarchy and it’s absolutely amazing. Everyone refers to everyone else in the company on a first name basis, and the heads of the company aren’t isolated. The culture is very vibrant and makes you want to work in the company.

Possible prep for the placement rounds:

Sreeharsha had met the people who created the programme and he asked them why they created it. They said they wanted to create young leaders from fresh minds who love to challenge things, and respect our culture and values.  When your resume is in front of a person whatever is on it matters, right from your cg to extracurricular activities. Even if your cg is low or mediocre (his was 7.46) you can still get in. You should, however, be sure to be thorough with whatever you put on your resume. On reading that Sreeharsha was in charge of 400 people as hostel secretary, they asked him situational questions about how to manage large groups of people. If he hadn’t been able to answer that question then that point would have been obsolete. In the interview you should be thorough with the resume and be able to showcase that you can think out of the box and articulate your learnings. Ultimately it’s the communication-how well you can present yourself. Prepare your ability to present things, and yourself. His interview was scheduled for 30 minutes but it went on for 50 minutes since he was able to strike a conversation with them, and they were happy to extend it.

Advice to BE students:

Your second year summer is very important-start your exploration. Do an intern and use your free time in third year summer/winter, if not to work then to explore. If you’re done with academic mandatory intern then look for other things to do. Sreeharsha expressed his regret in not having a non-core intern on his resume. Discover yourself, not just in terms of academics but anything you remotely like doing. Never stay stagnant, keep yourself busy.It hardly takes one or two semesters to increase your cgpa. Even if you don’t have the cgpa to get a certificate out of a PoR, approach any insti team and join it, just to gain the experience. They will accept you if you’re willing to learn. Unless you enjoy your PoR journey, it will never help you, and be in it for the experience.

Authors: Rishbha Jain (DD-ME ’21) & Hari Ramachandran (DD-MM ’20)

This article is part of our series – The Placement Guru where we share the experiences of graduates who have cracked the placement process and bagged some of the best offers on campus. For more such articles follow us on Facebook or visit our website here.