Sunday, September 13, 2009

Embrace Change

In the recessionary economy of today, the companies that achieve success are the one's that do not believe in status quo and welcome change. Look at the growth rate of Pepsi in these times. One thing that i learned while being at blue shield of ca was to be adaptive and dynamic in response to changes around you. Budget cuts, priority disposition etc. are few of the words that one would hear in any company these days and health care industry is no different.

We were working on a project where we were entrusted with a task to suggest a solution that would make the life of our sales team much simpler. Being from an IT background also, I was pretty confident of a solution and we were working closely with the vendor to come out with an optimal solution. After 2 week's of due diligence, I prepared myself to present the case to my senior manager who in turn was to present it to the budget approver (THE BOSS). While my manager and I were convinced of the solution, the reply we got was " I need a solution that fits the budget. Let's do the optimum next year. I do not have the money right now." The business priorities had changed and money was not flowing. Keeping my IT sense aside, I was really able to appreciate what our boss had told. More often than not one should strike a balance between what is optimal and what is feasible. Because we had prepared ourselves for that, we were running a parallel track of discussions to build a solution that fitted the budget. It was the readiness to adapt to changes that helped us formulate and propose a new solution which was immediately accepted. The crux and learning from the whole exercise for me was that for any proposal one should have at least a couple of alternatives with pros and cons so that decision makers can choose the best considering all the constraints.

One thing that also helped me during the whole internship was constant feedback sessions. Every week, i used to have a one on one with my senior manger who used to discuss things done over the past week, challenges and tasks for the next week. We also used this session to know about things other team members were doing . I found the last part to be very rewarding as due to it I was able to contribute to several other projects as well. So do not live in isolation and communicate as much as you can. You might stumble upon a project which is tailor made for you.

One last thing that I would suggest to anyone taking a 10-12 week internship is that one should document everything to avoid any sort of dependency later. Because you would be moving out of the company, you should detail the work you have done so that someone else can take over and continue. Their is a big chance that your work might get lost if your work is not documented.

Enjoy,have focus and establish your takeaways from the internship. These three mantras surely helped me make my summer experience a truly memorable one.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Internship Experience

Day 2 : Day of myfirst meeting with various teams and I was put into my first task. Find out how teams worked, what are the reasons for them not gelling, how to streamline an important line of business, figure out possible solutions and prepare a presentation so that anyone would understand it. WHATTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!! Didn't i just join yesterday. The excitement and 12 weeks of opportunity had just begun.

Health insurance industry traditionally has been 5 years behind in technology from industries like banking and I could see it in the processes, work culture etc. In banking everything was ONLINE whrere as in health care majority of processes were batch barring few exceptions. WOW!!!!! A super oppotunity to change and challenge the status quo was on cards. My task at BTeB involved streamlining the ASO/Shared advantage line of business which was on the radar of our COO.( Google is an ASO Client :-)) Sudddenly all the business cases of success/faliures that I did in my Tech Management class were echoing all over. Our unit head is one dynamic guy who is bent upon changing the way people percieve technology in the company. He wants technology to be the driver of the business and has support from the higher ups. Was wonderful working with him.
So one course that I thought will not be used in my business transformation internship was Operations Management. How can Op. Mgmnt. be of any use here. Well I was completely baffled by the excessive use of the principles of Operations I had to use. Prof woodruff's practical exercises in the class were the basis of the models my team proposed. A healthy mix of courses helped.

Next task that i was entrusted upon was to help in evaluating a proposal from one of the vendors. From the very begining, we knew that the project will ahve negative NPV and professor barber reminding us of implications beyond numbers flashed. We had to delve in to the organization, get numbers from various departments, build NPV models , argue on hurdle rates, bring forward strategic significance and finally present the findings to the managment. It was like revisiting what I had done over the past one year at school. For sure my confidence in GSM curriculum was reinforced.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Beginning

June 12, 2009 : Just a week's break after the spring quarter and I was searching for a house. Yeah I was moving to the dream city of San Francisco.... Got my internship with Blue Shield of California in San Francisco. I was excited, anxious and eager to utilize the skills I had gained over the past one year. I was joining the Business Transformation and E Business unit of Blue Shield.

June 13, 2009 : Moved to an apartment located in Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

June 15, 2009 : First day at the internship. All dressed up for the day. Reached at 8:30 AM with loads of expectations and which I can say were surely met. 9:00 AM our orientation started with a brief introduction of various schools represented ( berkeley, north western,booth etc.), various interns. YIPPPPEEEEEEEEE!!!! Davis had maximum number of interns. We rock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After that we were given some HR policy presentations where BS mission etc were discussed in detail. A health 101 was given for interns like us who had little or no background in Health Insurance industry but had come for a career change. Obama's mission etc were also discussed and interns had different and interesting views on his policies. I personally feel that if he can convince the congress and get health reforms bill passed, he can really lower the cost of health care. ( Want to debate :-)).

After the sessions we all had a nice lunch with the HR team from Blue Shield. And then we met our managers. They received us in the lobby and escorted us to our respective work stations.
Vollaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!! 19th Floor cubicle. I could see Alcatraz, ferry building from the floor. I loved it. Extremely professional, BS had our laptops ready which were given to us immediately.
My manager immediately had a goal and expectation setting 1on 1session with me which made me lot more excited. I was put on a project overseen by our COO and which was one of the strategic projects for our unit. Could not have asked for more on the first day. The fun was about to begin.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Landing with the desired internship

After two weeks of frantic activities, finally I am able to spend some time sharing one of the best phase of my US experience so far. Phew!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let me start by giving a background of my profile. I have an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India after which I started working in Banking industry as a consultant/Software engineer where we were instrumental in helping Fortune 100 banks of the world change to cutting edge solutions and helped them mitigate risk. At Davis, I am focusing on Business Analytics and Marketing. I have almost 4 years of professional experience.

I came to US in Fall 08 which was incidentally my first visit to the country. OK enough about my background. I guess if you are reading this blog you must be interested to know how to end up with the internship that you desire and that too in time of this recession. In this post, I will tell what I did. It might not be the best approach but it worked. It will also give you an insight on how the job industry works in US specially in times of recession.

START EARLY: You will hear this phrase time and again during your orientation and might want to ignore it. DO NOT. Within 2 weeks of the start of school, there will be MBA job fairs such as NSHMBA. First year students think that it is too early to go there but one should go to have a feel of jobs in the current market, how one can tailor the MBA to suit latest market trends etc. One of my friends went there last year and he secured interviews with quite a few companies.

CAREER SERVICES : One stop shop for all your career related concerns. Kathy, Inger and Lisa are there to assist you anytime and every time. Get your resumes tailored, cover letters organized. Need to contact an alumni for informational interviews, need to prepare for an interview, they will assist you you. I still remember the time I went to career services and expressed my concerns about my interviews at Blue Shield of California(where I am currently interning). I was interviewing for five different positions ranging from Corporate Finance to Product Development to Business Transformation. I was not sure if I would convince the interviewers about my interests in varied fields. But career services helped me prepare for the interviews, i got suggestions on tricky questions in such a scenario, modified my resume and it clicked.

INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS: Connect ! Connect! Connect!. This should be your mantra for the next two years at GSM. Like many people I knew of the industries where I did not want to go but I was not sure of what I wanted to do. I was able to meet in person and over phone several ex students and got there valuable opinion on different industries. It surely helped me decide about the industry I wanted to work in. Connecting with alumni helped me land another internship in winter 2009 at Morgan Stanley in Sacramento. Due to our small size, our school is a close knit community and the alumni are always helping. There is some data available, published by credible agencies which state that in U.S. 2/3rds of jobs are secured via networking. So this would also give you an idea on the importance of connecting with people.

Make good use of the resources that GSM provides and you will land an internship of your choice. The alumni directory is available online and you should start connecting.

OK.. it is 7'ish here in San Francisco, so time to head for an exciting day at office. More about my internship experience in coming blogs.