I didn’t let my project demotivate me. I got a PPI

Deepali Agarwal

I did my summer internship at Castrol in 2005. Got a PPI, converted to a PPO. I didn’t end up taking the offer as I had an offer from HUL. Worked in CPG sales & marketing for ~14 years across organizations like HUL, J&J, and Danone, in Health & Hygiene categories – Skin Care, Feminine Hygiene, Baby Care, Packaged Foods, Nutrition.

I still remember my summer internship very fondly for the learning as well as friendships I cultivated there.

My summer internship project was not a mainstream sales or marketing project. I worked on a solar energy project for Castrol India which was offbeat and also exploratory.

Like most freshers, this being the 1st corporate experience, I too wanted to do a more fancy assignment which involved developing advertising. Some of my fellow interns were working on projects around brand campaigns, sales structure, training modules which were an immediate need of the business.

I was demotivated to learn that my project was in an exploratory solar energy space which had a high likelihood of never seeing the light of day. But I decided to give it my best shot and use it as a learning opportunity.

I took 3 steps which made it really fun eventually:

1. I had a candid conversation with my project guide on my expectation and demotivation. He comforted me on the learning & contribution opportunity that my project presented. He also understood my need to be a part of a team and involved me in team events despite working on an exploratory project.

2. Soon into the project, I realised I need to work with multiple functions – supply chain, finance, exports, etc. and I leveraged this opportunity for learning about various facets of an organization and also about the people & culture. It also gave the organization a chance to evaluate me more holistically.

3. I got along well with fellow interns and took an active interest in their projects. This not only gave me a bigger view of the organization’s direction, I made lifelong friends in that process. Some of us are still pretty close and connected.

The humility of being a beginner, the curiosity of learning something new, and the excitement of contributing to an organization – were the 3 big takeaways for me.

My PPI was also centred around these behavioural aspects and led to the conversion to a PPO. In fact, the VP marketing (my super boss during my internship) has been a mentor since and I have consulted him from time to time in my journey.

I think a summer internship is the time to learn about an organization, forge great relationships, and contribute wholeheartedly to whatever project you’ve been given. You are sure to come out richer from the experience if you embrace it fully, without any prejudice.

Deepali Agarwal,

IIM Lucknow, Batch of 2006, 

Top 40 Marketers Under 40

How I Converted My Summer Internship to a PPI/PPO: My 7-Point Playbook

pallavi-rao-iiml-2003-ppo

It’s been about 18 years since I interned with Citi, back in the summer of 2002.

I was assigned to the e-biz team(aka Internet Banking unit), a band of highly energized, very bright, driven
individuals who challenged you but also encouraged you to do your very best. A few months later, I was back at the bank for my PPI which then converted to a PPO. I joined the coveted Management Associate Program in 2003 after graduating from B-school. That year, just 1 other offer was made on campus by Citi, so having that PPO made all the difference.


Here’s my 7-point playbook.

1 Play To Your Strengths

Every project has a problem at its core, but the way you get to your solution can play to your strengths. I was comfortable with numbers and used my internship to number crunch my way
through reams of data to come up with an analysis on customer behaviour for a certain digital
banking product. It may not have been the original route map, but once it was handed to me, I
knew that I’d use data to make the case. Another intern used his cold-calling skills to speak to
dozens of people instead. Find your strength and use it.

2 Ask For What You Need

Don’t sit quietly by, waiting for things to come your way. If you need some information or resources – just ask! This is not the time for ‘jugaad’ or ‘managing with what you know’. Your proactive approach and confidence in asking for what you need might make a good impression too. After all, that could mean tomorrow you’d make sure you pitched hard for whatever the team needs if you’re on it.

3 That Extra Mile? Go For it!

There is no substitute for this. Working smart is good too, but if you go the extra mile, people will
appreciate it. Also, as an intern you may not know enough to be able to take effective shortcuts (if you do, good on you!), but the capacity to put in hard work is something you have in abundance. This is no time for the lazy you. Ten-hut soldier!

4 Ask Questions

Find out why they commissioned that project and what they “really” want out of it. Make sure
your understanding of that one line project description is the same as what they intended. Find
out how things work. Find out who to ask about what.

5 Get Feedback – Early.

Don’t wait until presentation day to get feedback from senior members of the team. Find out
early on what they think of the broad direction your project is taking. Course correct if you’re
way off base.

6 Be The Sticky Tape On Haddock’s Hat

Tintin fans will remember the scene where a pesky bit of sticky tape had Haddock occupied for
hours. Be that sticky tape. Just less annoying, please. The point I am making is that everyone is
at work. And they’re busy. But if you need their time, keep at it until they fit you in. No one cares
as much about converting your internship to a PPO than you do. So try. Harder.

7 Network!

There’s no way around this. As you head into your corporate careers after campus, networking will play a big role in how successfully you’re able to get your plans approved, how effective their rollout will be, and even the speed and efficiency with which you can get things done.
These connections can be cultivated both within the organization and outside, but for now, focus
your effort on getting to interact with as many people as you can within the company. Whether it
is someone your guide introduces you to or someone you meet at the cafeteria, casually strike
up a conversation. Chances are you’ll learn something new about the organization, the job, or
just make a new connection. I made many fabulous connections with people across teams and
levels on the smoking balcony. And no, I don’t smoke. I’d head out with my cup of coffee for
some fresh air and if someone happened to be there puffing away into my fresh air, I’d wind up
having an interesting discussion anyway.
Also, your PPI will typically involve other business heads/middle to top management of the company beyond the unit you were attached to for summer, it might help your cause if you know a little more about other teams and their views ahead of time.

7.1 Get To Know The Other Interns

That bit about networking? Make time to meet the other summer interns. With current internships taking on virtual avatars this may be harder, but it is likely there’s a whatsapp group for interns already. If there isn’t – make one! Fellow interns could be future colleagues. Your ability to mingle across unit/team borders might also get spotted. Again, you have nothing to lose. At worst, you’d have company for those after work movies/coffees. At best, some of you will get PPOs and you’ll have a friend or two before you even join.


Converting your summer internship to that coveted PPI or PPO could be your end goal, but if you give it all you’ve got, you’ll wind up learning lots along the way – regardless of whether you join this organization or not. And remember, the people you networked with could be hiring in another company tomorrow. So it isn’t just about this job, but potential future jobs too.

pallavi-rao-iiml-2003-ppo

Happy interning!
Pallavi Rao
IIM Lucknow, Batch of 2003