Intern Alana Minchenko get’s an Indian perspective while interning with NAB in Mumbai

In 2017 a number of students studying at Victorian education providers were chosen to participate in the newly created Victoria India Internship Program. The program, hosted by the Australia India Institute in Melbourne and the Australia India Institute @Delhi and supported by the Victorian Government’s Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources gave students the opportunity to work for Indian organisation based in Melbourne and India.  To learn more about internship opportunities, please email marianna.sarris@unimelb.edu.au

Q: Tell us a little about your internship, your duties and how you heard about it?

A: I was placed with the Operations Team of the National Australia Bank’s (NAB) international branch in Mumbai. I first heard of this internship opportunity through the Australia India Institute (AII) newsletter, where the Victoria India Internship Program was advertised. I originally applied for an internship with an Indian company in Victoria, but the AII came back with an offer to an Australian company in India, and how could I refuse an opportunity like that? In Mumbai, I undertook a project under the supervision of the Head of Operations that involved a survey of the status of the standard operating procedures of the Operations Team in Mumbai.  I also took the opportunity to learn as much as I could about the financial and banking sectors in India, with a particular focus on international trade and corporate finance.

Q: When you talk to people about your internship what’s the first thing you tell them?

A: The first thing I tell people is how incredible the entire experience was – because it wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill, generic Big Four internship that seems to be so prevalent among students I’ve met at the Faculty of Business and Economics. This opportunity gave me exposure to completely unfamiliar international business conditions. While I was able to identify the vague outlines of common institutions, I was given the opportunity to create my own connections and interrelations. I also tell people that I was lucky enough to be in India at a very exciting time for the banking sector – the announcement of the Union Budget. This definitely gave me a bit of perspective on the size of the budgeting challenge India faces, especially in contrast to Australia. Watching the news coverage in the budget and seeing the people in the office react to certain announcements, really gave me an insight into India’s economy and politics that I don’t think I would have gotten otherwise – something for which I’m extremely thankful.

Q: What was the work environment like at your internship?

A: I was interested to see how much of the NAB brand carried across the Indian Ocean, and externally I largely found the familiar corporate equipment and NAB workplace style of home to be present. The internal work environment was where I discovered the biggest differences between NAB in Australia and NAB in India – the way that work colleagues in the Mumbai office interacted was markedly different to what I was used to in Australia.

Q: What surprised you about the internship?

A: I was surprised that I was given so much leeway to develop my own schedule. As there was no set structure or timeline, I was given the opportunity to learn how to plan a project. Having not done any project management in the past, this was a huge learning opportunity for me to gain new skills that I now appreciate as highly transferable. Learning how to set parameters, define objectives, and schedule a project timeline has been immensely helpful to me back in Australia, and I was surprised that the internship program would allow me to develop skills in this area in addition to learning about the Indian banking and finance sectors and NAB’s operations in India. I was also very surprised to find that I was constantly encouraged to talk to everyone in the office – not just the area where I was interning. This meant that I was exposed to a whole range of bank functions in the microcosm of the international branch, and gained a much better understanding of all of the different departments and what they do as part of NAB. It was certainly interesting to come back to Australia having gained this understanding and see how it applied in the Australian context!

Q: What was a mistake you made that may assist other interns finding work in the same industry? What was the lesson you learnt?

A: I would recommend that other interns take the time to establish clear methods of communication in their country or placement of work. Everything will be made so much easier if you have at least three different points of contact in your workplace, with work and personal phones as well as email addresses immediately available should anything deviate from what has been planned.

Q: What skills did you gain from the internship?

A: I like to think that, though the ability to synthesise the elements of an unfamiliar business environment in a manageable and usable way is something I value for its transferability, the most valuable skills I gained from the internship are adaptability and resilience. Heading over to a completely unfamiliar country gave me the opportunity to test not only how I responded in stressful situations, but also how I adapted my interactions with colleagues. I am now more confident in my ability to work with others in an international business environment – something of which I am sure I will become more and more appreciative of into the future.

Q: What’s next for you in your career?

A: I feel like this internship has opened up so many doors that I’d previously felt had been closed or a bit stiff! After a graduate job next year with a government department, I’m hoping to move into the international sphere and hopefully use a few of the things I picked up during this internship. Working overseas is something that I’d like to do again in the future!