LSE Tata social intern profiles

Read about the experiences of the LSE Tata social interns.

Maddie Smith

Author

Maddie Smith

Careers Consultant and Tata Internships Coordinator

 2017

Alex Gray

BSc Philosophy & Economics

What made you apply for the Tata Social Internship scheme?

I tried to approach my choice of what to with my last summer before graduating (I was a third year when I applied) as logically as possible. What could I do with my last summer as a bona fide LSE student that I couldn’t do in the future? The Tata Social Internship really fulfilled this objective for me; rarely, if ever, do you get the chance to go to a country radically different from your own, but with a support structure like that offered by the scheme. Not only that, but for me it dovetailed nicely with my personal interests and (cliché I know) I happened to be reading Midnight’s Children when I applied so I was already pretty fascinated by India as a place.

What is your project about?

My project when I got to India was to evaluate an online financial literacy course. Financial literacy here is all the boring stuff that we take for granted when we interact in the banked economy everyday — how to open a bank account, how to read a tax return, what an interest rate is etc. The challenge for Tata Capital was to create something that would enable kids to learn an admittedly dry topic in a course that was easy to use and deliver. This course was called Dhan Gyan, aimed at children age about 10-17, and fulfilled a government initiative to increase financial literacy too.

What does your project involve you doing?

When they set up the course, they essentially found that there was demand from sectors outside the original intention, but that were in tension with the way the course was designed at the start. So, for example, it turned out lots of skilling institutes (like UK adult FE colleges) were using the course and wanted some offline content. This is great, but there are obvious costs to taking bits or even all the course offline. There were a bunch of other tensions like this, and my job was to think about how to try and resolve them. So, in essence, I was doing a feasibility study. Its worth mentioning a difference to some of the other projects was that this was pretty much all desk based.

What skills and knowledge are you using?

Since mine was a desk based project, doing a piece of analytical work I was using lots of skills that are quite standard in the workplace and LSE. My output was a report, so I was trying to clean up a dataset of users for quite a lot of the time and parse out conclusions from the numbers. Indian offices work much differently from UK ones in a bunch of ways, so you have to really learn how to communicate in a way that is appropriate for the audience. And by communicate here I don't mean language really but more things like its always better calling instead of emailing, things like that.

What did you enjoy most?

I found my favourite thing was the people. I was lucky (although I found that all the interns were “lucky” in different ways) in that I really got along with a couple of recent graduate trainees from the office. They introduced me to their friends and from there, I found myself at a bunch of birthday celebrations, Bollywood themed nights out and even a homecoming of sorts. Actually going through the process of meeting so many people, learning about the way things are done in a different country, different mannerisms and the like was a really fun experience. Of course, Indian hospitality is legendary and it really lives up to this stereotype for sure. And of course, when you mix this hospitality with some of the best food in the world, it makes for some fantastic meals!

What did you find most challenging?

For me the most challenging thing is difficult to articulate precisely. I initially found being in India frustrating. There is a lot of pollution, quite a lot of poverty (though with a burgeoning middle class, and extremely wealthy elite) and the systems are just very different from any Western country I was familiar with. What that meant in practice is learning to relax and let things take their time. In Hindi there’s a word, jugaad, which is like “finding a way through” or “making things happen” and that’s really what I had to force myself to learn. My conception of what an ‘official’ or a ‘good’ process I had to completely unlearn and realise that these processes and systems might look different from the Western outside perspective but actually they work pretty well. For example, the traffic is very loud (beeping is practically the national sport), there’s basically no concept of a ‘lane’ and if you let it, you would have road rage for the whole time. But once I realised that the beeping is just a way of letting other drivers know you’re there, that lanes don't really work with rickshaws on the roads, and that I’d never actually seen any accidents everything made more sense. I had to learn to relax and have faith that things will work themselves out by jugaad.

Anything surprise you about your time in India?

I was surprised by two things I shouldn’t have been. The first was how good the food was. I’d heard it was good, but even canteen style food that in the UK would be terrible was really so good. So many of the dishes you could literally have put on some nice crockery and sold for £20+ in a London restaurant. The other thing is the diversity within India. I wasn’t totally ignorant of the size and scale, of course. I had dimly assumed that the languages of India were dialects, maybe with differences based on religious or ethnic lines. So, I was surprised to learn that Marathi is a whole different language from Hindi, so that literally two interlocutors could not communicate with each other.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

After the internship, I knew I was going to start working for the government. I think that doing the Tata Internship has given me a different perspective on how you can positively impact the way that people’s lives go, without some of the constraints that being in Government rightfully imposes on spending money and working on services. It was also important for me to experience another culture “from within”, in order to gain some of the humility that comes from understanding and appreciating a different way of doing things. I hope that this will help me both professionally and personally in the future.

Jana Hock

BSc Accounting and Finance

What made you apply for the Tata Social Internship scheme?

I applied for the Tata Social Internship scheme once I found out it existed. Planning to go into Sustainable Finance, spending two months in India as part of an internship sounded just right.

What is your project about?

My project is about designing a sustainability and corporate social responsibility strategy for Trent, a fashion and retail business with an annual revenue of $250 million. With this strategy Trent should be able to reduce its environmental footprint and increase its social impact.

What does your project involve you doing?

My project involved a lot of research into global and Indian statistics on environmental and social needs. In addition, I had to find overlaps with Trent’s business strategy and needs, which meat that I deep-dived into the company’s value chain. While data is incredibly scarce, I used the opportunity to interview over 20 people across the Tata Group, Trent and beneficiary communities.

What skills and knowledge are you using? 

I’m using my pre-existing knowledge about sustainable issues as well as my strategy development skills, which I gained working for Strategy& at PwC. Further, team-work and cross-cultural understanding is crucial to get the right answers on which I relied due to a lack of soft copy data. Lastly, my experience in Finance and Accounting translated into the creating of a Balance Score Card and monitoring mechanism for the strategy and its initiatives.

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed talking to so many people across the organization the most. I’ve learned so much from each and every one of them both professionally and personally. I mean, I was talking to the Heads of Sustainability at Tata companies such as Tata Chemicals, Beverages and Power, despite only being the intern!

What did you find most challenging?

The lack of data to base my research and, ultimately, framework on was the most challenging. While I really enjoyed interviewing everyone, it’s very hard to quantify targets and getting access to information takes ages. Since my strategy will be the basis of the next 5 years of initiatives, it’s rather challenging to let go of my “baby” at this point and have other people look towards its implementation, too.

Anything surprise you about your time in India?

I tried to arrive with as few pre-conceptions about India as possible, which I think was a good mindset to arrive with. However, I was still rather surprised seeing the vast inequalities within the country. On one hand you have the most expensive home in the world, on the other you see a vast number of people without even basic sanitation. Working for Tata in that regards is still quite a “bubble”, which I didn’t expect.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

Since corporate social responsibility and sustainability strategies are very closely related to the fundamentals an asset manager in Sustainable Finance would invest in, it was incredibly helpful to get this first-hand experience, especially within the developing world where my future work will mainly be based. I do believe, this experience will be a decisive factor for future employers making a decision on whether I have the expertise for a job in Impact Investing or ESG (Environment Social Governance) Investing.

 

Ya Gan

BSc Government and Economics

YaGan

What made you apply for the Tata Social Internship scheme?

I applied for the Tata Social Internship scheme because, first of all, Tata is not only a big and reliable company with endless opportunities, but also a pioneer in CSR in Asia. I knew administrative things would be taken care of and I can focus on my project. Secondly, as an atheist and non-vegetarian, I am very curious about how a country where the majority of the population are vegetarian and religious is like. Last but not least, gaining precious field experience in India, one of the major recipient countries of international aid, can greatly contribute to my career.

What is your project about?

My project focuses on identifying the cultural beliefs and norms regarding maternal health in villages in the Okhamandal region.

What does your project involve you doing? What skills and knowledge are you using?

Firstly, I learned about basic maternal health knowledge and the public health system in Gujarat. I then collected information through semi-structure interviews of local women and health workers with the help of an interpreter in village health centres, self-help groups, and villagers’ homes. After that, I identified prevalent beliefs by analysing the data collected and presented them with suggested actions to the team in Mithapur, so that they can adjust existing health programmes where they consider necessary.

What did you enjoy most?

What I enjoyed the most was the exposure I got to rural areas around Mithapur during the fieldwork. As I have read a lot about development in India before coming here, going into the village health centres and local people’s homes is like seeing a long-lost friend in real life.

What did you find most challenging?

It was exceptionally kind for my colleague to help me with translation all the time, but it also brought some unpredicted challenges to me. For instance, sometimes conversations would easily become me asking my colleague “Do you know if she (the informant)...”; she then translates the question and the answer, instead of me directly asking my informants. This makes it very difficult for me to build rapport with interviewees and ask more intimate questions. After realizing this problem, I adjusted the way I ask questions – I looked into my interviewees’ eyes and ask in English even if they cannot understand me without the translation later, and it did work better. However, there are still some more challenging problems, such as lost meanings during translation and the difficulty of engaging the interviewees when there has to be interruptions in the interviews for translation. I will bring these questions to my future studies and work, and hope to find better ways of resolving them.

Anything surprise you about your time in India?

The thing that surprises me the most about rural India is how much it resembles my hometown in China just a decade ago, which has helped me appreciate the extent to which China has grown out of extreme poverty. Meanwhile, the two countries share so many similar social problems too, such as rapid and unsustainable urbanization, pollution, gender discrimination, etc.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

This internship has allowed me to understand ground-level development with first-hand experience for the first time. The unresolved questions I have from this field work will accompany me through my master’s studies of Development, which greatly helps contextualize the theories I will learn about. What’s more, I have also developed some very useful transferrable skills by adapting to foreign cultural environments as well as my qualitative research skills. I am sure that they will prove very useful in my future career in the development sector.

James Ayre

BSc Economic History with Economics

What was your project about?

Study of migrant housing in Mumbai, looking at potential solutions and policy frameworks.   

What did your project involve you doing?

Analysis of existing policy framework; collection of primary data in migrant communities (relocated for 2 weeks); analysis of international best practices; and developing recommendations. 

What skills and knowledge did you use?

Research skills to discover and analyse policies, looking for gaps therein; primary data collection skills (construction of tools and methods) and practical skills of collecting; evaluation of other practices applied; people skills across a wide range of backgrounds; presentation, negotiating and report writing skills. There is also a lot of self-reflection involve

What did you enjoy most?

The way the 2 months challenged me personally in a very new environment, and dealing with the impact of that. After 2 months I felt very integrated with Mumbai and had a good understanding of how to function, personally and professionally, in that environment. You will meet some really incredible people that help you with your project and leave a lasting impression on you.  

What did you find most challenging?

Understanding my surrounding environment and acclimatising to it. Mumbai is a crazy place and can sometimes leave you feeling like an outsider. Until you manage that feeling, it can be very disorientating. Another hard aspect to deal with is the limitations of your research, it is very hard for an intern to tangibly impact the lives of the people you are trying to, and who are really hoping for change.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

Professionally, the internship made confident I could deal with anything that came across my desk in my future career. The internship was a great way to spend a summer really developing yourself in a fantastic place, whilst exploring a potential career path. It’s definitely not your standard summer internship!

Yukie Hosoda

Master of Public Administration

What was your project about?

Cost benefit analysis on the organic manures production process and marketing research in a local setting context

What did your project involve you doing? 

In general, 50% are spent on literature research to obtain the background knowledge and to grasp concepts of the theme, 35% are spent on field visits like visiting the related sites around and interviewing farmers and 15% are on writing work on PC by discussing my boss and colleagues.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

There are three skills that I think are the most important in the internship. Firstly, a management skill is critical includes scheduling your work and putting them into practice  In my project, how I structured the research was totally dependent on me, so that I always had to be aware that how I allocated my time of two months and how I organised my research. Though there were helpful colleague and boss, without being proactive, I found it very difficult  to proceed the project. Secondly, analytical skill was required when I approached the research question. This is basically what we have been trained at LSE. In general, you had to clarify a research question, figure out how to approach a research question, how to gather data and facts, how to interpret those data. I used cost benefit analysis tool and marketing survey frame work as methodology. Lastly,  communication skill is the most basic and critical skill. This is because most colleague and local people speak limited English, so a lot of times I had to communicate using gestures, facial expressions and limited Gujarati besides English. Furthermore, I found we that had to adapt our way of behaving and thinking to those in local culture, otherwise we would have been heavily stressed.

What did you enjoy most?

Communicating with local people through exploring local places such as temples, schools, houses and new cities and villages were always exciting for me. For example, when we were invited to houses, we enjoyed conversations to exchange our cultural views over local food. Visiting temples and watching and listening to people always helped me understand how religions play a big role in the society. When we were invited to local school over weekend, I was moved by their hospitality and impressed by students’ singing and dancing culture. Attending to weekly volunteer sessions organised by TCSRD office gave me better understanding of their philosophy and methods toward nature conservation. Lastly, Mithpur is really rich in wildlife, which entertained me a lot.

What did you find most challenging?

Finding the right person to ask the right question was probably the most difficult. This is because my boss was not always around the office and it was not always the case he knew everything about the project. Therefore, I needed to figure out who to ask which question. After having found each person’s role in the office, it became a lot easier to conduct my research efficiently.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

The internship experiences were definitely beneficial for my professional career as well as for my personal growth. Professional career wise, I learned the importance of combining academic skills and way of thinking and into real business settings. I realised that academic perspectives sometimes focus too narrow on details, but analysis in business setting sometimes requires the broad perspectives to grasp the macro trend and contexts in the society. So being back and force to ensure that analysis on micro and macro levels are consistent were very important. Regarding personal growth, experiencing Indian cultures and lives broadened my perspectives on how I grasp things in general. I got a lot of occasions to reconsider my thoughts on sustainability, economic development and education. For example, I felt the infinite potentiality of how companies can influence on the society through educating their own employees in the company. 

Pauline Bogey

MSc Regional and Urban Planning Studies

What was your project about?

I worked with Tata Trusts and my project was to assess the access to health and nutrition services for circular migrants working in the construction industry in Delhi.

What did your project involve you doing?

My project involved nearly thirty interviews with migrant workers in four different labour camps in Delhi and about ten interviews with key informants such as policy researchers, developers and NGO workers. I first had to get an understanding of the broader context surrounding migration in India. I then analysed the health distribution system in both rural and urban areas before designing a culturally sensitive interview guide. My role also required me to carry out a benchmark exercise to review what was being done in other countries facing similar challenges.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

The skills I used most during this project were interpersonal skills and project management. Interpersonal skills were crucial to establish good relationships with my colleagues in spite of the cultural differences and to gain the trust of the interviewees. Background knowledge on qualitative methodology was also vital to conduct the interviews. I used planning and project management skills to organize the research and overcome the numerous misunderstandings and timing issues. I also used my analytical skills in developing an in-depth understanding of healthcare and migration in India, a previously unfamiliar context. Public speaking skills as well as writing skills were eventually useful  to prepare for the two presentations and produce the final report.

What did you enjoy most?

The absolute best was the complete autonomy which the project provided. It was up to me to make the decisions with regards to how I would conduct the project. I also thoroughly enjoyed going to the field and meeting the migrant workers, trying to build trust with people with such different lives. I felt really lucky to get the chance to see India, not as a tourist but as a Tata consultant. I also greatly enjoyed exploring Mumbai and Delhi where I had amazing experiences with the locals.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging aspect of the internship was organizing my research with the partners on the field. It was often difficult for me to find someone who would act as a translator during field trips. I also found the language  barrier to be very frustrating even though I soon learnt basic words that would allow me to interact with people, both at work and outside of work.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

This experience was truly rewarding both on the personal and professional level. I felt very lucky to get the chance to discover the diversity and richness of Indian culture. I also discovered a lot about myself, my strengths and weaknesses. On the professional level, I learned a lot about social and development projects, their implementation, the challenges they face and how to make them successful. Working on development projects with Tata showed me it was possible for corporations to play a key role in improving people’s quality of life. I also learned a lot about the reality of field research and qualitative data collection. I firmly believe the expertise I gained adds value to my academic background and gives me an edge in the job search.

Christelle Favre


MSc Social Policy and Planning

What was your project about?

My project involved developing a CSR compendium for various projects identified and developing an impact assessment tool for education programs.

What did your project involve you doing?     

Conducting interviews with key stakeholders, contact with local beneficiaries and researching tools already on the market to evaluate impact of CSR projects.

What skills and knowledge did you use? 

From my background in Social Policy I drew from my knowledge of the education field with qualitative studies to identify gaps in rural education development. My interpersonal skills proved extremely useful and I was able to develop an indepth cultural understanding of the beneficaries I was working with.

What did you enjoy most?

Three main things spring to mind.

Firstly, getting to travel (and get lost!) in various parts of India with friends made here was incredible! I was able to visit CSR activities in rural Mahle- a 4 hour drive from Mumbai, which was lush and green in time of monsoon. Experiencing the “real”, albeit chaotic and polluted Mumbai, aswell as Dharavi (Asia's biggest slum) was something I will never forget. Secondly, towards the end of the internship I was able to participate in the companies “Sustainability Conclave” which provided with tremendous insight into CSR. I learnt about the opportunities and limitations of private sector involvement and the importance of multi-stakeholder analysis. Lastly, being able to not just be an observer but a participant in the day to day lives of communities and the generosity of these people- meant that I constantly felt hugely humbled in carrying out my research. Working with children from migrant families, was for me however the most rewarding and has motivated me to pursue a career with children.

What did you find most challenging?

Learning to manage intercultural differences! Being a woman in India, even in Mumbai, you stand out- and this takes time to get used to. Language barriers in more rural locations was also a huge challenge.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future? 

I think an experience in such a diverse and culturally rich country and the network I was able to develop has definitely given me a competitive edge for any future career. 

 

 

2015

Genevieve Joy

MPA Public and Social Policy

genevieve2
Genevieve Joy

What was your project about?

Identification of opportunities for promotion of livelihood of rural population through agriculture and allied activities with Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development in Haldia, West Bengal

What did your project involve you doing?

I analyzed 7 agriculture projects that have been underway for between 1 and 10 years in nearby rural villages and wrote recommendations about which projects should be scaled up, which should be dropped, and offered new ideas for potential income-generating activities. My role also required me to conduct interviews and focus groups with project participants, especially women, to learn about their experiences and opinions. I also had to do a fair amount of desk research and interviews with Tata Chemicals staff.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I drew from my background in agriculture from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN and on qualitative research skills acquired during the MPA. Since my internship was during the monsoon season, I also had to be innovative about how to use my time productively when I was rained in and prevented from going to the field.

What did you enjoy most?

The absolute best was going to the field to meet the women, see the projects in action, and get to know people from a completely different and beautiful world. The generosity of my colleagues, who checked in on me every day, taught me to play cricket, and took me out to my first Bollywood film, was exceptional. And, of course, the food.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging part of the internship was the remoteness of my location. I made some long-lasting friends and I enjoyed exploring Haldia, but being in a rural environment limited my autonomy. As an athlete, I had to be creative about how to stay active (yoga and body circuits in my room) and I became good at being alone most evenings and some weekends. That said, I was happy with my placement and valued the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone for a couple months.

genevieve3
Genevieve Joy

What did you learn?

I learned a lot about the realistic aspects of qualitative data collection, which is extremely useful for a social scientist or policymaker. In class, you learn about the gold standards for randomization and selection in sampling, but in reality you can’t always be rigorous about the composition of focus groups. Since I was traveling to villages during the middle of the day when many people were busy working or caring for their children, I was just happy to conduct my surveys and focus groups at all.

Billie Elmqvist Thurén

BSc International Relations

Billie4
Billie Elmqvist Thurén

What was your project about?

In the Okhamandal taluka of Gujarat, Tata Chemicals Society for Rural Development (TCSRD) is involved in the promotion of sustainable livelihoods, both farm- and non-farm-based. Non-farm-based livelihood initiatives include the promotion of industry relevant skill development programmes, while farm-based livelihood initiatives include crop breed improvement, water management, and other activities related to the enhancement of agricultural productivity. Over a period of time, however, TCSRD has recognized that there are numerous socio-cultural challenges to the successful facilitation of these initiatives. As such, TCSRD requested that I provide a documentation of these challenges, by investigating the perceptions of skill-based vocational training versus agro-based livelihood from a socio-cultural perspective. Based on my findings, I also provided a list of recommendations on how TCSRD could strategize its livelihood initiatives for the future.

What did your project involve you doing?

Since the concept ‘socio-cultural’ is quite broad and elusive, I chose to narrow down the scope of my study and focus on two main socio-cultural indicators – genderand caste/community. I spent the first couple of weeks trying to understand the gender norms and caste/community relations of Okhamandal, through secondary literature, conversations with TCSRD staff and my own observations. I then established a list of key respondents, which included students from TCSRD’s Skill Development Centre, self-help group women involved in handicraft enterprises, farmers who had taken part in TCSRD’s agriculture initiatives and village leaders. I employed participatory techniques such as semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions to gather primary data from these respondents, with questions designed in such a way so as to deduct answers related to gender and caste/community.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I found it helpful to have studied gender in the context of India during my undergraduate studies, even though those studies were not directly applicable to the region of Okhamandal. I also found my research and analytical skills to come to good use when conducting my landscape analysis of the socio-cultural make-up of the region. When it came to the actual writing of the report, time management and writing skills were key. Furthermore, I used interpersonal skills to gain the trust of my respondents, establish good relationships and tailor my questions so that they resonated with my interviewees.

What did you enjoy most?

The most enjoyable aspect of the internship was meeting and making friends with people with such different lives and worldviews compared to mine. To me, that is the best learning experience there is, as it allows you to question all those preconceived ideas you may have about a certain culture or nation. There are also specific moments of the internship that I will always remember, such as when I was served tea with milk straight out of a farmer’s buffalo, when a group of musicians forced me to sing traditional, religious songs with them and when a family dressed me up in all of their heirloom jewellery. Having studied development from a very academic and critical point of view, I was also happy to see the real-life impact that development initiatives actually can have on the lives of people who benefit from them.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging part of the internship was understanding what my project was really about. It took me a few weeks to identify key respondents and develop my methodology. Furthermore, my project required me to ask quite complex and sensitive questions, which, in addition to translation issues, made it difficult to get the answers I wanted. In addition, since TCSRD staff members had their own projects to take care of, they did not always have time to take me out in the field. I often felt quite stressed over whether I would be able to complete my project on time.

Billie1
Billie Elmqvist Thurén

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

I have always wanted to work in development, but had not had much fieldwork experience prior to this internship. As such, this internship became a bit of test of whether I could see myself working in this field in the future. Having completed the internship, I am without doubt that international development is the right field for me. I also hope to be able to work in India again. This fall, I have been admitted to the MSc Development Management programme at LSE. I am confident that my experience in India will be helpful in completing my masters, bringing a practical element into my academic studies.

Polchate (Jam) Kraprayoon

BSc Government

VoltasJam2
Jam Kraprayoon

What was your project about?

I developed at ‘road map’ for creating a corporate sustainability strategy and governance system for Voltas Ltd, which is Tata’s applied engineering firm.

What did your project involve you doing?

My project involved researching global corporate sustainability best-practice and the current and emerging regulatory environment, evaluating the maturity of competitor’s sustainability practices, and evaluating the company’s current sustainability practices. Using these inputs, I mapped out a structured pathway for the company to formulate a corporate sustainability strategy and made recommendations on particular facets of corporate sustainability e.g. identifying sustainability issues and adopting particular governance arrangement.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

In general, I used project management skills, general research skills, and my background knowledge of sustainability during this project. Specifically, I conducted a literature review on international and Indian corporate sustainability practice and analysed Voltas’ competitors through company reports and other online resources. I also conducted several in-depth interviews with management across departments including at the executive-level and collected data on company environmental tracking using questionnaires. I also visited two manufacturing facilities, in Thane and Dadra, in order to get a first-hand view of production processes.

What did you enjoy most?

Aside from all the wonderful people I had the chance to meet and spend time with, I greatly enjoyed getting to explore Mumbai. It’s a wonderful city, with beautiful architecture and a plethora of delicious food options. Speaking from personal experience, I found the locals incredibly friendly and since I frequently got lost, I found they were incredibly willing to lend a helping hand. Being able to spend time in a city for two months gives you a good amount to wander around and get really ‘stuck in’.

What did you find most challenging?

My project scope was very large and seemed to be coupled with an opportunity to make a substantial difference, both factors made the project quite intimidating. I found it most challenging to temper my expectations and set more reasonable expectations for the project given the short time I would have at Voltas (two months) and the steep learning curve involved.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

On the project side, I developed a theoretical understanding of sustainability as well as a practical understanding of how it applies to large-scale organisations in the developing world. More generally, I learnt a lot about project management, working independently, conducting interviews involving technical information, and communicating effectively in a corporate environment. I have strong interest in both sustainability practice and organisational reform and feel that my experience in this project has furthered my understanding of both fields. I think that these skills and knowledge will directly help me during my placement at UNESCAP, working on environment and development issues, as well as further in the future.

Hana Chambers

Master's in Public Administration (MPA)

Hana
Hana Chambers

What was your project about?

I had one major project and one smaller project. The main project was to evaluate the effect of a primary education programme, funded by Tata Communications, implemented in schools in slum areas of Mumbai. I also worked on an employability project targeting affirmative action individuals in Mumbai, documenting the experiences of beneficiaries who were receiving trade-specific training which was also sponsored by Tata Communications.

What did your project involve you doing?

For the education project:

  • I conducted a rapid effectiveness study of the education intervention, which involved quantitative and qualitative analysis. For the quantitative section, I collected primary data on students’ attainment, demographics and school contexts, to which I applied econometric methods to see whether the intervention has had a positive effect on the attainment of students involved. For the qualitative side, I interviewed and surveyed the stakeholders in the project: teachers, students, parents, school management, about their impressions of the programme.
  • I interviewed two teachers in depth and produced two case studies that linked their experiences to theories of women’s empowerment, financial inclusion and pedagogical methods.
  • Capacity-building of Tata Communications’ partner NGO: I developed a system of evaluating and monitoring teachers’ progress and whole-school progress for the NGO to use
  • Capacity-building of teachers: I observed lessons and gave feedback; I conducted a training session for all the teachers in the programme, sharing best practices from my own experience as a teacher in the UK.

For the employability project, I visited the training centres and interviewed candidates on the different courses about their experiences and their suggestions for improvements to the programme.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I used econometrics skills from my master’s course to help me assess the effect of the education programme, as well as set up indicators for the NGO to use in the future to track the programme’s impact. My previous professional experience as a teacher was really useful - it meant that I could give advice to the teachers and NGO about how their lessons or their programme could be improved. It was useful to be able to offer this kind of concrete help immediately and add value to the programme, as it helped me build good relationships with the teachers and the NGO from the start. Interpersonal skills were very important, as I was meeting people and talking to them (often with quite a language barrier) all the time. I also drew on previous experiences of working in development and social research to design my surveys and write up my findings.

What did you enjoy most?

I loved being in Mumbai, and travelling all over the city as part of my projects so that I saw many things that tourists would miss. I felt by the end that I had gotten to understand this exciting and diverse city. I also really enjoyed going into the schools – I went so often that I got to know the teachers and several students very well. The food was also delicious!

What did you find most challenging?

The language barrier was a challenge, as even though I made an effort to learn some Hindi and Marathi, I was never able to do more than a little conversation to break the ice. This meant that I had to rely on teachers or staff at the NGO to help me translate and conduct interviews and surveys, which was often a burden on top of their regular work, so managing that was also a challenge at times. The paucity and poor quality of the data available in schools was another huge challenge. This hadn’t been made clear to me at the beginning (better data was promised) and I didn’t realize the scale the problem of until I was well into my study, which meant a lot of extra work for me and the NGO staff. We got there in the end but it was a push! Generally, I had to become accustomed to unexpected delays – because of the monsoon rains, because of a technical glitch or a communication issue – and re-plan accordingly.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

I hope to work in international development and social policy after my master’s, so this was a valuable opportunity for me to get more field experience and practice my econometrics and research skills. I also wanted to gain some experience of how the private sector approaches social issues; most of my experience to date has been in the public or third sector so the insight into corporate social responsibility was useful.

 

2014

Ai Namiki

MSc Development Management

Ai Namiki - final day with CSR team
Final day with the CSR team

What was your project about?

  • Impact Assessment for Entrepreneurship Development Programme for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in Pune (one month).
  • Needs Assessment for Healthcare Improvement Project in a Slum in Mumbai (one month).

What did your project involve you doing?

  • My role was to conduct field interviews with different stakeholders and assess the impact the entrepreneurship development programme had on the beneficiaries in order to improve the project. To make the most of my ‘outsider perspective’, I tried to contact not only suggested stakeholders by the CSR team but some personally selected ones to unveil the real voices from the grassroots level.
  • My main role was to conduct two types of field research. The first involved individual interviews with perspective beneficiaries of the maternal care project from a slum community. The second was working in a focus group and discussing with young women how to meet their needs. Commuting to the slum allowed me to collect important baseline data that will be used to plan future CSR projects by Tata Communications.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

In both projects, qualitative study was the main skill I utilised and developed. In particular, creating questionnaires and conducting interviews in the field were common requirements and the most useful skills I could make the most of throughout the programme. Fortunately, my colleagues helped me with the language barrier assisting me during interviews and discussions.

What did you enjoy most?

One of the most enjoyable experiences was meeting inspiring people who have positively influenced my future. For example, my boss from the CSR team was a typical ‘career-oriented woman’ with over 10 year of professional experience in development which strongly interests me. After working with her for two months I now think of her as role model who I want to learn from and emulate.

Ai Namiki - after the interview
Field research in a slum community

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging thing for me was to negotiate with the project stakeholders outside of the company. While the project seemed to be going well, I realised that through greater discussion with stakeholders we could have reduced misunderstanding and miscommunication. I suggested to have more frequent face-to face meetings to strengthen understanding of the project with the stakeholders. As a result, all the stakeholders agreed to do their best to improve the current project and they showed great commitment and satisfaction.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

This internship was a life-changing opportunity for me in terms of encouraging me to think carefully about my career path. Thanks to many suggestions from my colleagues, and ideas I gained from communities I visited throughout the programme, I decided to pursue my career in the social entrepreneurship field as a consultant. As a first career, I will start working for Deloitte Japan as a management consultant for the non-profit sector in developing countries from October. My precious two-month experience definitely helped me to attain my job in Japan. My long-term goal is to be back in India as a professional consultant to contribute to solving grassroots challenges entrepreneurs have in underprivileged communities.

Connor Vasey

BSc Philosophy and Economics

Conor Vasey
Connor Vasey

What was your project about?

Providing a service to the TCSRD (the CSR arm of Tata Chemicals)

What did your project involve you doing?

  • Prepare process documentation: I had to document the entire process of every TCSRD program in a formal document covering technical, logistical and non-technical aspects of each one. This included documenting steps taken before the initiation of the project and also steps taken after its completion. It was also important to document the history of the project's development.
  • Tracking mechanism: I developed a tool by which the TCSRD could keep track of the impact and implementation of its projects. This had to be a practical measure because it was meant to be applicable across all programs and be used both monthly and annually.

In order to lay the foundations for this sort of work a lot of time was spent in the field following TCSRD activity. This involved observing how the projects were run, but also interviewing TCSRD and holding focus groups with members of the community to gauge their understanding of each initiative. In all, these processes, particularly in the first weeks, dominated my schedule with hours spent 'on the ground'. In addition to this, the tracking mechanism required long periods of focus group engagement with TCSRD staff and often lead to working beyond working hours.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

It was extremely useful to have a background in economics when developing the tracking mechanism; eventually a weighted index was produced with a replicable methodology. My own knowledge of developmental issues (from growing up in a developing country myself and also from my own previous research) played a key role in shaping the questions I posed and also in shaping the approach taken to said index. Finally, my understanding of research methods, although limited, proved extremely useful throughout.

What did you enjoy most?

I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent in the field with the agriculture projects (and the behind the scenes discussions that went with this). Personal ties with agriculture made it particularly engaging for me and, given that 60% of India's population is supported by agriculture as a source of income, it couldn't be more relevant to the development landscape here.

What did you find most challenging?

The biggest challenge I faced was the arrangement and coordination of interviews and focus groups. Many TCSRD staff have their own agendas and you have to work around these and language is a difficult barrier to overcome when engaging with the rural poor. Anyone coming to Babrala ought to brush up on their Hindi and be prepared for a great exercise in patience!

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

  • Overall this has been an incredibly enriching learning experience. I was required to engage in every project and consequently my knowledge of developmental issues and grassroot-approaches to dealing with them has expanded massively. My eyes were also opened to the disparity in what I know from my time in Africa and what matters here in India. Attitudes are different, desires are different and while many issues are the same, the means to tackle them are necessarily divergent.
  • Already well-aware that my passion lies in development work, the internship has only served to reinforce this. I have witnessed first-hand the huge variety of experiences work in development can offer you, and this pushes me to continue pursuit of my planned career (although I doubt India's charm will ever outweigh that of my home continent!).

Dayanna Rubalcava

MSc Public Administration and International Development

Dayanna2
Dayanna Rubalcava

What was your project about?

I worked in Tata International Limited (TIL), a branch of the Tata Group that deals with exports and representing the company outside of India. My task was to assess TIL’s Affirmative Action Programme, branded as Utkarsh, and help them compile a Strategy document complete with a roadmap valid for the next three years. TIL is spread across more than 20 locations around the country and at least 6 have an Utkarsh programme.

What did your project involve you doing?

I conducted interviews with Senior Managers, the implementation team and the teachers and headmasters of the schools that TIL works with. I also took field visits to their training centres and schools. I analysed the implementation of Utkarsh, assessed if they were complying with their objectives and if the Senior Managers goals and the implementation team goals were aligned. For my work I travelled to different locations when possible and sometimes held conference calls as well.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I used my previous knowledge on development projects to try to assess if their approach was good and complete. I also used the skills I obtained on my econometrics and development classes to create indicators that could be easy to track for the company once I left. I also used interpersonal skills when conducting the interviews. I learned a lot about business and business strategy as well.

What did you enjoy most?

I thoroughly enjoyed being in a different country outside of my comfort zone. I met wonderful people with who I still keep in touch. I discovered a little town near the place where I lived that become my favourite place in the world as well. Project wise, I was very happy and grateful with the engagement the Senior Managers showed my project and my results.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging part was the language barrier; I would have loved to have done more interviews in the field without having to rely on a translator. It also took me a while to understand the Indian dynamics at a work place and how the notion of time is very different to my country and to the UK.

Dayanna
Dayanna Rubalcava

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

Well, I had never worked in a development project that was carried out by the private sector. I had no idea if I would enjoy it or not. I did enjoy the time I spent their a lot and it gave a very good sense of how things work from the side of companies and corporations. I discovered that I definitely like the independence of an NGO but having secure funds for projects does make a difference.

Janani Ketheswaran

MSc Health Policy, Planning and Financing (Joint with LSE & LSHTM)

JKetheswaran2
Janani Ketheswaran

What was your project about?

My project involved assessing and analysing the operating theatres at TATA Medical Center Kolkata to understand areas for improvement.

What did your project involve you doing?

My role was to research and audit the current status of the patient’s timeline when having a surgical operation. I assessed each surgical specialty looking at different aspects of a patient’s journey including the arrival time in theatres, anaesthetic times and the start time of the first surgical case of the day. I assessed the use of The World Health Organisation’s Surgical Safety Checklist and whether operation notes were documented appropriately. In order to understand the processes fully, I had to work with nursing teams, surgeons and anaesthetists.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

Having a medical background and an interest in surgery I could use my existing knowledge of medicine and the working dynamics of a large operating theatre department to full effect. Furthermore, my skills from my MSc came in handy when providing evidence based recommendations to the hospital as these could be based on other hospital experiences and published papers.

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed using my existing skills in a different country and health system while being motivated to complete the project. The weekend trips we arranged were amazing experiences, travelling to Jaipur, Darjeeling and Varanasi created incredible memories of this Internship. Living in India was an experience I will never forget, the food and the generosity of people were also my highlights. Being invited to a Varanasi Boatman’s house for lunch to chat to his daughter about persisting with her education was an unforgettable highlight.

What did you find most challenging?

On a personal note, being away from home for two months was challenging and being a woman in India was tough. From being completely independent in the UK to being cautious on every journey was difficult too. The frustrating inequality was evident throughout India and it will be a challenge for future generations to tackle this.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

I learnt a vast amount about Indian culture and the people whilst living there and visited 8 different cities. It is an incredible place, with a rich, diverse culture, history and immeasurable talent. The internship gave me an insight to working in a low/middle income country and the health problems it faces which is relevant to my masters degree.

Latoya Francis

MSc Public Administration

Latoya
Latoya Francis

What was your project about?

My final project centred around youth empowerment. This included evaluating a girls residential program to facilitating a one-day dream/entrepreneurship workshop.

What did your project involve you doing?

Overall my project involved:

  • Analysing and evaluating the Tata Steel Rural Development Society (TSRDS) Residential Camp Schools for Tribal girls who have never been schooled or have dropped out.
  • Planning and implementing an “Encouragement Fest” for the girls of 32 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV).
  • Preparing a proposal for a football intervention program for girls of the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) in Jamshedpur.
  • Analysing and evaluating the TSRDS Under 10 Football Camp.
  • Conducting Dream/Entrepreneurship Workshop at Tata Steel Technical Institute in Jamshedpur.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

The skills I used the most were analytical and interpersonal in nature. The projects I worked on involved documenting the programs, then conducting interviews with the various stakeholders, and then finally researching best practices to supplement what was already in place.

What did you enjoy most?

I enjoyed meeting new people throughout each project. Each individual had their reasons why they were dedicated to the programs and the community. It was a blessing to learn how they got involved and talk through their passions. My interaction with the girls from the Residential School was inspiring. These are girls who have had limited educational opportunities and hearing their dreams and aspirations was a breath of fresh air and served as motivation to ensure that I played my part in helping TSRDS provide the best educational opportunities possible.

What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging thing for me was the constant change of plans. Prior to this internship I thought myself to be a person that adapts easily and quickly enough, this notion of myself was quickly challenged. My eagerness to produce something of quality through the internship almost became a hindrance to fully enjoying the internship. Today I stand more aware of my true strengths and weaknesses and I am grateful for it.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

I learnt that some of the most beautiful experiences come when you just go with the flow. I am by no means saying that there are not times when one needs to go against the grain to get things done, I am saying that I learned not all wars need to be fought. There was a time when I felt there was no way I could get anything of worth done because of the circumstances that caused my project to change numerous times. However, when I let go of my preconceived agenda I was able to see a side of Jamshedpur and India I wouldn’t have seen if I had fought tooth and nail to stay on the path laid our for me at the beginning of the internship.

Overall, working with Tata Steel Rural Development Society has given me skills and experiences that will propel me into the area I desire to work in (Social Entrepreneurship). Experiencing first hand how the TATA Group have made it their priority to meet the needs of the communities they work in has further inspired me to embark on starting my own business with community in mind.

Maud Wendling

MSc Environment and Development

Maud
Maud Wendling

What was your project about?

I carried out my project with TATA Chemicals Society for Rural Development (TCSRD) – the CSR branch of the company TATA Chemicals. I was in charge of preparing a plan to develop a Skill Development Centre in Mithapur, a township in the Western state of Gujarat. The project consisted in identifying skills with high employability potential in the region so as to design a plan to develop a centre that would provide vocational training to the local youth.

What did your project involve you doing?

The concept of Skill Development was new to me so I first had to get an understanding of the broader context surrounding this initiative – government policy and guidelines, private sector’s role etc. Key components of the project involved conducting a feasibility study based on the needs of the community; presenting an overview of the current demand and supply for employment in the area; developing the administrative structure, the modules and processes, and working out how to adapt TCSRD’s governance structure to the setting up of the centre.

In practice, I went through articles and reports drafted by international organisations, consulting groups, research centres, academics etc. and carried out a benchmarking exercise to review what was being done in the partnering training institutes that I could visit. I also went on many fieldtrips, where I conducted interviews with teachers, sarpanch, farmers and a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

What skills and knowledge did you use?

I used planning, analytical and writing skills for the background research and report drafting. I also relied on CSR knowledge that I had acquired during my Masters course, which helped me contextualise my specific project within the broader strategy that usually underpins CSR. Background knowledge on primary research and qualitative methodology was useful for fieldtrips, even though practical experience ends up topping that knowledge. Interpersonal skills were probably the most useful as they made communication with TCSRD’ staff and local people easier, despite cultural and language barriers.

What did you enjoy most?

Exposure to local realities through fieldtrips was fascinating as it helped me understand the socio-cultural framework and power dynamics of the area, beyond the scope of my project. The fact that the internship involved a mix of office work and fieldwork meant that I could really experience how CSR is implemented in practice, which is what I was looking for, after a year that mainly expanded my theoretical knowledge in this field. The highlight of my experience was to get to share knowledge, exchange ideas and stories with young Indian graduates who had a lot to teach me about Indian culture, corporate practice, social issues and development, which indirectly helped me adapt a lot more quickly to the internship.

Maud2
Maud Wendling

What did you find most challenging?

It was difficult to get my head around what was exactly expected from my project (extent of it, priorities, how far the rest of the team had gone before I arrived), all the more because I was given an ambitious set of deliverables, which made me feel overwhelmed at first, and then confused later on, when I realised that some of them had already been completed before I arrived. The change in pace and having limited access to past data can be frustrating at the start, but it taught me to be patient, resourceful and proactive to find alternative ways of finding information. It also took me quite a while to understand the governance of the organisation and its functioning, as staff roles had recently been modified and new senior managers had joined. Because of these changes and the language barrier (Gujarati language being dominant), guidance on my project was not always straigthforward. Flexibility and autonomy was needed as last minute or unexpected rearrangements frequently occurred along the internship. Finally, time management to prepare for the two presentations and produce the report was a big challenge given the aforementioned difficulties and the short duration of the internship.

What did you learn/how does the internship fit with your future career plans/helped you think about the future?

I learnt a lot about CSR implementation on the grounds (its potential and limits), and was even given the opportunity to meet with the plant’s head of the supply chain, who was open to discuss ethical supply chain management with me at length, which is a field I was thinking of looking into in the future. Experiencing an emerging India that develops very rapidly opened my eyes to its future prospects and made me realise the extent to which its role in international relations will become more and more significant. But soft skills development was definitely the internship’s greatest benefit, as I learnt a lot about my strengths and weaknesses throughout the challenges I faced. I feel I developed an enterprising spirit after being so inspired by my colleagues’. Apart from the fact that the internship constituted a practical experience that will add value to my academic background, I was charmed by the rich diversity of the country and I am now considering looking for job opportunities that will link me back to it again.

 

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