Parent Magazine

A glimpse of Disney in Mumbai

Photo by Cydney Scott

Internships often play a critical role in job hunting as employers increasingly seek graduates with some real-world experience. A 2012 Marketplace and Chronicle of Higher Education survey found that employers place more weight on experience, particularly internships and employment during school, rather than academic credentials, when evaluating a recent graduate for employment. With that in mind, an undergraduate who interned in summer 2014 shares her experiences of landing a top internship—and what she’d do differently next time.


Bhakti Varma (SMG’16)

My internship:

I spent the summer developing marketing strategies and presentations, analyzing reports, and liaising with the operations team for delivery management of Indian and Hollywood movies at the Walt Disney Company in Mumbai, India. I was an intern in the international distribution and syndication department. This was a paid internship.

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How I landed the internship:

Since I did not know anyone personally at the company, I used LinkedIn as a tool to approach the associate director at the studios. I sent a personalized message requesting to connect with him on LinkedIn, and I also let him know that I was looking for a summer internship.

Since Disney has acquired an Indian movie production house named UTV, I had to conduct research on Disney as well as on UTV to prepare for my interview. I read about the company culture, core values, and different departments. Researching current news formed a large part of my interview preparation. I also carefully studied the job description to understand my day-to-day role and how I could offer value to the company.

It took me two weeks to land the internship. Two rounds of interviews were conducted, one by the human resources team and one by the supervisor under whom I would be working. What I think really got me this internship were my questions for the interviewer, showing her my preparedness for the position.

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Varma’s cubicle at the Walt Disney Company in Mumbai. Photo courtesy of Bhakti Varma

A typical day on the job:

My typical day would start at 9:30 a.m. and end at 7 p.m., subject to the amount and urgency of the work to be completed. Preparing movie metadata for content delivery took up a large part of my time, as it required collecting movie posters, filling up information in Excel, and coordinating delivery with the operations team. I also attended meetings with clients to take down notes and observe how business was conducted. Throughout the internship, I was assigned other small tasks (like preparing revenue Excel sheets and PowerPoint presentations) to keep me occupied.

Career skills I acquired:

I acquired a lot of transferable skills in this internship. These skills will help me gain an edge in the field of finance (which is my intended concentration).

  1. Microsoft Excel. This is the most important tool used on a day-to-day basis in investment banking.
  2. Patience. At times, I would have to stay back in the office till late and end up working for 12 hours, which is very common in investment banking.
  3. Communication skills. I was required to talk to and meet new people every day. This helped me strengthen my communication skills and also helped me acquire workplace etiquette.

What it taught me about the real world:

You have to navigate your own way. Senior employees and supervisors will give you a brief, but it is up to you how you approach a task and deal with pressure. It is very necessary to respect your seniors as well as juniors in the workplace.

Did You Know?

A $10 million gift from Yawkey Foundations will pair students with local nonprofits for paid internships beginning in 2016.

Biggest mistake I made:

At times, I would ask my supervisor too many questions, and she would leave her work and answer them. I felt I was disturbing her and she could have shouted at me for this, but since she knew I was new to this atmosphere, she always helped me.

Most frustrating thing about the internship:

Some days, I would be sitting idle in the afternoon, and in the evening, when I wanted to leave for home (since I had finished my task for the day), I would be assigned new work that had to be submitted the same day. So I would end up staying in the office until late.

My proudest accomplishment:

During the internship, I got a sneak peek into the real working world. I realized that it takes hard work and patience to sit in a place for long hours and complete a task. As a result, I feel more responsible and prepared for my future internships and job.

Most important lesson I learned:

Before the internship started, I was extremely introverted. At work, I had to talk to and approach new people every day and work with different teams. It is very important to get out of your comfort zone and take the initiative if you want to progress and move ahead. I also learned that giving your fullest to every task assigned and asking questions will always help you navigate a problem.

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Varma (right) teaching arts and crafts to students at a municipal school in Mumbai, part of Disney’s VoluntEARS global community outreach program. Photo courtesy of Bhakti Varma

My most surprising or unexpected experience:

As a member of the studio team, I attended trailer launches and other promotional events for newly released Indian movies. Being a big Indian (Bollywood) movie buff, these event experiences were the icing on the cake.

What I learned about the real world that inspired or frustrated me:

Something that really inspired me was the fact that the managing director of the company, Mr. Siddharth Roy Kapur, who is also a celebrity, since he belongs to the film industry, would reach the office early in the morning and work until late. My prejudice that people who head a company have flexible work hours was completely shattered. It made me realize that company leaders and people at the top of the management work a lot harder to make the company successful.

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Overall grade and whether the internship lived up to my expectations:

This internship was a very enriching and enlightening experience for me. Everyone at the company was very welcoming from the get-go. Fellow interns formed a very close-knit group and organized social events. My supervisor was very caring and made sure that I was comfortable by offering to help me whenever I needed her. I attended film promotion events, which gave me the exposure to the business side of the film industry. Since the internship was not related to finance, I was not expecting long working hours. But given the competitive nature of the industry, employees were expected to stay on an as-needed basis. I incorporated my college experience into the internship. The experiences that I have gained and the lessons learned are an asset for life.

If I had it to do over, I’d…

Maximize my horizons by approaching different departments and offering to help them in their day-to-day tasks. I couldn’t do this since it was my first internship; I was getting adjusted to the office atmosphere and the duration of the internship was just two months.

My advice for others seeking an internship:

Networking is the key to getting an internship. Do not hesitate to approach top professionals in the company. They might turn out to be mentors for life. It is very important to take up an internship over the summer, even if you don’t find one related to your major. It should be related to something that interests you or that you enjoy doing. One gets the experience of working at a big firm/company, develops meaningful relationships, and learns workplace etiquette. There will always be transferable skills that will prepare you for the future.

Varma shared her experiences as part of BU Today’s five-part summer internship series. Read the full series.

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