By Advaith Vishwanath
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Sony Japan has been recruiting interns from IITs for quite a few years now, mainly for engineering. This year, however, they opened up an IAF for Marketing (Application planning and market development), and to be honest, I didn’t particularly think it would be a great experience, initially. I expected a lot of excel sheets, because honestly – Sony didn’t seem like the place to go for a non-core experience. I’ll get to this later.
The process was quite straightforward and hassle-free. Right at the start, we were asked to write essays on general questions based on past experiences (Internships or academic), and what we expected to gain from this internship. Combined with the essays and our resumes, Sony shortlisted 5 people per profile for interviews, which were held around 2 weeks from the day the IAF opened with the results being declared in an hour after all interviews.
[pullquote]At Sony, you will be treated just like a new employee is treated. Independent work, and all you need is approval from your mentor after each task is completed. Your opinions are respected, and all questions you ask will be given detailed answers, with room for you to cross-question until you’re clear.[/pullquote]
I’ll skip random fundae, and get to the start of my stay in Sony.
What impressed me right at the start was how planned my internship was. While I was still struggling to buy myself a cup of coffee from a very smartly designed vending machine, I was given the outline of my entire stay – expected results, insight into why I was selected, and what exactly they expected regarding general office rules. Right then, I knew they hadn’t just hired me for kicks, they truly wanted me to contribute, and came to the decision after enough introspection. The Japanese have a tendency to be extremely well planned and extremely detailed in preparation for even the smallest of things like going out to eat dinner after work, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the case with most internships in Japan.
Work Profile :
Application planning and market development, for the professional solutions group (PSG). It’s fancy sounding, but the basic work is divided into 2 parts – Market research, and Proposal making for products catering to businesses (Projectors, broadcasting equipment, Public displays, etc).
Market research: basically involves loads of sales data, and your boss basically just saying “Figure out whats happening here”, like you’re supposed to know what to do. Although it does require a considerable amount of time on excel, I do respect that at the end someone’s got to do this and besides – who better to throw this work at than an intern?
[pullquote]Sony does go the extra mile by giving you complete independence, which means you also get to actually use the data, read up a bit on the market online, and make concrete assumptions from the data.[/pullquote]
They follow your analysis with the sales team in that country, and then let you know what the sales team makes of your analysis. After which you chalk out a whole new approach at looking at the data, and then finally you end up with a diagnosis (Fancy, no?) that makes sense to all parties.
Proposal Making: Since the PSG basically caters to businesses, the first step for the sales team of a country is to know which business sectors have potential. After which, they basically try to maximize sales in that sector by approaching all businesses with a package of products, claiming that this package is indeed a solution to the problems the sector currently faces nationwide.
[pullquote]I’d get a mail from my mentor telling me to first check what the potential is in a particular market of India, and then work on a package solution which could make these companies salivate[/pullquote]
This really was a challenging task, because gathering information is one thing. Figuring out what enhancement is possible requires understanding the business in its entirety – within a deadline of a day. It leads to a lot of video conferencing with sales teams of other countries, and all-in-all, is quite scary (read : enriching) considering that I was in the spotlight for like an hour in front of people significantly older, and hugely successful.
What the Japanese lack in English, they undo with a lot of enthusiasm to interact with foreigners, and extremely awesome hand gestures. I often felt more comfortable in office than in my room. They went out of their way to conduct all team meetings in English, and it was quite cute to watch them struggle with words, and look at me with a “Look at what you’re doing to us” expression.
[pullquote]Work is deadline based, so they don’t really mind if you need breaks as long as the work is done in the stipulated time. However, they do expect you to tell them when the work is completed (even if before the deadline), so that you may be given some other tasks. Also ,work must not just be completed. It must be completed perfectly. [/pullquote]
Finally, I’ll say this – they make their workplace their homes, and are always cheerful and eager to know how they can help. In fact, the most senior person in the entirety of Sony (globally) with respect to Marketing took time out to have lunch with me and talk about how his wife hated how much he travelled, apart from sharing stories about his visits to India and what he believed were the trends in the Indian markets.
What have I learnt?
Since my profile is marketing, what I have learnt is more qualitative than quantitative. I have learnt to be (or atleast try to be) a perfectionist, and take the time to find small things that require improvement. I have improved my speaking skills considerably, with all the meetings I had with my manager, trying to explain to him that a certain market had potential. It had to be logical, and there was no way I could make a statement that even remotely seemed presumptuous. Everything had to have facts, and a clear logical flow. I have learnt to conduct myself in business situations, especially when meeting big clients.
Finally, I have learnt to be decisive. Being vague isn’t an option, you can’t say something like “I’ll look at it later”, or “How about we atleast try it, and then see how it goes”.
Pros of the intern:
- Independent work
- Opportunity to experience the Japanese work culture, which in insane.
- Work that actually matters to the company, and not something they’re giving you just to help you learn about the job, which means short deadlines and constant follow-ups.
- They pay quite well, and make sure that you’re comfortable in this new country.
Cons of the intern:
- Some grinding work in Excel, but it is understandable and didn’t occupy more than 30% of my work hours here.
- The work is rigorous, and you will find yourself over-compensating by doing random lukkha on fb/quora after work hours to get over a splitting headache.
- Food can be an issue, but all-in-all shouldn’t factor into your decision.
All in all, this internship did turn out to be a tremendous experience for me. I’d recommend Sony to everyone, mainly because how well structured it is, and how open they are to you. You’ll make a friend or 2 out of some colleagues, and invariably if you let slip you don’t mind eating non-vegetarian food – you’ll find yourself munching on raw octopus, drinking some beer, and thanking whatever god you believe in/your luck that they paid for it, and also got you some more beer.
Advaith Vishwanath has just completed his 3rd year in pursuit of a B.Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org