It was wonderful to discover that Neeraj went on to UCLA after high school and interned at Goldman Sachs last summer, as an investment banking analyst.
So how did Neeraj’s journey in finance begin? When he was at Princeton Day School, in our initial conversation with him, Neeraj told us that his cousins in San Francisco were involved in investment banking. He thought that he might like to have an internship in finance to gain early exposure to the field.
Why he chose to intern for a startup company instead of a financial firm?
We encouraged Neeraj to shift his focus from a financial firm for the time being. We explained that for someone who was age 16, a better idea might be to intern for a startup company, where he would actually be able to be delve into real work, and at the same time, see how businesses get started and funded.
Internships must be educational
We often hear from many parents who tell us that the summer before they contact us, their child interned for a relative or friend of the parents at either a law or financial firm, to their dissatisfaction. The students usually end up filing and photocopying and often get turned off from their experiences. My philosophy at Internship Connection is to make sure, when contacting a potential workplace mentor, that the student will be involved in a variety of tasks and meaningful work. The experience must be educational.
He learned about the financial aspects of running a startup and how to raise money
After researching potential businesses, we connected Neeraj to Privy. A startup funded by investors for over five million dollars, the company offers a local online marketing platform for businesses. Privy’s focus is to make it easy for local merchants to offer in-store promotions on the web that customers can redeem at their locations with their mobile phones, allowing local businesses to enhance local visibility and better target deals to consumers.
We thought that Neeraj, since his family owned a small business, would really be able to understand Privy’s mission and contribute his own ideas. In addition, he could learn about the financial aspects of running a startup and how the founders raise money.
Jake Cohen, Director of Strategy took Neeraj under his wing, providing thoughtful and challenging tasks.
Words from Neeraj’s journal
Question: List the kinds of things that you’ve been doing at work.
- Providing Research Analysis on different Venture Capitals and Startup Mentors in a spreadsheet format
- Attending and participating in and out of office meetings with different people and companies
- Providing insight and suggestions on the Privy Database through examination of the Dashboard
- Participating in company calls
- Participating in Privy Dashboard analysis
- Learning new marketing skills and concepts through real-world situations with Jake.
Question: What has been the best part of your internship?
With many great parts about my internship, the best part is gaining real-world experience while participating in meetings with clients and partners. By sitting in and participating in these meetings, not only am I receiving new marketing knowledge and experience with dealing in people to people situations, but also these meetings have provided me with a new perspective on the inner workings of a company’s growth. Seeing Privy grow daily as a startup has truly been a great part of my internship with both myself and Jake happy with company progress as the weeks go by.
Question: Can you describe a situation during your internship in which you took a risk by putting yourself in a new position, such as meeting new people, asking questions, making suggestions? Write a paragraph or two about this situation explaining how it made you feel and what you learned about yourself as a result.
During the second week of my internship, I was asked by my boss to provide analysis for the new Privy dashboard for merchants and small business owners. By simulating myself as a small business owner, I was able to step into the shoes of the client, a pivotal part of the development of a company, and my primary job was to provide advice and suggestions for the dashboard to make it user-friendly for clients.
Knowing well that by providing valid and beneficial suggestions would boost my reputation as a good intern while helping the company, I was faced with thinking on my feet with pressure to provide good advice. As the simulation continued however, I realized that by focusing on simulating an SMB owner and by focusing on the task at hand without emotional or mental constraint, I was able to provide sound advice without overthinking the situation. The result was positive with some of my advice actually helping and being implemented in the newer edition of the dashboard providing me with some confidence. As a result of this, I started trusting myself and my ideas more as the internship has continued.
A note from Neeraj’s mother, Sudha Devulapalli
It was a pleasure talking to you this morning. No amount of words and gratitude is enough for the role you have played in inspiring Neeraj. I really appreciate your valuable suggestion about incorporating Neeraj’s internship experience in to his college essays. I think it is a great idea and will add a lot of value to his essay and application.