Omaha, Nebraska – Vinod Gupta School of Management (VGSoM), the first management school in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) system, recently added another feather in its cap when its student, Aditya Soni, a soft-spoken boy from a middle class family in New Delhi, was selected and successfully finished his internship at US based InfoFree.com. Infofree.com is a cloud-based software-as-a-Service (SaaS) system that helps businesses grow their sales. Infofree.com’s triple-verified databases include 14 million businesses and 240 million consumers.
Soni spoke to Indian American Times about this experience and what he learned, from both the workplace involvement and immersion in the fabric of American society.
Where are you from and what is your family background?
I come from a middle class family in New Delhi, where I have lived for almost all of my life. My father is a Doctor at Safdarjung Hospital and my mother is a homemaker. I have an elder brother who is a software engineer.
When did you join IIT and when will you graduate?
I joined IIT Kharagpur in July of 2015 and will graduate in May of 2017.
What is your department and what degree are you pursuing at IIT, KGP?
At IIT Kharagpur, I’m studying at the Vinod Gupta School of Management (VGSoM). I’m enrolled in the 2-year full-time MBA course. VGSoM is the oldest management school in the IIT system in India also one of the finest.
When did you first hear about the internship at InfoFree?
In the month of November (2015), we received an email from our placement cell saying that Infofree.com was to hire a summer intern from our batch. The whole batch got quite excited as this was going to be the first international placement for VGSoM. This became the most coveted internship of the year and each one of us was hoping to be the one to get it.
I talked to some undergrads who were previous year’s interns at the same company and their overwhelmingly positive feedback about the experience made me even more determined to get that internship.
To make it easier for the next generations, can you share with our readers what steps you followed?
The selection process comprised 3 rounds.
There was an initial shortlist of resumes, of which eight people were selected for further rounds. This was followed by a telephonic interview in December by Rakesh Gupta, who was the then CEO of Infofree.com. We had a nice conversation on the phone where we talked about – among many topics – my work experience and my motivation to come to Omaha, Nebraska.
Out of eight, three of us cleared the telephonic interview and were selected for the final round, which was going to be a personal interview with Vinod Gupta. When I learned that he was visiting the campus in the month of January and would personally interview us, I was delighted and also a bit nervous. To be personally interacting with a person my management school is named after, was a moment of pride for all three of us.
On the morning of 17th of January 2016, we met Vinod Gupta. He is a very informal and big-hearted person. We had a good interaction where we talked about my dreams and goals, and how I would benefit from this internship.
On the evening of 28th January, I received a text from my friend congratulating me. That was the moment I got to know that I’d been selected as the first ever international intern from VGSoM. I was ecstatic. I was going on my first international trip- to the United States!
In the following weeks, I went through the visa formalities and was constantly in touch with the company to work out the logistical details. Finally, on 15th May 2016, I boarded my flight from New Delhi and was off to Omaha.
Let’s talk about the internship and your life in the US as well. Was it a paid internship and how much you had to spend from your parental support?
The internship was in the field of Data Analytics. I was a part of the Quality Assurance team at DatabaseUSA and worked with them on their day-to-day projects. I was quick to grasp the work as I had some work experience in an analytics company. The team was full of bright and young individuals who were very supportive, helped me ease into the American work environment and interacting with them on a personal level was an excellent way of understanding the American culture.
Perhaps the most significant learning of my internship was about the American way of life and its culture. I had the opportunity to attend social events with the locals, had numerous lunches with the employees, went to baseball games with my dorm-mates, visited the zoo, attended leadership conferences, etc.
One of the reasons this internship was so awesome was that I didn’t spend even a single rupee of my parent’s money. Every expense was paid for by the company. This included the airfare, boarding & lodging, visa costs, and other daily expenses. In addition, I even got a weekly stipend of $250, which was more than enough for us to have fun and explore Omaha. But this wasn’t it. I also got an iPhone and a camera as a welcome gift from the company!
What did you take back from the US and your life here? Will you consider migrating to the US if an opportunity presents itself?
I’m glad I got the opportunity to live in the mid-west also known as ‘America’s Heartland’. It is here that one can see traditional and authentic American culture in the real sense – away from the hustle and bustle of big cities. During my 8 weeks there, I fell in love with the calm and peaceful life of Omaha.
However, I also visited the big cities such as San Francisco and New York City where I saw the cultural diversity that America is known for. Seeing the tolerance and respect people had for different cultures, I too grew a new sense of appreciation for new cultures and people.
During this internship, I also visited the Silicon Valley which is the Mecca for technology enthusiasts like me. Being there, I could feel the entrepreneurial spirit for which the Valley is known for. I also enjoyed interacting with many startup entrepreneurs from all around the globe and listening to their inspiring journeys.
These eight weeks were some of the best I n my life and I would definitely want to live in the United States if presented with an opportunity.
Did you hear about “Learn, Earn and Return,” and what is your opinion about it?
Yes, I did come across it while reading about Vinod Gupta’s life journey. It is the idea that a person should spend the first one-third of their career learning, the next third earning, and the final third returning back to the society. It is a very noble idea and we need more people like Vinod Gupta who are willing to give back to the society. His generosity has left a deep impression on me and I hope I can follow a similar path in the future.
What was your dream before joining IIT, how is it changing as years progress and what do you envision for your life in the future?
Before joining IIT as well as now, I dream of making the world better through whatever I do. As I get more exposure and meet more people, I realize that financial power has the greatest potential for the betterment of society. For the future, I want to gain some more working experience and then dedicate my life to research.
Do you have a message for the next generations?
Wherever you go and whoever you become, never forget your roots and where you come from. For that is the place and those are the people that made you who you are.