Asha Seebalack, BS '09
Watson Wyatt Worldwide, New York City
I attended a meeting about the ILR Credit Internship program in the spring of my sophomore year, it was scheduled at one of those convenient times when your last class of the day just ended and you happened to still be in Ives. So I figured, why not prolong the hike back to West Campus? I was absolutely blown away that such a program existed. To be able to gain ILR credit practically anywhere in the world, for working with a great likelihood of also getting paid?! I knew this was going to be part of my Cornell future, so that fall I filled out all the necessary paperwork and forms to prepare myself for a spring semester away from Ithaca’s biting cold winters.
I already knew the location I was going to choose, New York City, I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else no matter how tropical the climate may be. In my mind, I have my future and career planned out, which is always subject to change, however the one characteristic that remains the same for me in all my ‘fantasy life planning’ is my location and that is Manhattan. Give me everything from skyscrapers to dirty subways, East side business men to West side street vendors; I plan my life around this bustle. Since I already had the location settled it was time to choose organizations to intern at. This one was going to be a toughie. I currently live in Staten Island and transportation to get to the city is very costly. I knew that I had to get a paid internship in order afford the expenses of commuting, food and general livelihood. I am interested in law (I plan to go to law school upon graduation) however most of the law related fields were unpaid. That left me with Human Resources, a subject I was not too particularly fond of. HR internships offered very substantial pay packages in a variety of locations in Manhattan, so I was resolved to take an internship in this field based solely on its financial opportunity and hoped that it would interest me enough to perhaps view HR in a more positive light.
I accepted a position at Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a global Human Resource consulting firm. It was only in coming here that I realized that HR consulting is an entirely different line of work than what I had assumed it would be. I began working with the compensation team and my assignment the very first day was to read the employment contracts of the executives from a well known bank (our client) and determine the benefits that would be awarded based upon a variety of termination scenarios. To my delight, it was just like reading contracts in my labor law class! I never suspected that I would gain any type of legal exposure while working in HR. Consulting is very much related to what I would like to do as my future career and I gained great knowledge and experience especially when it came to dealing with clients. My first two weeks were not busy as I mostly observed various projects and tried to situate myself in the organization.
The third week came and I was pulled on board a huge global project that had started since August 2007. It involved creating jobs/pay structures and assigning employees to them for a bank which had just merged and needed their entire compensation plan redone (i.e. new jobs, terminations, new titles, promotions/demotions, new business units, etc.). Our team dealt mostly with the US employees but this still amounted to over fifty thousand. Suddenly my days were consumed with employee mappings, job level changes and evaluations. As the weeks went by, my hours of work became increasingly longer and my duties were also increasing at a multitude level. Soon I was fielding calls and emails from the client directly; I spent a minimum of ten hours at the office and even worked from home on the weekends. I absolutely loved it! I was part of a great team who worked together and was fun yet very professional with their work. Not once did I feel like the quintessential ‘intern’, rather I was on the same level as the other analysts within the office. We all worked together, I made and received calls and collaborated with not only the team within the New York office but also with members of the Philadelphia, Chicago and London offices.
My hard work was not ignored, during the third week of April I came in to work and received a last minute meeting request for 5:30pm that day. It was a call-in with several other members from the different offices to supposedly assign the work-load for that week. The meeting was actually an impromptu thank-you from management for all the hard-work and hours being put in on the project. We all received spot bonus awards which is an award given on the spot in recognition for a job well done, it also includes monetary compensation. Only one other coworker received this award in the NY office and my supervisor told me that it is very rare for an intern to receive this award, he said he had never seen it happen in his six years being at the company. I definitely felt very appreciated and knew that my extra work had been recognized.
Choosing this internship was a good decision even if it wasn’t made for all the right reasons. I have found an area of HR that I am interested in and it has even helped with my selection of classes for my fall 2008 semester. I have gained knowledge into the arena of compensation consulting, but have also grown as a person professionally. I have experienced the corporate atmosphere internally within the organization and externally through representation of the company to clients and being a proxy at various events.
Also choosing an internship in New York City was even better than I imagined with my weekly class with Sam Bacharach on 34th Street. The class was small, six of us altogether, and we became a close knit group. We would regularly meet up for lunch or get coffee and go shopping after class. We “corporate emailed” as a group every day and our inboxes would be overflowing with chain emails from everyone’s responses on a variety of topics from weather, facebook, politics, events over the weekend, etc. I am looking forward to meeting up with them in Cornell next semester.
The ILR Credit Internship Program is a phenomenal program that every ILRie should consider participating in. It provides amazing academic, professional and career opportunities that cannot be gained through a regular class or course. This program has helped further develop my Cornell career and I believe has helped me mature and grow as a person.
- Asha Seebalack, BS '09