My internship took place at Alcoa’s Global Business Services (GBS) office in Hungary. Alcoa is one of the largest producers of aluminium in the world with a diverse portfolio that includes aeronautic, automotive, military, construction, and consumer products. The Alcoa GBS is somewhat detached from the manufacturing side of the company and mainly provides finance, accounting, HR, and supply management services to Alcoa’s many divisions.
I opted for an internship in Hungary, mainly because of the advantage my foreign experiences and languages provide me in the Hungarian labour market. Hungary is suffering from a shortage of young, educated labour, so it wasn’t particularly difficult to get the internship. In fact, it was my father who brought the company to my attention, as he worked there in the past. The moral of this story is to work where your skills are needed and valued the most.
Due to the GBS’s versatile nature, I ended up developing
a much wider set of skills than I initially anticipated. I came to the company at a tumultuous time, as Alcoa was splitting into two independently traded companies, namely New Alcoa and Arconic.
Originally, my internship was intended to focus mainly on human resources management, so I started out at the HR office. However, because of my fluency in English and proficiency in French and German, I was concurrently employed by several departments. While this made me feel appreciated and useful, it was sometimes difficult to keep up with the demand. The HR department often used me to conduct Skype and phone interviews with foreign candidates, as well as to evaluate the language proficiencies of applicants.
The Public Relations and Marketing department had me translate English advertising material into Hungarian, as well as update old manuals and booklets to a modern, more aesthetically appealing standard (thanks IBCoM for Adobe InDesign). In fact, my most tangible ‘legacy’ at Alcoa were the Arconic employee booklets that I designed. It was also amusing to have senior marketing managers ask me about ‘hip’ ways to reach out via social media (I was the youngest in the department by decades).
By far the most thrilling time I had during my internship was at the Supply Management division; it may sound counterintuitive, but my tasks here were the most communication heavy. Due to a non-disclosure agreement I signed, I cannot elaborate on why I ended up at Supply Management. Suffice to say, extraordinary circumstances demanded that every one of Alcoa’s hundreds of suppliers had to be called up and their information verified and cross-checked with existing databases.
I was added to the frenzy of employees frantically typing and reaching for their phones, which reminded me of Wolf of Wall Street, but with no selling and more trust issues. I was given a list of suppliers from Germany, the USA, England, France, and Russia to retrieve information from. Since some of this information was of a financial nature, it was extremely difficult as an outsider to get the strangers on the other end to give up such details. The ‘modest successes’ of the first few days taught me a lot about corporate communications and I am not ashamed to admit that I had my share of hang-ups. The highlight of my time at supplier-management was when I had to call up a gentleman from Texas. At first, he was cautious and did not believe I was calling from the GBS in Hungary, claiming my accent did not sound Eastern European. I humoured him and explained that I was educated abroad and reassured him that I was from Alcoa. This ended up being an hour-long phone call, but in the end he did provide me with all the details, following which the senior manager stood up and told all the employees in the office to take note. This and other interactions accentuated that trust is pivotal in business, and it can only be achieved with a human touch.
My internship at Alcoa came to an end with a visit from the global leadership of the GBS, during which I was tasked with taking the executives on tours around the GBS facilities and the Alcoa campus. During this event I had the opportunity to talk to some of the figureheads who were responsible for managing Alcoa’s multibillion dollar image and contracts, as well as the Hungarian Foreign Minister. The preeminent takeaway from these conversations was that there is no better opportunity to network and build your future than to be an international student, as today’s students will be tomorrow’s pioneers; and the bigger your network, the more tools you have at your disposal.