Curiosity: The Most Valuable Thing You Can Bring to Work

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This post is part of our Summer Intern Blog Series! Each of our most recent class of interns wrote a blog post on their biggest accomplishments and lessons of the summer. This installment comes from Aditya, a senior at New York University’s Stern School of Business studying Finance, Marketing, and Management. In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis, reading about psychology and philosophy, and binge-watching Netflix.

My curiosity has led me down different paths – some dangerous, some promising.

Ever since I was young, I’ve always felt an insatiable need to learn. My childhood was filled with riveting stories told by my grandparents in India, but no story compared to the one about the Koh-i-Noor diamond. As an innocent 10-year-old boy sitting on his grandfather’s lap, I intently learned each detail about the “true” story of the renowned diamond stolen by the British Empire during their rule of India.

Nine years later, when I visited the place that housed the legendary diamond I had dreamt about, I felt compelled to verify my grandparent’s tale at all costs. I asked the tour guide hundreds of questions; I challenged the “true” ownership of the diamond and scoured the Tower of London for the “true” story of the Koh-i-Noor. Next thing I knew, I found myself in a highly-restricted section of the museum and face-to-face with three British Tower Guards.

While my curiosity and foolishness almost got me into serious trouble, I came away having learned significantly more about my home country’s complex history beyond the stories of my childhood.

Interestingly, this same curiosity was the key driver in helping me cut through ambiguity and overcome self-doubt during my internship experience at AppNexus.

Two weeks before my internship began, I sat down with my manager to discuss my summer project with the Global Business Operations team. He explained to me that I was going to help the Services team with an important project: building out a utilization/forecasting model. My stomach dropped. What is Services? How do you build a forecasting model? How could I, an intern with little experience, help with such an important project in a 10-week period? These questions whizzed through my head as I went into my first day at AppNexus.

I was thrilled to tackle new challenges, meet new people and learn about a completely new industry, yet I was extremely nervous. I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t know what to think or do.

I immediately set up another meeting with my manager to get a better grip and fully understand the scope of my project. I continued to ask him in-depth questions, writing down every detail in my notebook.

Each question slowly helped unravel the ambiguity of what the next 10 weeks would entail. My project consisted of first gaining an in-depth understanding of the Services organization, specifically the Implementation Consultant (IC) teams around the world. The IC’s role is to understand client businesses, identify and pursue potential revenue opportunities, scope out the right solutions, and provide them with the best consulting and project management, all while allocating resources to projects that maximize AppNexus revenue.

I then had to fully explore the current process of allocating resources (ICs) to upcoming project opportunities in the pipeline and identify key pain points. Lastly, I was to build out a tool to help managers make more informed, data-driven hiring and training decisions based on the IC utilization, capacity, and the current sales pipeline.

Once I outlined my project, I immediately got to work analyzing IC data and creating Tableau visualizations. I also began interviewing ICs and sitting in on meetings with AppNexians on the Services team to learn as much as possible. I never brought my laptop, just my bright orange notebook and three pens. I listened intently and asked many questions after the meetings.

I was pleasantly surprised that every AppNexian I interviewed was more than willing to sit down with me and answer my litany of questions. Whether we talked about my project or about their fascinating experiences, their availability and helpfulness was invaluable in helping me grow personally and professionally.

My internship experience allowed me to bring out my true self – the young, curious boy that dreamt of legendary diamonds. However, rather than landing in trouble, my desire to learn everything about the company and its processes allowed me to create a tool to help the Services team and produce measurable impact potentially beyond my 10 weeks.

Constantly pushing the limit of my knowledge seemed to be the key to making the most of my internship experience. Thankfully, my curiosity at AppNexus brought me face-to-face with something promising. And also something challenging.

Filed under AppNexus Updates, Intern Blog.

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