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Summer 2017

Summer Diaries: American Express

July 4, 2017
- Rohit Joshi

American Express was one of first few companies that visited the campus to hire interns. As is for most companies, CGPA was certainly a criteria for initial shortlisting of the applicants. However, AmEx has no specific CGPA cut-off, and it depends on the number of applicants. (For IITR it was around 8.) There is a perception that AmEx hires only programmers, but it is not so. From IIT Roorkee, AmEx hired for the profile of a Business Analyst/Risk Analyst Intern.

Making it there

Selection Round: There were 4 rounds in the selection process. AmEx looks for people who come from different backgrounds, who bring in varied experience and diverse skills. This is reflected in the type of interview they have as well. In each round of personal interview, they try to gauge the interests, the perceptions, and the personality of the candidate besides the quantitative aptitude.

Online Round: The round consisted of 20 MCQs. The time allotted was 50 mins. The questions were quite easily doable, and tested Mathematical Aptitude, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning. The MCQs were similar to CAT questions. Strict shortlisting was done on the basis of the online round, and only 15 students were selected, give or take.

Technical Round 1: The first technical round revolved around Guesstimates. It started with conversations about current affairs, politics, and cricket and then moved on to the guesstimate part. The interviewer asked three guesstimates, each followed by a 10-15 min discussion. The main objective of the round is to see how the candidate understands, structures and solves the problem. I was encouraged by the interviewer to think of multiple approaches to solve the problem. I would recommend you to have a look at the general structure used for solving case-studies and guesstimates before the interview.

Technical Round 2: This round was meant to test Mathematic and Analytic Aptitude. At first, we had discussions regarding AmEx, particularly its expansion policy, competitors and future. Finance and previous internships and projects were also a topic of discussion. These were followed a few puzzles, most of which were of a medium difficulty level. There were also a few questions about Data Analysis and Statistics. It is recommended that you brush up basic Maths and read up about the company you are interviewing for.

HR Round: This was like a generic HR interview. There were usual questions regarding previous internships, projects, interests, background, ambitions, strengths etc. The best way to tackle these questions is to be brutally honest.

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Work

AmEx has two offices in India for Risk and Information Management, in Gurgaon and Bangalore. Gurgaon has a large office with around 6000 employees. I was posted in Bangalore, known as the Big Data hub of AmEx, which has a strength of around 500. AmEx has a great work culture. They have open workplaces, no cubicles, and no offices for anyone but VPs. This means the person sitting next to you may even be a Director in AmEx, which was actually the case for me. AmEx ensures that employees have a great work life balance. The office timings are very flexible and there is always an option of working from home whenever you feel so. The only criteria is that you deliver your work before deadlines. However, I would encourage interns not to work from home; instead try to learn as much as they can from people in the organisation.

The responsibility of delivering a project is given to smaller groups of 2-3 members and each person works on multiple projects. Personal Accountability is something which is emphasised a lot in AmEx. Interns are given individual projects and a mentor to guide through the project. I worked for the performance marketing (aka AmEx Advance) team. The primary work revolves around leveraging AmEx Closed loop data to develop 3rd party marketing solutions. At a high level, the project revolved around developing state-of-the-art models for targeting in the digital space. The project had application of state-of-the-art algorithms on big data its core, with some knowledge of Digital Marketing platforms. The project demanded programming in Python and PIG. It is always beneficial if you master at least one programming language, after which adapting to a different language is not a difficult task.I would recommend python. As I was working on a huge chunk of data, most of the codes had to follow the Map-Reduce framework. This differs from project to project. Many of my fellow interns used SQL, SAS, Hive as well.

Interns are generally given the projects that would have otherwise be given to regular employees. The best things about AmEx is the people! Almost everyone I met was really friendly, eager to help, which I guess is imbibed because of the overall integrated work culture. We had frequent discussions with higher management regarding the project. For my project, I had weekly review meeting with the VP. Involvement of Senior Leadership in all the projects, was one of the things that stood out for me. Also, the HR team strived really hard to organise experience-sharing sessions by the top executives from India and US offices, which gave us insights about the values AmEx believes in and the overall functioning of the organisation.

Location

The AmEx office is in Koramangala area of Bangalore. Koramangala is an absolute paradise for foodies. It has a range of restaurants, cafes, bistros and clubs. There are exquisite English Cafes, Pizza Places, Theme Restaurants, Buffets, Continental Bistros and Fast food places. You name it, they have it. The weather is great if it isn’t raining. There are many places to visit in and around Bangalore. You can checkout Wonderla, take a trek to the Nandi hills or spend your weekends in Pondicherry, Coorg or Ooty.

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Summing Up and Key Takeaways

AmEx is good company to intern in if you are aiming to work as a Data/Business Analyst or would want to head into research. The internship was a great learning experience for me. Being an intern in AmEx, has led to overall development of my personality, gave me an insider’s view on corporate life and truly helped me in consolidating my future choices. Conversations with the many employees of AmEx were a learning experience in itself. I understood right at the start of the internship that data manipulation and interpretation are going to be a major part of the project. I was not a coder before I joined AmEx. Nevertheless I worked hard on it. During these 8 weeks at AmEx,this is the most valuable skill I have developed. A major takeaway was something my VP said to me in the initial stage of the project, “You have to give your 100% to the project, finally it is ‘your’ career on the line”.

Some tips to make your internship a successful one:

  1. Strive on developing skills and learning new things.

  2. Master at least one language used for data analysis. Python is recommended.

  3. Interact with people around you. Most of them are going to be highly skilled and experienced in the work you are doing. Ask for help whenever you need. Believe me, you will save a lot of your time.