Intern Diaries – Suraj Karmacharya ’14
From Lewiston to Lian hua by, Suraj Karmacharya
I felt butterflies fluttering in my stomach as I walked out the Shanghai Pudong Airport on June 3rd, 2012 with Mr. Tang, Argosy International’s driver, who could only speak a few words of English. I was anxious about how the next two months would pass in a city of 23 million people, most of whom I would be unable to communicate with, as I only spoke a word or two of Mandarin. So there we were, Mr. Tang and I, walking alongside each other towards the parking lot unable to communicate with one another. Little did I know at this moment that the next eight weeks would be one of the most transformative experiences in my life.
I had watched Mr. Paul Marks give a presentation at Bates earlier in the year and I was particularly fascinated by his journey out of Bates College and into the aerospace industry in China. I admired Mr. Marks courage and extraordinary journey into the markets of China in the 80s, a time when you would find only a handful of Americans out of a liberal arts colleges in China. Therefore, when I had received the news of being able to intern at Mr. Mark’s company, I was ecstatic for three big reasons: Firstly, I would be able to learn from a well accomplished individual, who had completed the Bates experience and started his own global company, which is something that I aspire of doing one day. Secondly, I would be able to spend time in Shanghai, China, one of the largest economic capitals of Asia and explore it closely. And thirdly, I would get to learn at firsthand about the cultural, political, and economic aspects of a neighboring country, which undoubtedly has tremendous influence on Nepal, along with the rest of the world.
At Argosy International, my primary summer project was working in the marketing department to strategize and create possible solutions to improve the company’s relationship with customers and the general public. Prior to my internship, there hadn’t been any particular projects or initiatives taken to strengthen the company’s relationship with its clients and the public, since this specialized business didn’t need to advertise itself to sell products—instead, clients came to Argosy. The limited marketing knowledge that I did have before this internship was general ideas about selling and marketing popular products like Nike shoes and Apple laptops, which wasn’t completely relevant since Argosy distributed products like carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb. Since technological tools like the World Wide Web is able to reach people so effectively, developing a website plan to renovate Argosy International’s current website was the core of my internship project. As a politics and economics major, I had developed various analytical and research skills throughout the last two years at Bates, but I had never worked in a business before. While there were a large amount of similarities between the work that I did at Bates College and the work I was expected to do at Argosy International, there was an incredible amount of learning that took place throughout this internship. Developing certain marketing strategies required me to possess a large amount of knowledge about the aerospace industry and more particularly, about Argosy International itself.
Understanding Argosy International’s products and services, along with the aerospace industry, a specialized business, was a lot like putting together one of those thousand piece puzzles–you were able to understand and recognize bits and pieces of the industry, but you weren’t able to immediately see a cohesive image. It was this type of learning and challenge I experienced each day that made working at Argosy International so rewarding. There were also various opportunities that I had throughout the course of this internship to bridge my theoretical and classroom learning into applications that added-value to my summer project. For example, I decided to design a survey for the Argosy International employees that aimed to find out how individuals felt about their relationship with customers and how current marketing/communicating tools (primarily focusing on the website) was being utilized. After completing various drafts of surveys, which was a skill that I had developed through working in the community with my education classes, I was successfully able to reach out to the entire company team throughout the world. With the help of a digital surveying platform, I virtually received responses from over 70% of the company members. Lastly, using my knowledge of statistics, which I had studied in Professor Hughes’ statistics class in the prior semester, I was able to accumulate and gather all the statistical data to produce an analysis of the results and provide personal suggestions. Seeking solutions that would fit for various departments of the company, ranging from logistics and VMI to sales, enhanced my problem solving skills.
Working in the office closely with the local staff also provided various professional and cultural experiences. One of the most exciting events during the internship was visiting the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), which is a Chinese state-owned aerospace manufacturing company located in Shanghai. The Chinese government had invested in this grand project with the hopes of reducing dependency on foreign airplane companies like Airbus and Boeing. While this visit to COMAC didn’t directly coincide with my specific project, Hunter, a co-worker in the company, had kindly agreed to take me to an airplane manufacturing site—something that I had always wanted to see. Walking through the COMAC offices and plant was exhilarating because I witnessed at first hand the offices and inner workings of a Chinese state-owned company, along with the actual constructions of C919’s.
We were also able to make a trip to Cytec Engineered Materials plant in Shanghai. Cytec, one of the world’s largest material manufacturers for the aerospace industry, specializes in the production of various products ranging from Aerospace prepegs and resin systems to carbon fiber. During our trip to the Cytec plant in Shanghai, we were given an extremely informative presentation overviewing Cytec’s business and the current aerospace market. Similarly, since Cytec is one of the largest suppliers for COMAC, our visit to Cytec provided us with an in depth understanding of COMAC’s larger goals and focuses. One of the most fascinating parts of this visit was seeing carbon fiber fabric being manufactured through the various stages in state-of the-art machinery.
The weeks in Shanghai passed quickly and each week I found myself learning something extremely fascinating—not just about airplanes and marketing strategies, but about people and places and about myself. The beauty about living and working in Shanghai was that it was a hybrid of cultures, though most might argue that things appear quite homogeneous. All you had to do was walk down the French concession and there you’d see it, individuals who were Shanghainese, but embraced ideals beyond China. There was also this vibrant energy, the belief of everything being possible, that existed throughout the city. And so it was this Shanghainese spirit I left the Shanghai Pudong Airport on the first week of August towards home after two years.