Leading to Africa is a real-world internship program offered in major markets, Egypt, and South Africa. Rana Hetta is a Leading to Africa participant at IBM Egypt. She graduated from Cairo University with a BS in Economics and a minor in Political Science and studied a year abroad at the University of Chicago. In this interview, she shares her experience on the IBM Leading to Africa program and some insider tips to help potential candidates.
Why did you apply to the program?
When I graduated, I had very little work experience in a corporate environment and no professional experience in Finance. Up to that point, finance was just a course I studied during college. So when I learned that there was an opportunity to join the Finance team at IBM Egypt, it immediately became clear to me that this would be a tremendous learning opportunity. I think it’s worth mentioning that as a graduate I turned down other full-time opportunities for this internship at IBM. I knew that the value I would gain in those three months would surpass anything else I would get in a year elsewhere whether in terms of learning how to deal with real-life challenges, learning about corporate governance and leadership, or building my network and developing an understanding of the potential paths that I can take to build my career.
What kind of roles/projects have you engaged with since you joined?
My experience shadowing the CFO entailed attending meetings, calls, and working on all sorts of presentations (country, regional and worldwide presentations). Working with a CFO with 25+ years of very rich and diverse experience (from both a functional and geographical perspective), at a time when Egypt is facing economic challenges has been very rewarding on both the professional and personal levels. As an Economics major, sure I know how to maximize Lagrangians and talk about consumer and producer theory, but I was not very clear on how a CFO makes decisions in a world where the assumption of “ceteris paribus” – is in fact – just an assumption, and decisions are made without complete information. Sure, I had done analysis and worked with “large” data sets, but never before had I analyzed data on an excel sheet with over 100,000 cells and communicated my analysis to the CFO to serve as input for a decision-making process.
As an intern, my role was very dynamic in the sense that even though I had a specific project to work on, I was also assigned other tasks to carry out/assist with throughout the past 3 months. My main project was to work on improving the US dollar tracking process and forecasting model in order to enhance cash management at a country level, and to serve as a tool for sound financial decision-making. This was very critical given the economic conditions in the country. It involved working with teams all around the world, and to understand the on-shore business model which meant that I had to build relationships with fellow IBMers from the Philippines all the way to Spain.
Go out of your comfort zone, speak to people, assist, cooperate, learn, build relationships, make use of all the resources that IBM has to offer and take ownership of your experience.
What is your current role?
I have been hired to continue working on the process that I had built as an intern, as well as to build a new process for the country team that is required in order to facilitate the collection of Accounts Receivable and drive compliance with local laws and regulations.
Where do you see your career going next?
My goal is to trade my time for experiences that will increase my exposure to different work environments and new challenges. I see myself occupying different roles in Finance, whether in Egypt or abroad, that would enable growth and professional development.
What do you like about this program?
The program has really helped in many ways to put my skills, knowledge, and background in perspective. I now have a clearer view on how to leverage my capabilities in order to follow the career path that I would like to pursue and to eventually drive the positive impact that I would like to make at IBM, Egypt, Africa and the world.
What tips could you share to help potential applicants?
I think one of the keys to having a rewarding experience is to ensure that you get to know as many people as possible and to learn about their background, their skills and interests and what they do at IBM. For an undergrad/fresh graduate who is most likely doing a lot of soul-searching it is very helpful to hear from individuals with different backgrounds and to understand the growth prospects within the company. You can never go wrong with building relationships with your colleagues and team members. In addition, being willing to help out with every/any task has proven to be incredibly useful for me because it gave me an opportunity to experience and learn more than I would have, had I chosen to stick to my specific roles only.
So here’s my final advice: Go out of your comfort zone, speak to people, assist, cooperate, learn, build relationships, make use of all the resources that IBM has to offer and take ownership of your experience.
To find out more and apply to the program visit http://ibm.jobs/leadingtoafrica
Connect with us on Facebook at IBM MEA Talent and follow us on Twitter @IBMJobsMEA to find out more about Leading to Africa and other Graduate and Internship opportunities in the Middle East and Africa.
Discover what you can do at IBM. http://ibm.com/employment/eg