How an Internship with T-Mobile Impacted a Graduate Student's Journey
It’s amazing to think of how far Harish Thalinki, MS Business Analytics ’22, has come in the past year — not only personally, but geographically.
A native of India, he worked in various consulting roles in his home country, including extensive work with U.S.-based clients, before moving to the United States to start his master’s degree in business analytics at LeBow in fall 2021.
“Moving here was one of the toughest tests of my life,” he says. “Everything was new: new place, new weather, new ways of treating people and being treated, new culture, new food.”
Thalinki credits Ashley Forsythe and Kelly Deily from LeBow’s Office of Graduate Career Services, as well as Associate Director of Drexel’s Graduate College Tsz Kwok, PhD, for helping him to adjust to life in the United States and to his studies.
“They really helped me when I was facing the worst of it, when I was socially withdrawn completely and not involved in discussions or anything else,” he recalls. “Looking back to how I was during that phase, compared with how I am now, it was a journey I’m really thankful for.”
After this difficult adjustment period, a summer internship with T-Mobile turned the tide for him. Though he didn’t land his initially preferred spot, he received a second look for a position supporting HR analytics.
“I was always interested in people and learning about people, so I said yes,” he says. “After the interviews and how well they treated me throughout the process, I thought, this is exactly the culture that I want to work for.”
In time, those interviewers became his on-the-job manager and mentor, and he would experience the company’s culture directly as an intern, while also looking to build on and reinforce that culture through his projects on employee rewards and recognition.
Before starting as an employee experience intern on T-Mobile’s Human Resources team, though, he first had to move to the other side of the country, to T-Mobile headquarters in Bellevue, Washington, near Seattle.
“It was overwhelming and exciting, but my teammates made sure everything was sorted for me,” he says.
In his role supporting T-Mobile’s HR operations, Thalinki was tasked with analyzing data from the company’s employee appreciation programs. “I had access to the whole data set and given the leverage to come up with my own ideas for greater engagement and a more optimized way of recognizing others,” he says. “I was privileged to be working in that role on a long-term project that’s very useful to the whole company.”
Thalinki’s time in Bellevue brought a number of first-time experiences: his first baseball game (at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, of course), football game and iPhone, as well as travel opportunities to visit another T-Mobile office in Overland Park, Kansas and opportunities to interact with the company’s CEO, CFO and other senior leadership.
“They stand by their values, and they truly are what they show,” he says of the company’s leadership.
Thalinki cited the influence of Customer Analytics (MKTG 606), an elective course from his master’s studies, in shaping his on-the-job approach. “Just as customers are treated as assets, so are employees, and just as you try to retain customers, it’s the same with employees,” he says. “I made that connection to apply similar concepts and look from that point of view, and that really helped.”
Courses focused on visualization tools, or where he had to present his work, also served as good preparation for his intern role, and those latter skills came in handy for his final presentation, a summary of all he’d learned and experienced.
“It was a blend of everything, and it had a wide range of emotion,” he said. “While it had personal touches acknowledging Tyler Engstrom, Kristina Fowler and Michelle Lizak — who were my mentor, my manager and skip manager respectively — I was also focused on outcomes for the business and the project that I worked on.”
As he nears the end of his master’s studies, Thalinki is seeking to continue to improve both his technical skills and his fluency in storytelling. He’s also taking stock of all that’s happened in the past year — both the low and high points — and sharing his insights with newer students.
“Be willing to ask for and to get help, and also be willing to help whenever possible — you never know how things could change because of that one person you might meet” he says. “You often hear about being in the right place at right time. I never believed in it, but when it happened to me, I could see it was true.
“From T-Mobile, I feel I have a huge network and friends for life, and it’s a place where I would love to work. I have a very clear direction now and a sense of what to do and what the possibilities are.”