The College Internship that Changed My Life

Sasanka Atapattu
July 10, 2015

If you had asked me 10 years ago what I wanted to do with my life, I would have told you that I had no idea. During college, I was fascinated with marine biology and science, and on Friday and Saturday nights, I was fascinated with the college parties and social events. It was at one such event that a friend and now mentor of mine told me that I should apply to an internship at a company called GlaxoSmithKline. At the time I didn't know anything about the company, and when she mentioned that it was a sales internship, it didn't resonate with me much at all. After a few days she came back and asked me if I had applied. When I mentioned that I had not, she thought I was crazy. "Do you understand that GlaxoSmithKline is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world?" I responded: "So what - it's sales, I don't want to be a salesperson for the rest of my life". Ultimately she convinced me to have a conversation with one of the managers at GSK, where I realized that the role was much more substantive and very different from the sales roles that I had imagined. I was excited to learn that I would be working for a multi-billion dollar company that was developing life-changing medications that were used every day by people around the world. My role would be to educate and inform healthcare professionals on these new medications. It was an incredible summer internship that led to my first full-time job post-graduation as a pharmaceutical sales representative. This was an incredible opportunity right out of school because typically, the role demanded 2-3 years of sales experience before you could even apply.

Through the years, I rapidly progressed in roles of increasing responsibility all of which were in sales, but also worked with marketing teams on multi-billion dollar brands and crafted strategies to launch new drugs. I learned the inner-workings of business and large corporations that gave me the foundation for progressing through my professional career. However, over the last several years, I have watched the discipline of sales change dramatically. With the emergence of new technologies and web tools, sales has become an art and a science of connecting with people and providing them with relevant solutions to make their jobs and lives easier.

Today, 11 years after that point of not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I realize that I am fortunate that my experiences in sales have lead me to build and lead my first company that is making sure that all students have the opportunity to explore sales through hands-on sales experience and training. Working with college students every day is the most fun that I've had in my entire career, and today I am honored to be building a company with college students to make sure all students get the opportunity to participate in an internship that will change their lives...