My Internship Experience : American Express

Hi, I’m Akshay Mehta, a fourth-year undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelors in Mathematics and Scientific Computing. I interned at Big Data Labs, American Express India located in Koramangala, Bangalore under the Department of Enterprise and Digital Analytics.

About American Express:

The American Express Company, also known as Amex, is an American multinational financial services corporation. Founded in 1850 as an Express mail company, it is mostly known today for its charge card, credit card, and traveler’s cheque businesses.

Generally, the card transaction system has three stakeholders, i.e. the issuer (the bank issuing cards), the acquirer (the bank enabling merchants to accept these cards) and the network (the environment in which the transaction occurs.

One unique feature that sets AmEx apart from the other credit card companies in the world is that it functions in all three roles, hereby completing a closed loop. This widens the scope and size of the data it possesses, about both the consumers and the merchants.

Being one of the Fortune 500 companies, AmEx has a significant presence in India mostly including back office customer services operations apart from the credit card business for the domestic Indian Economy. In India, it has 2 offices – one located in Gurgaon and another in Bangalore. While Gurgaon office is larger and supports multiple departments, Bangalore office mainly deals with technical research and development.

Selection procedure

AmEx was open to all departments and was one of the first few companies to visit the campus during internship season. The procedure first included an aptitude test which had CPI eligibility criteria of 7. The test was pretty simple and straightforward. Just a little practice before the test and maintaining speed as well as accuracy can amount to a decent score.

This was followed by final interview shortlisting. The number of shortlisted candidates was 14 of which 4 were selected. Though there are no straightforward shortlisting criteria, but by my experience, I guess it depends on both your test score and overall resume. A well-balanced resume (decent CPI, summer project/internship etc) is preferable.

The interview had 2 rounds and there was no distinction between technical or HR round. AmEx interviews are quite chilled out and the interviewers give enough opportunities for you to drive the interview according to your interests whether it’s programming, quant or solving business problems. For interview, I would advise you to have a deep understanding and explanation of everything mentioned in the resume, especially the summer project or internship that you might have done. Besides that, you should look for general puzzles, case studies, and HR questions. A good tip would be to be attentive during PPT and have a general idea about how AmEx works.

The Culture

Out of 24 interns selected across all IITs, I was one of the 6 people who was allocated Big Data Labs, AmEx Bangalore as my intern location.

Our first day got mostly spent in the Orientation Programme after which we had an introductory lunch with our internship mentors. AmEx Bangalore office is quite good when it comes to work-culture and people. There are no fixed working hours and we’re free to choose them as long as we accomplish the deliverables. The office had an open workspace and people were quite friendly and helpful. There were frequent happenings and activities throughout our 8 weeks of stay at AmEx. This included office parties, a movie outing, an interesting teams based quiz contest, an in-house food and games stall competition etc

The Work

A good thing about AmEx internships is that we’re given live projects which involves senior employees and can actually contribute to the company. My project involved working on the credit card transactional data. I was supposed to first develop a user-driven pre-processing tool which used Big Data MapReduce platforms like Apache Hadoop, PIG, Spark to process the data for modelling and training. This was followed by training CNN on the processed data, extracting temporal features and using them on XGBoost so as to see the improvement in the results of fraud detection. The overall pipeline was also made generic so that it could be used in other applications besides fraud.

To be honest, I was not much into coding and I was quite surprised and nervous when I got to know that I got a project on Big Data and Deep Learning. The project had everything that was far out of my domain of experience and comfort zone. My immediate project mentor had a tough time initially dealing with a newbie coder like me. But he was quite patient while guiding me and bearing my frequent doubts and most importantly, motivating me when I got nervous at times or when I did some minor blunders.

In the end, I would say that the period of eight weeks I spent in AmEx was the most productive duration for me since I joined college. Whether it was my fear of coding or my procrastinating attitude towards my work, I managed to accomplish fruitful results for my personal and professional growth. I can’t scale my contribution to the company or the extent of expectations of my mentors I ended up fulfilling. But I can surely say that this internship made a major contribution in my life when it comes to gaining knowledge, getting exposure of working with smart professionals in a multinational corporation and most importantly, developing technical skills and confidence.

If one is interested in working in the field of Analytics dealing with humongous data of a multinational corporation with a good office culture and people, doing an internship at AmEx can be a brilliant experience. If you’re not a coder like me, this will be an amazing opportunity to learn and develop your skills. If you’re already proficient in coding, you can really delve deep into challenging problems of applied data science.