Author: Christine Cox

Pravin Balasundaram
Pravin Balasundaram

Pravin Balasundaram MBA ’17 knew it was a good sign when he interviewed directly with the CEO of a startup for a summer internship. He was looking for a big experience with a smaller company to stretch his skill set, tackle high-stakes projects, and work side by side with company leaders.

And that’s what he found with LIFT, an aircraft seat manufacturer in Huntington Beach, California. “LIFT operates in a start-up mode, which is fantastic,” says Balasundaram, a native of Chennai, India, who formerly worked in IT with large, international companies. “Employees — and interns — make decisions on a daily basis to shape LIFT’s future.”

Stationed in LIFT’s business development division, Balasundaram dove into projects in CRM implementation, market research through big data, and business optimization.

Pravin Headshot

“I aspired to be an entrepreneurial employee who looks for out-of-the-box solutions to business goals,” he says. “The internship provided an avenue to work on innovative projects that directly has an impact on LIFT’s business operations and, potentially, the future direction.”

That future direction looks promising. LIFT, co-founded by Notre Dame alum Tom McFarland under the Encore aerospace company, recently landed an exclusive contract with Boeing to provide tourist-class seats for its most popular jet, the 737. The contract is considered a shake up in the aircraft industry.

But Balasundaram is not surprised. “LIFT is a perfect example of how small design, engineering, and sales teams work cohesively to launch a new product in a short span of time,” he says. “This is exactly what startups are meant to do.”


Balasundaram was connected to his internship through the new Gigot Innovation Internships program that started this year through the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship at Mendoza. The program matches MBA students with startups founded by Notre Dame alumni or connected to Mendoza in another way.

Slaggert Mic
Karen Slaggert

“In the past few years, students have become passionate about the startup space and want an opportunity to experience it before graduating,” says Karen Slaggert, associate director for the Gigot Center. “And we have a lot of startups who keep approaching us for interns. So this new program is serving a need for everyone. We’re placing more students in startups than expected, and I’m sure the program will grow as fast as we can accommodate.”


Host companies included GE Ventures, Quintiles, Corning, Grounds and Hounds Coffee Co., and Rent Like a Champion.

Balasundaram is confident his LIFT internship will benefit his future career. “Ideally, I would like to lead a team to deliver innovative technology-driven solutions,” he says.

In the meantime, he urges potential MBA students to explore Notre Dame’s Gigot Innovation Internships program: “They will connect you with a phenomenal experience.” 

For more information, contact Karen Slaggert:
(574) 631-2714