By the SMU Digital Marketing Team
A 2019 New York Times article once declared, “Young People Are Going to Save Us All from Office Life”. This new age truism alludes to the supposed Gen Z predilection for prioritising personal wellness over career ambitions and financial achievements.
But for SMU School of Economics (SOE) undergraduate Anish Kishor Dobariyapatel, finding “balance” is not so much about keeping to strict nine-to-five hours or forgoing professional dreams. Instead, the winner of the SMU Excellence in Student Life Bronze Award (Student Leadership) 2021 seeks to find meaning and satisfaction in all aspects of life, preferably while playing and working hard.
Besides navigating the rigours of a fourth-year Economics programme with a second major in Data Science and Analytics, Anish is also relishing his current role as a data analyst intern at DBS. And while this might already seem like a full plate for most, he is also a mentor for SOE student representative body, OIKOS, and will be joining Unilever as an e-commerce analytics intern soon. During his time at SMU, he has also been President of the SMU Economics Intelligence Club and was a School of Social Sciences teaching assistant for the Critical Thinking in the Real World and Management Communication modules. Did we also mention that he squeezes in weekly runs, and tries to keep up with his friends through online games and chats?
Here, Anish shares his perspectives on how SMU has been a pivotal force in his personal and professional life, as well as thoughts on how incoming freshmen can make the most of their exciting undergraduate years:
How has SMU challenged you and encouraged personal growth?
Juggling work and studies has been very tough—besides completing my modules, my part-time internships and the various school activities have kept me very busy! My younger self would have marvelled at the discipline and time management skills I have acquired, and I hope I can continue to apply them in the future.
I also enjoy the smaller class sizes in SMU as it gives me the chance to talk to my professors directly to understand what they expect of me and that keeps me motivated. This has also helped me to keep track of my responsibilities as a young university student who needs to balance family, friends, schoolwork, and internships.
How has being an SMU student contributed to your internship experience?
This year, I’ve been very blessed to land great internships related to analytics. Much of my first role as a data analyst at Novelship required skills I’ve honed at SMU, which were about understanding the business and management sides of the job, as well as the importance of communicating clearly. While some of the tasks required soft skills, I was given the opportunity to utilise my “hard skills” in Data Analytics while working with various different departments, such as product management, marketing, business development and finance, to add value to the company.
This experience was what led to me to my current opportunity at DBS as a data analyst, in the corporate real estate team. And I’ll be taking a leave of absence from school in August to join Unilever as an e-commerce analytics intern. A six-month e-commerce internship would allow me to gain a better understanding of the fast-moving consumer goods industry. Following the advice of my mentors, seniors and parents, I decided that a term-time internship at a reputable company may open the door to future job opportunities when I graduate.
During my interviews for these three positions, I was always asked about my business acumen and communication skills—which are, thankfully, competencies I’ve learnt and cultivated at SMU.
What are the challenges of remote internships?
As much as we are tasked to work independently, it’s important to be able to bounce ideas off someone else to better understand the role. For example, corporate real estate was something new to me, so it was tough to adapt initially. Fortunately, I talked to a few of my friends who were undergoing similar experiences at the time, and they reminded me that we could reach out to our mentors and try to get on calls with them to talk things through and understand better. And that’s exactly what I did, in order to understand what they’re looking for and how I could be of help, and it also helped me in understanding the needs of the role better.
Anish (top, second from left) together with fellow facilitators at Starring Camp 2019
Can you describe what campus life is like at SMU?
As we are a city campus, when I hang out with my friends, it would be in some part of town. Campus life has a very young and vibrant vibe, set against an inspiring backdrop of landmarks, such as the offices of UBS and Manulife, and it’s convenient to get to places as well.
Having participated in plenty of activities in secondary school and junior college, I initially planned on focusing on my studies when I first entered SMU. However, by the end of the first semester, I felt that I was coping well in my studies and wanted to do more. That was when I took on different roles—one of which was the President of the SMU Economics Intelligence Club.
When the six of us in the executive committee restarted the club from the ground up, we knew we had an uphill task. It was an amazing opportunity because we were able to add value to the school and to take economics beyond the confines of the classroom. As President, I learnt various aspects of marketing and finance, and all the nitty-gritty details required to set up our club. We focused on how to always do better, how to manage a team and multiple stakeholders, and overall, I think we did a pretty good job.
I also mentored two juniors during the year-long OIKOS Mentorship Programme, where I would help them by answering questions they had on SOE modules and the second major in Data Analytics.
What soft skills did you gain at SMU?
Having good communication and critical thinking skills can unlock many doors; it enables you to talk to people effectively and understand them better, as well as to interpret information clearly and accurately, and not just take things at face value. Being able to acquire these skills in a university like SMU is a privilege, and I appreciate that I was able to learn and grow these skill sets.
If you could go back in time, what would say to yourself as a freshman?
I wouldn’t change anything in my social life: I’m glad that I’ve put myself out there, played, and partook in a variety of activities.
Academically, however, I would tell my younger self to conduct deeper research and learn the necessary skills required for the internships I wanted. For example, it would have been helpful to go on LinkedIn to find out more about key roles and read up on job descriptions and relevant skill requirements (such as the knowledge of programming languages like SQL, VBA, R, or Python). This information goes a long way in steering you towards the right modules to select and areas to work on during your free time. With this in mind, I’ve started taking some essential modules this semester.
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