By the SMU Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre
It is never too early to start thinking about one’s career.
Lee Kong Chian School of Business Year Four student Akash Mittal began contemplating his future career when he first entered the school. When Akash learnt from his seniors that working in regional teams is a common practice in many companies, he was determined to gain experience working with people of different nationalities even before he entered the workforce.
Thankfully for Akash, SMU has established excellent working relationships with companies in private and public sectors within and outside of Singapore to give their students a head start in their careers through internship opportunities. When Akash chanced upon a position at The Company Bangkok, a Bangkok-based, small-scale co-working space company looking to penetrate the market, he leapt at the opportunity. Having studied in a boarding school with many Thai friends, Akash had always been fascinated with the Thai culture. The five- to six-week Short-Term Internship (STI) period was also perfect for a Year One student just dipping his toes into the working world.
A “work holiday”: immersion in different cultures
Having secured his internship, Akash started planning for his three-week stay in Bangkok, from finding accommodation to getting a student visa and booking his flights. He recounts that the process was quick and seamless, thanks to the team at SMU Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre (DKHMCC) who helped to facilitate meeting all the administrative requirements. It also helped that SMU provided financial aid to make the trip affordable for students.
Akash travelled to Bangkok with other SMU interns and settled into his new environment quickly. The managers in his office were very hospitable and would regularly bring the team out for office lunches while introducing the visitors to local food in the area. Besides being a great work opportunity, Akash’s STI also doubled up as an exciting “holiday” with his friends from SMU, with whom he explored the wonders of Bangkok.
The SMU interns would continue exploring the exciting city on their own during the weekends. Planned trips to various night markets, such as Chatuchak and Khaosan, and malls across the city became a regular affair. Beyond enjoying the delectable Thai cuisine, Akash also ventured out to visit Bangkok’s magnificent temples, which he had heard so much about from his Thai friends. A highlight of his trip was seeing in person the biggest solid gold Buddha statue in the world at the Wat Traimit temple.
Putting classroom knowledge to practice
Akash (4th from right) with fellow SMU interns and colleagues at The Company
On the work front, Akash managed to accomplish much as a Strategy Intern in his short but fulfilling three weeks at The Company Bangkok. He was given the responsibility of creating a pitch deck to potential investors, which required him to conduct competitor and customer research.
Despite being in his first-year at SMU then, Akash had acquired many valuable skills that he could apply in his internship. From his Marketing Research class, Akash knew what information he needed to find and how to gather it. His coursework and group assignments for school had trained his logical thinking, enabling him to put together the accumulated research into coherent points. SMU had also prepared Akash to present his deck confidently to his team.
“The lessons learnt at SMU helped me immensely in my internship and allowed me to deliver good value to The Company Bangkok. Through the project I was involved in, I was able to apply my learnings and test out the theoretical concepts from school on a real and impactful project,” says Akash.
While Akash had expected to work with a predominantly Thai team, he was surprised to find that the majority of The Company Bangkok’s staff were, in fact, from Japan, as the startup is funded by Japanese investors. Despite the eclectic mix of nationalities, Akash did not face any language or cultural barrier. His team was nurturing and he was given many opportunities to develop various skills.
“My colleagues at The Company Bangkok were very accommodating and provided me with a lot of guidance and assistance when I needed help in conducting my research. We had the opportunity to perform competitor analysis by visiting different co-working spaces and identifying their unique value propositions,” says Akash.
Greater clarity on career direction
Akash’s experience at The Company Bangkok played a crucial role in helping him to identify his future career. Working overseas with an international team also become a talking point to give him an edge during interviews. Since returning to Singapore, Akash has completed other internships related to strategic planning, research and analytics.
To prepare for the future, globalised workforce, Akash believes that students and job seekers need to get used to interacting with individuals from other walks of life.
“Job interviewers are looking for candidates with varied perspectives and experiences in one’s life. Experiences such as the STI will help you get the necessary exposure and make you a more dynamic and interesting individual,” says Akash.
Though the thought of living overseas during a pandemic may be daunting, Akash encourages his SMU peers to seize every moment. He found his STI experience extremely rewarding as it allowed him to get a taste of the Thai way of life. In addition, other than gaining clarity on his future career, Akas considers the friends he made at The Company Bangkok, with whom he is still in touch today after close to three years, his biggest takeaway from the internship experience.
The ASEAN Internship Programme (AIP), Overseas Virtual Internship Programme (OVIP) and Short-Term Internship (STI) Programme for ASEAN countries (available for Winter Internship only) are part of the offerings provided by the Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre (DKHMCC) to encourage students to build up an international network and be Global Citizens.
Applications for overseas internship programmes are open to all SMU students. Browse opportunities here.