Photo Credit: SMU Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre
By the SMU Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre
To Year Four SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business student Chin Zi Ying, doing an Overseas Virtual Internship Programme (OVIP) offered by the Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre (DKHMCC) meant more than just fulfilling SMU’s global exposure requirement. Zi Ying was determined to push past her comfort zone that is Singapore, to see what new paths working overseas would open up for her career. With that in mind, embarking on an internship overseas was the obvious next step for her.
Zi Ying did not have her heart set on any particular country, instead filtering her internship options by industries and job scopes she was interested in. Although she was an Operations Management major, Zi Ying has always had a deep interest in marketing. Regional food distributor L’Earth Vietnam Co, Ltd’s internship listing intrigued Zi Ying the most. The Digital Retail Strategy role with L’Earth’s Vietnam team would give her the chance to put her operations knowledge into practice, and gain valuable marketing skills outside of her SMU curriculum.
Incorporated in 2016, L’Earth Vietnam Co, Ltd serves as a bridge between the Vietnam and Singapore food markets. The company seeks to provide local consumers with healthy Vietnamese food products while improving the quality of living of the farmers in Vietnam.
Photo Credit: L’Earth Vietnam Co, Ltd
Not only did L’Earth’s community-centred mission strike a chord with Zi Ying, she was attracted to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City’s (HCMC) growing potential as an economic and financial centre. From her research on the company, Zi Ying was assured that the HCMC-based company would offer her ample opportunities to learn, collaborate, and further her career.
Taking off from the launchpad: applying valuable lessons from school into the real world
As a Digital Retail Intern, Zi Ying’s primary responsibility was to develop directions and strategies to market and ship Singaporean and Vietnamese food products in today’s ever-changing e-commerce environment. This involved conducting marketing research for different products, managing sales on different e-commerce platforms, creating branding and promotional content, dealing with shipping companies, determining suitable product price points, and packing of products for delivery to customers. Each intern was given a few food products to manage.
As part of L’Earth’s Vietnam team, Zi Ying and her fellow SMU interns met up with their Vietnamese colleagues virtually twice a week. These meetings discussed the team’s weekly tasks and project-related matters, such as getting more information about Vietnamese products and getting shipment updates.
An important skill that Zi Ying had the opportunity to hone during her internship was communication. Language barrier was not a huge issue as her Vietnamese colleagues communicated with Zi Ying in English. However, Zi Ying had to adapt to the cultural differences in speech, such as accents and terms used for different things. For example, what is known as “calamansi” in Singapore is referred to as “kumquat” in Vietnam. In addition, Zi Ying also had to pitch her ideas to stakeholders through formal emails, which SMU’s Programme in Writing and Reasoning (PWR) and Management Communication (MC) modules trained her well for.
Having to liaise with various shipping companies to ensure that deliveries were made without a hitch taught Zi Ying more than just negotiation. She was also able to deepen her knowledge in container shipping and documentation handling, both of which are skills she picked up in SMU’s Logistics Trade Management module.
Zi Ying also had the chance to visit L’Earth Singapore’s third-party warehouse to observe how a shipping container is unstuffed, and how goods are arranged and loaded to the multi-storey racks. In addition, her mentor would go above and beyond to provide training to interns who wanted to learn more about international trade and shipping.
Grounded but not limited: Gaining experience from both Vietnam and Singapore
Photo Credit: Chin Zi Ying
“Being grounded in Singapore turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it opened me up to even more experiences to learn from,” says Zi Ying.
While she was part of the L’Earth Vietnam team, Zi Ying worked very closely with her counterparts from the Singapore team. In the process, she was also exposed to Singapore’s e-commerce market when she got to handle local customers’ orders on platforms such as Shopee, NTUC and Amazon.
“Being grounded in Singapore turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it opened me up to even more experiences to learn from.”
For Zi Ying, a standout memory from her internship was having to conduct Vietnamese food product livestreams on Shopee and Facebook to consumers in Singapore, with her fellow SMU interns. It was a fresh yet nerve-wracking experience as they were all new to the concept. Every livestream required lots of research and planning before the execution, from script development to settling logistics. Over time, through trial and error, Zi Ying and the team managed to improve the overall quality and results of their livestreams.
Career possibilities with an ASEAN internship
Zi Ying has emerged from her OVIP a more responsible and self-directed problem solver. Handling operations in both Vietnam and Singapore has also equipped her with invaluable industry knowledge, experience and skills, useful in her future career. Most importantly, Zi Ying’s time at L’Earth exposed her to working with people of different nationalities, cultures and backgrounds, which she can now do with greater ease.
For all her SMU peers who are still on the fence about an ASEAN internship, Zi Ying says, “If you never try, you’ll never know!” She feels that in a globalised world, working across cultures and nationalities has become inevitable. An SMU ASEAN internship opens up the opportunity for a head start, and prepares students early for a global career post-graduation.
“Although the internship was conducted remotely, I still gained a lot of insights about Vietnamese culture and how business is conducted there. I guarantee that you’ll not be short-changed. Give it a shot, and you might even discover new interests beyond your comfort zone,” says Zi Ying.
The ASEAN Internship Programme (AIP) and Overseas Virtual Internship Programme (OVIP) are part of the offerings provided by Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre (DKHMCC) to encourage students to build up an international network and be Global Citizens.
Apply for a Winter and/or Summer OVIP in an ASEAN country via OnTraC now.
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