By the SMU Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre
As an Accountancy major, SMU School of Accountancy student Nur Izzaty Bte Mohamed Izam has always had an interest in tax. While Izzaty had theoretical knowledge on the subject, she wanted to gain more professional experience in the tax ﬁeld.
When the opening for a Tax Research intern at Myanmar-based law firm SMPP Legal Myanmar Company Limited came up on the Overseas Virtual Internship Programme (OVIP) listing, Izzaty knew it was the perfect opportunity for her. Having heard about the good work ethics and management cultures of companies in the region, Izzaty opted for an ASEAN internship without hesitation. The fact that the internship was a virtual one did not faze her. Instead, Izzaty saw this as an opportunity to learn how to communicate, collaborate and socialise in an increasingly digitalised world.
Having gained a rough understanding of Myanmar’s economy from global news and market research done for school projects, Izzaty knew that although its economy ﬂuctuated in growth due to its political instability, new initiatives towards development in the country were in the pipeline. Izzaty was curious about this potential and wanted the chance to learn more.
Thanks to SMU Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre’s (DKHMCC) involvement throughout the process, Izzaty’s application for the internship went smoothly. Aside from facilitating administrative work such as the completion of necessary formal documents, DKHMCC also acted as the liaison between Izzaty and the hiring company to ensure that the internship objectives were aligned.
Safe space to explore interests at own pace
SMPP Legal Myanmar Company Limited is a full-service Myanmar-based law ﬁrm owned by US expatriates advising on a wide range of commercial legal and tax issues with a focus on foreign direct investment. The ﬁrm also provides legal and consultant services in Myanmar. Their practice areas include corporate and commercial law; M&A; real estate; banking and ﬁnance; intellectual property; immigration and employment law; and tax and customs.
Izzaty was responsible for conducting research and interpreting data of various tax policies in diﬀerent industries, from pharmaceuticals to women’s leadership initiatives in accounting and ﬁnance. From her ﬁndings, Izzaty would then identify gaps in current tax law, the impact of existing tax sourcing rules and developing practices in tax enforcement.
Aside from research, Izzaty drafted reports about the digital economy’s impact on auditors and Singapore’s perspective on VAT and provided suggestions on what Myanmar can do to improve its tax laws in relation to the digital economy. She also identiﬁed tax and accounting issues by companies in Myanmar through qualitative data collection.
The firm enabled Izzaty to broaden her understanding of all things tax-related by assigning her a vast range of topics to study and analyse. As a Tax Research Intern, Izzaty found that she was able to make good use of her knowledge of accounting policies and research experience, gained from the many assignments completed at SMU. Studying Myanmar’s tax landscape also helped Izzaty to better identify and understand variations and diﬀerences between tax perspectives in Singapore and in other countries. Izzaty really appreciated being able to put her accounting knowledge to practice in the real world, where stakes and ways of doing things may diﬀer from school projects.
Working remotely when most of her team was in Myanmar was of little issue, even with the time diﬀerence. Doing a virtual internship meant that Izzaty had greater independence and autonomy. Apart from the ﬁxed ﬁnal deadlines for each project, Izzaty’s working hours were ﬂexible, with no set time to clock in and out. To juggle her many ongoing projects well, Izzaty made an effort to manage her time more efficiently.
When efficiency hinges on clarity in communication
Initially, Izzaty was concerned with how she and her team in Myanmar would be able to communicate eﬀectively and eﬃciently with her internship being conducted completely virtually.
Her worries were put to ease soon enough once she started her internship. Email was the primary mode of communication, though phone calls were sometimes used to facilitate discussions. Even then, Izzaty’s communication with her colleagues was clear throughout. Despite English not being their ﬁrst language, Izzaty’s colleagues were all ﬂuent in it, so nothing got lost in translation.
Although Izzaty had little prior experience with tax, she faced little diﬃculty with completing the tasks assigned. She credits this largely to her supervisor’s precise instructions whenever Izzaty was assigned a new task. The supervisor also ensured that ample background and context were provided at the start for Izzaty to build her understanding before delving into the project. Most often, emails were more than suﬃcient for project brief-ins.
As Izzaty communicated with her team mostly through email, practising getting her message across succinctly with written words sharpened Izzaty’s professional communication skills. Learning how to vary her tone and word choices depending on the nature of the work message was also a huge takeaway for Izzaty.
Working in an international team also taught Izzaty much about cultural sensitivity. Though a sister country from the same region, Izzaty learnt that Myanmar has its own social and work customs that are unique from Singapore’s.
Professional and personal growth for career readiness
Being in her third year at SMU, Izzaty had started considering her career options upon graduation. However, she recognised the limitations of only learning about diﬀerent sectors through case studies in class. Before embarking on the OVIP, Izzaty knew little about the inner workings of the tax sector. With the internship, she had gained a clearer picture of what the sector is about, both in Myanmar and Singapore, and can now more conﬁdently ﬁlter her career options.
Besides learning more about tax, Izzaty’s OVIP has trained her abilities to communicate and work eﬀectively in multicultural teams and manage several tasks independently.
Izzaty appreciates how SMU opens doors to global work experience for students to gain an advantage in today’s competitive job market before graduation. She urges her SMU peers to grab such opportunities while they can.
“Taking up an ASEAN internship was a fulﬁlling and eye-opening experience for me, despite it being a remote one. The lessons and takeaways could not have been gained anywhere else. Therefore, if time permits, go ahead to embark on one as it will be a valuable experience,” Izzaty says.
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.