Published on: 11-Dec-2019
Grip, Intros Ltd, London, UK.
A. Ameenudeen (Computer Engineering)
A fruitful, enriching, invaluable and insightful internship experience that was simply amazing. Words are not enough to describe this amazing journey.
I am a final year student studying Computer Engineering at NTU. Prior to this, I graduated with a Diploma in Information Technology from Nanyang Polytechnic. I am an entrepreneur at heart and I had my own start-up together with like-minded individuals at the young age of 20. Since then, I have always wanted to experience the start-up scene locally and abroad.
I had the incredible opportunity to do my internship in London, United Kingdom for a period of 6 months through the NTUitive OEP (Overseas Entrepreneurship Programme). To be accepted as part of the programme was challenging as I had to compete with other students who had the burning desire to explore the path of entrepreneurship. I recall doing extensive research about the country where I wanted to do my internship and preparing well for my interview. That was the first hurdle, the second challenge was to secure an internship offer from one of the start-ups in London. It was a daunting process – at the time of application, the biggest talk in United Kingdom was the Brexit and the impact on foreign skilled workers in U.K. That made it difficult for prospective interns such as me to earn a position in a start-up due to the visa quota restrictions. Difficult interviews did not help either due to the high expectations required of the interns.
Despite these challenges, I got my silver lining moment during the third interview. I was offered a role as a technical intern to work for Grip, Intros Ltd. A professional matchmaking service for business professionals for trade shows, conferences and other events using its AI-powered event networking solution.
It was an incredible experience as I got the opportunity to work with a brilliant team that included the founder of the start-up who is my age! I worked as a technical intern, and got a few opportunities to attend trade shows and conferences, which was amazing because I was able to see the work I do being applied there. Apart from my working experience, London as a city is very interesting. From its intrinsic Victorian architecture to the local food and sights, it’s an enjoyable experience.
I would highly recommend students to embark on an Exchange/ OEP/ Internship overseas as it is an eye-opening experience that cannot be described by mere words. It’s best to join an overseas programme with an agenda in mind besides work for e.g. strive to learn their local language, understand their start-up eco-system etc.
My advice to you is to fully experience your stay overseas, and try things and activities which you are unable to experience back in Singapore.
Silicon Valley, California, USA.
Alvin Lee Yong Teck (Computer Science)
8 months is too short for a surreal & extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime experience! Step out of your comfort zone to understand yourself better!
Background and choice to go for OEP
Upon graduating from Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) with a Diploma in Cybersecurity & Digital Forensics, I continued to pursue my passion in the Information Technology field as a Computer Science undergraduate at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU). I was thrilled to hear about the Overseas Entrepreneurship Programme (OEP) offered by the University which provides students with an overseas internship opportunity with a start-up company. I wanted to be part of the OEP as I had always wished to experience working life abroad, especially in the United States of America. After several months of preparation for technical interviews, I successfully secured an internship with a start-up company in Silicon Valley, California from January - August 2018.
One of the major challenges was to step out of my comfort zone and adapt to the new environment. Living in a foreign country taught me to better appreciate the life I have in Singapore. I learnt to be more independent and self-reliant. Another major challenge was transportation since public transport in the US is not as convenient when compared to Singapore, and private hires such as Uber was rather expensive in California. To overcome this, my roommate and I bought a second-hand car for US$3,000. It turned out to be a good decision as it not only helped us save a lot on transportation costs but also provided us the convenience to commute easily for the next 8 months. Before our return to Singapore, we sold the car at about US$2,200, which translates to “renting the car for US$800 for 8 months”.
Differences you experienced in teaching methods / academics
I gained different experiences from working with a Multinational Corporation (MNC) and a start-up company. For a start-up company, the hierarchy is very flat as I got to work very closely with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) who was direct supervisor. This helped me to understand the passion and knowledge they had invested into starting the company. Furthermore, job scope was more diverse in a start-up company when compared with an MNC, hence allowing me to have the opportunity to learn and explore much more and reach my full potential. Overall, I felt that the working culture in the USA and Singapore are quite similar depending on whether you are working with a MNC or a start-up.
Memorable moments from the experience in School or otherwise
My memorable moments were winning the Hackathon competitions with my friends from NTU and National University of Singapore (NUS) students in the NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) programme. Each team consisted of an average of 5 members. Throughout the 8 months, we won a total of 3 hackathon competitions where we clinched the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes respectively, winning a total prize pool of US$4,500 per team.
Key take away from your experience
One of the key takeaway from my experience is forging friendships. I made many friends from different backgrounds throughout these 8 months, which included locals whom I met in the USA and NUS students on attachment in California. Now that we are back in Singapore we continue to catch-up and share the on-going’s in our lives. Another key takeaway is the travel experiences. Throughout the 8 months, I travelled with my friends out of San Francisco to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Arizona, Utah, Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, and many more places of interest! These road trips with my friends made for unforgettable memories. I also tried new activities such as ski diving and snow skiing which I would not get to experience in Singapore
• Do’s and Don’ts ( recommendations for your juniors)
o Step out of your comfort zone - Network and make new friends, accept and explore new opportunities.
o Be kind and friendly to other people while in a foreign country, and respect their culture.
o Take up as many roles and tasks as you can during the internship period, that’s the best way you can learn the most! (P.S: Your future you will thank you!)
o Opposite of what’s written above!
Blockchain Startup, Shanghai, China.
CHAO SHAN TE (Computer Science)
Opportunities are limitless, stay humble and be hungry to learn!
An avid reader, aspiring entrepreneur and innovation enthusiast. I was from the junior college before pursuing computer science with minor in entrepreneurship at NTU.
Participating in the Overseas Entrepreneurship Programme (OEP) is definitely one of the best decisions of my university life. Being interested in entrepreneurship, emails from NTUitive looking for OEP applicants during my first year immediately caught my eye. The fact that I would get the opportunity to work with an overseas start-up company appealed to me as an unconventional experience as opposed to the usual university exchange. There was quite a bit of paperwork and interviews to go through, however I appreciated the early exposure to such experience and challenges and it was worthwhile.
I embarked on the OEP journey to Shanghai, China during the first semester of my penultimate year. There were some initial challenges settling down such as securing lodging, settling bank account and other miscellaneous. Fortunately, we had seniors and current batchmates pooling our resources and knowledge together to help one another out. That’s when you experience the power of networking and connections first hand. When I first arrived, I was also amazed as I was unused to the amount of technologies applied into daily lives of the people living in Shanghai. I personally experienced the immense use of technology by things such as getting used to not carrying a wallet because of cashless payments for almost everything, smart-elevators, smart food ordering besides other technology powered daily dealings.
In Shanghai, I got the opportunity to interact with many people from fintech industry due to my work in a blockchain startup. Meetings with many founders and their teams who were full of innovative ideas and creative solutions, passionate and driven in the work they do, got me really excited and motivated to learn more. In between conversations, I shared about Singapore with them as well that left many with a good impression and interest in visiting us one day. It feels great establishing such relationships overseas and it was networking experiences like these that value- adds to my global perspectives and helps to constantly shape my thinking for the better.
One of the most memorable experiences occurred two months before the end of OEP, when my company faced a financial crisis due to industry downturn. The circumstance was unexpected and new to me as an intern, and I was given a rare and unique eye opening experience to observe how they managed and dealt with the situation. That is something one would never get from conventional classroom teaching and I am thankful to go through the downs with them till I returned to Singapore. Proud to see that they are still standing and growing stronger from the fall, and such resilience and entrepreneur spirits are characteristics that inspire and attract many individuals like myself more to the ever growing startup scene.
Other highlights include hosting our very own social entrepreneurship ideathon with other OEP students that saw over 40 students from local universities participating; taking part in multiple hackathons hosted by renowned MNCs such as Schindler; volunteering and attending international forum and events; representing my company to exhibit during technical conference; experiencing my first snow and building a snowman; making new friends with both the locals and other Singaporeans from Overseas Singaporean Unit over in Shanghai.
For those who are interested in OEP, one important suggestion is that you should try to maximise your weekends or free time and look out to participate or attend many interesting events available, or at least go out to explore the cities. It is only through stepping out of your comfort zone and having interactions with others that we can learn and grow. I would like to tell you to never be afraid to share your ideas because they are rarely new, sharing in fact will help to validate and polish your ideas even more! But do take note for conversations, especially in China, there are certain topics such as politics where you should be mindful with your comments to avoid unpleasant surprises especially with new persons you meet. Learn to adapt, keep an open mind and embrace the local culture as that will really help you to enjoy the overseas experience better.
Opportunities are limitless, as long as we stay humble and are hungry to learn, we will definitely grow and become a better version of ourselves in due time.
My best wishes to those who plan or wish to embark on the OEP in the future!
PPRO, Munich, Germany
MUHAMMAD ASHIQ ALI BIN ABDUL HAMEED (Computer Engineering)
“Getting out of my comfort zone to venture into a new city where its culture and people are completely different. Pushing the boundaries of my capability in order to achieve what I want in life.”
My story takes me back to when I was an ITE student and I had big dreams of working overseas. I began my research and realized that to work overseas I would require a degree. I set that as my target and worked one step at time towards my dream. First I ensured that I was eligible to apply for local polytechnics. Secondly, I ensured that my GPA was in relation to the cut off requirements of NTU. After years of careful planning and hard-work I secured a place at NTU. I came across a lot of overseas programmes which the school offered but only one was in line with my dream “Overseas Entrepreneurship Program”. This program would allow me to work in a start-up overseas and experience the differences in culture and worklife. I wanted seize the opportunity. The entry to this program was not an easy one and I had to clear my first round of interview with the intuitive and then attend interviews with the start-ups abroad There are cases in which the students are unable to find a start-up to work with and that results in doing a local internship and I almost experienced this as my first 3 interviews were all rejected. I was quite depressed but I did not give up. I continued to attend the interviews organized by intuitive. To my pleasant surprise my next 4 interviews were all successful and I got to choose which start-up I would work for. I evaluated each start-up and chose one that I found meaningful.
I am currently an intern working for PPRO in Munich. It’s a payment integration start-up where local payment methods such as Grabpay, Alipay, wechat and many more are integrated into their system and offered to the payment service providers. This enables customers to pay using their preferred payment method when they purchase items online. My role in this start-up is to research and conceptualize the possibility of automation in their current system. I had to learn their business flow, operation flow and meet up with key persons from the start-up to fully understand it. This is a start of a new beginning for me and I do not know what to expect in this first year of my stay in Munich, but I do know that I will be able to handle it as looking back if I had ever doubted myself I would not even be in my current state.
Therefore I always follow this principle where I keep telling myself that it is ok to try as you will not know the outcome till you do.
My advice to my juniors will be to set a goal no matter how difficult and work slowly towards it – one step at a time and eventually you will reach your goal. You may even experience people telling you it is impossible, maybe because they did not achieve their goal, so listen to them but don’t let it dissuade you. I draw lessons from such conversations and improvise on what they have done, and then do it better. No one is entitled to stop you from achieving what you set out to do in life. All you have to do is to believe in yourself and put in the effort and you will achieve your goals.
Start-up firms, Shanghai, China
KHAIRUL AMIRUF BIN AHMAD MOHRI (Computer Science)
A life-changing experience. Take all the opportunities you can get.
“On the other side of your maximum fear, are all of the best things in life.” – Will Smith
I graduated from Anglo-Chinese Junior College before joining NTU. Education is important to me as it empowers individuals with knowledge and experiences to better equip them to enter the workforce as well as for self-development. While a large portion of education constitutes the pursuit of theoretical knowledge, it is extremely crucial for students to gain soft skills through personal experiences. We also learn through reflecting, forming new perceptions and understanding of other things, and that’s how we can relate to worldly matters on a more personal level. As such, I am a huge advocate for embarking on journeys like exchange, OEP and overseas internship.
For my part, I’m on OEP with NTUitive which focuses on interning at start-up firms. I wanted to pursue this internship because I value autonomy and independence in the workplace; understanding the meaning of getting work done instead of just doing what you’re instructed to do, and this is exactly what start-ups offer. Interning at a start-up allows you to be more involved in the operations of the company and enables you to gain greater insights on how a company is run. You will then be able to better understand the strategies adopted to grow the business.
While we’re all from Computer Science/ Engineering, do not think of yourself as just the backend programmer who receives instructions from the retail/ sales/ front-end departments to develop features for them. Instead, you can get involved in business meetings and share your insights on the capacity of the company’s technology on what can be done and any workarounds for them.
OEP offers overseas internships at several countries. To name a few: USA, China, Israel, Germany are some of the countries that they offer. Debating between Silicon Valley and China, I ended up choosing Shanghai, China for various reasons. Prior to this, I have never been to China. Media portrayals can sometimes distort your perception about a certain subject. And China, apart from being a rapid growing economy, has had several negative representations, especially by the Western media or hearsays from others. The mission to experience these phenomena has been the greatest drive for me to choose China. In terms of technology and ecosystem wise, I do not believe that they are lagging behind the States. In fact, they are catching up really quick.
Not being able to communicate in Mandarin has, by far, been the greatest challenge to me. However, it didn’t deter me from choosing China because there will always be ways to overcome this hurdle. There exist several translation apps to help you get by. Other than that, you can always ask them if they speak English. (or try learning some basic Mandarin)
Being in OEP also allows you to be immersed in the start-up ecosystems and there are many opportunities for you to experience personally. I have been on several company visits myself and even got the opportunity to visit Alibaba headquarters and got to test drive on one of Nio’s autonomous driving vehicles.
I truly encourage everyone to embark on the OEP programme as I have no regrets having done so.
- Take every opportunity that is presented to you
- Be hungry for more
- Instead of finding excuses, find ways to work around it
- Explore the culture
- Talk to strangers (locals / expats) and just learn more about everyone
“Strangers are just friends we haven’t met” ―
Roy E. Stolworthy
- Don’t have an “entitled” attitude and expect everything to always go your way
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