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Embracing rejection and failing fearlessly

Tuesday Oct 04,2022

Tags :  Global Innovation Immersion


By Foo Yong Li, Year 2, School of Accountancy & Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Sales Development Analyst at Devoteam Cloud Services, GII Indonesia 2022

“Marking this as spam”, “I’m not interested, stop emailing me”, “Your message has been declined” - for the first time in my life, I'm on the receiving end of these rejections.

I’ve always likened myself to an explorer, constantly eager to try out new things. That is why when I came across the three-month Global Innovation Immersion (GII) programme at SMU Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) offering overseas summer internship opportunities within the innovation and startup ecosystem, I was instantly captivated.

These were the first thoughts that came to mind:

  • What opportunities was I going to find in the startup scene, a buzzword that’s been blowing up in the past few years?
  • What type of roles do startups offer?
  • How is it different from a conventional corporation?

My excitement grew as I read through the programme details and testimonials from GII alumni, and I discovered that it was also the first time in two years that the programme was opening up for physical travel. This meant a plethora of opportunities for firsthand global exposure! With all of these thoughts racing through my mind, I decided to apply for GII and see where it took me.

After getting into GII, I chose a Sales Development Analyst role at Devoteam G Cloud, a Premier Google Cloud Partner located in Indonesia, for several reasons. I've always wanted to explore my interests and strengths in people-oriented roles and I imagined that a sales position would be one of the closest, if not the best fit. I was also fascinated by the ever-changing technological landscape, and the opportunity to learn about Google Cloud Platform (GCP). From a macroeconomic perspective, I wanted to explore Southeast Asia's rapidly growing emerging market, particularly Indonesia which is at the forefront of digitalisation and public cloud technology.


My plans to do an overseas internship fell through

A series of events, however, caused the team to work remotely and for us to remain in Singapore, allowing us to adopt a very unique working arrangement within the APAC region. For three months, we would work from the Singapore office while collaborating virtually with the Indonesia team.


Hundreds of emails were sent, but all I received was deafening silence


What made this internship experience so starkly different and memorable was that I’d never been in a position where rejection had a direct impact on my work performance. In sales, a fundamental raison d'être of yours is to bring in meetings with prospective clients. I heard how difficult it is to persuade strangers to take the time to listen to you before starting the internship, yet I believed it was possible, especially for someone who took pride in their interpersonal skills. I couldn't have been more wrong. I sent hundreds of emails and contact points in the first month of my sales outreach efforts, only to receive deafening silence. The only consolation was a very warm CEO who responded to my message explaining the difficulties in implementing our solution and invited us to propose any alternatives.

This was the first time outside of school that I had such striking indicators that I wasn't doing well - or, in the eyes of a perfectionist, failing. When the results are laid out so clearly, numbers-driven sales, on the other hand, felt like a departure from my perception of conventional work and more akin to a report card.


At last, a glimpse of hope

Due to our regional exposure to APAC, I also had the opportunity to conduct sales outreach with the help of the Indonesia sales team. In stark contrast to the Singapore market, I was able to book a meeting with a prospective client within a week and even got to present and pitch! This presented yet another significant learning experience, a firsthand encounter with the cultural complexities and landscape nuances that exist between Singapore's relatively mature market and Indonesia's high-growth market. These distinctions necessitated vastly different sales approaches.


A shift in perspective: rejection was better than indifference


As the internship progressed, to my own surprise I actually found myself hoping for outright rejection, marking a huge shift in my perception of rejection and “failure”. A rejection now meant a response, a sign of interest or lack thereof, which was much better than indifference. With this newfound mindset, I started to view rejections as blessings to lessen my workload, and outreach attempts that were ignored as training to sharpen my engagement skills, empowering me to try out new and different techniques.


Inspired by the autonomy and drive that come with working in a startup

I was very grateful that my team and superiors gave me plenty of autonomy to experiment while still providing constant support to ensure we were on the right track. Devoteam G Cloud’s flexibility gave me a taste of what it was like to work in a startup, and it completely changed my perspective on what constitutes a productive day at work and delivering optimal performance and results. I was continually inspired and reminded of my purpose there, which is to connect people to a revolutionary technology that has a real impact on their businesses and lives.

Before starting this internship, I never imagined experiencing the thrill of the trade and radical changes in my perspectives, particularly on failure. Not only do I have a Google Cloud certification (Cloud Digital Leader) to demonstrate my newly acquired knowledge, but I'm also grateful to be immersed fully in sales - the highs, lows, and mundane.

Still, I believe this is just the first glimpse - the tip of the iceberg - into the vast world of startups and I am excited to discover what the future holds!

Yong Li

The GII programme is currently accepting applications until October 16, 2022. Learn more at


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