GII Feature: Rae-Anne, Samuel, Hui Li, Bryan
Tuesday Oct 10,2023 | IIE News
Great Wall, Great Opportunity
Buckle up for a delightful journey and join us as we embark on a summer adventure discovery, with four passionate SMU undergraduates in the heart of China's innovation hub! Meet trailblazing Tay Hui Li in Beijing, and Rae-Anne Ho, Samuel Yeo, and Bryan Tan who conquered Shanghai. What pearls of wisdom did they collect along their journeys?
Join us as we dive into their incredible China immersion and discover how GII played a pivotal role in their extraordinary personal and professional growth!
How did your GII overseas internship challenge your preconceptions about the industry or culture you were exposed to?
Rae-Anne: I previously had zero experience in the VC/startup landscape and had even less interest in working in China; I had always thought the nature of the work would be too dull and technical for my liking, and that I wouldn’t mesh well with the culture there. My GII experience completely changed my attitude towards both these things; the dynamic world of venture capital and startups promises that there is never a dull day at work, and being a global financial hub, the people in Shanghai hail from all walks of life and are incredibly interesting to learn from. I’ve now come to appreciate the abundance of innovative ideas and opportunities that exist in the global marketplace, and the diversity of people I’ve met during my time abroad.
Hui Li: Naturally I felt some apprehension, as China has been known to have a 996 culture for work, and I was expecting the work to be harsh and tiring. However, my colleagues and supervisors in my office really took care of me, so when it came to work, we would ensure that the job would be done well. When it was time for rest and relaxation, we would exchange good conversations and stories.
Bryan: I have the privilege of interning at XNode 创极无限, an accelerator that specialises in cross-border growth and development. XNode supports companies from abroad as they thrive and expand in the vibrant Chinese market and ecosystem, while assisting China-based companies in exploring opportunities in overseas markets. It's truly an incredible opportunity for me to be part of this programme and learn from some of the brightest minds here.
In what unexpected ways did your time abroad influence your personal and professional growth?
Rae-Anne: I believe I’ve become more confident in the way I communicate and present myself in professional settings. Working in a diverse international team required me to become a more effective and empathetic communicator, and I believe that enhancing my cross-cultural communication and interpersonal skills has made me a better team player and leader.
Samuel: My adaptability, resilience, and cultural sensitivity. I learned to navigate new situations and communicate effectively in a multicultural environment, skills that have proven invaluable.
Hui Li: I gained more confidence and also in trying new things. Being abroad, it means looking out more for yourself, and having less help from the people around you, which helped me realise that I am more resilient, resourceful and capable than I thought that I was. Navigating in a foreign environment while managing work responsibilities, whilst discovering a new culture requires a higher degree of organisation and efficiency. As a result, I developed a more structured approach to managing my time, prioritising tasks, and meeting deadlines. This improvement in time management has continued to serve me well in my professional life, enabling me to stay on top of responsibilities and meet work-related goals effectively.
Can you share a specific instance where you had to adapt to a cultural difference during your overseas internship, and how it impacted your perspective?
Rae-Anne: In China, the use of contactless payment like WeChat Pay or Alipay is incredibly prevalent; in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a place that accepts cash. Moreover, the society seems to have adapted seamlessly to this; even common streetside merchants and the elderly face no trouble with online transactions. I was impressed by how China’s infrastructure has developed to accommodate the sheer size of its population.
Samuel: The work culture in China requires me to take meetings at irregular hours, and this required an adjustment. It taught me the importance of respecting local norms and the need to have flexibility when it comes to working hours.
Hui Li: Despite being proficient in Mandarin and being able to hold a conversation well in daily life, speaking business Mandarin was a struggle for me especially the technical terms used in digital marketing. This lapse of knowledge frustrated me, as I was not able to express my ideas well in the language. I decided to spend some time watching the company's videos and making notes in Mandarin, as well as reading product notes from the marketing director. These were time consuming and tedious, but ultimately helpful and rewarding when I was able to come up with better ideas and hold discussions with my supervisor using technical terms and business Mandarin which I learnt.
What unique insights did your mentor provide that you believe would have been hard to obtain without this international experience?
Samuel: My mentor shared some unique insights into emerging and developing market dynamics and consumer behaviour. These insights would have been challenging to obtain without the on-ground experience and the mentor's guidance.
Hui Li: I was asked by my mentor, what would I do if I was given another chance to start over? I’d think about my goals and achievements from the beginning, reaching out to more people across departments and having better time management.
How did the blend of diverse backgrounds and perspectives among your fellow interns enrich your learning and understanding?
Rae-Anne: The interns I met had a wealth of global experience. Many I met were Chinese nationals with overseas education who shared unique perspectives that opened my eyes to the endless opportunities I have yet to explore as an undergraduate. They have big ambitions and even more gumption to pursue them, which I greatly admired. Being in Singapore, it sometimes feels like one can get too caught up in its competitiveness, and lose sight of bigger goals in life.
Samuel: The interns I worked with brought a multitude of fresh ideas and approaches to problem-solving skills. It broadened my horizons and encouraged me to think more creatively.
Hui Li: Everyone I have met on this journey have played an instrumental role in my growth, learning, and overall enjoyment of this adventure, and for that, I am immensely grateful. So many individuals have made my trip not only possible but also incredibly enjoyable.
Reflecting on your time abroad, can you pinpoint a moment that significantly shifted your career aspirations or life goals?
Rae-Anne: I recall the other GII interns and I having a meal with a Singaporean professional who had worked in China for over a decade. He spoke passionately about witnessing China’s development over the years and of the unique position that Singaporeans have that gives them an edge in the professional world. Moreover, my own time there allowed me to immerse myself in the fast-moving trends of the Chinese consumer market, which I found to be incredibly exciting. These realisations inspired me to consider China as a viable location to pursue a global career.
Samuel: When I had the opportunity to be involved in the deal flow of investing in a particular startup. It ignited my passion for venture capital investing and made me more determined to eventually explore a career in the venture capital or startup ecosystem.
Hui Li: My experience has renewed my perspective on startups, China and Digital Marketing. I also learnt a lot about myself and overcame my great fear of riding a bicycle!
Bryan: I can't identify a precise moment; instead, the transformation occurred gradually during my time in Shanghai. Coming from a tech background, I initially believed that technology was the sole driving force behind a company's success. However, my experience with the GII internship dramatically reshaped my career vision.
During my time with XNode, I had the opportunity to work in a diverse and dynamic environment where I was exposed to various projects within the innovation department. This experience broadened my perspective and made me realise that technology is just one piece of the larger puzzle that keeps a company's engine running smoothly.
As a result of my GII experience, my career vision has evolved to encompass a more holistic view of business. I now recognise the need for a multifaceted skill set that combines technical expertise with a strong understanding of business strategy, market dynamics, and interpersonal skills.
How did you leverage the skills and knowledge gained from your overseas internship to overcome a subsequent challenge in your career or studies?
Rae-Anne: I gained skills such as adaptability and cross-cultural communication, which have enabled me to collaborate effectively with diverse teams. This has been a distinct advantage in my academic and professional endeavours; for instance, I can deliver presentations more confidently, whether for group projects or internships, and I believe I’ve also become a better team player in the ExCo of the CCAs I participate in.
Samuel: By effectively applying my cross-cultural communication skills and global perspective to projects and collaborations in my coursework.
Hui Li: My experience taught me to take things as they come, to be patient and compassionate with myself while reflecting on situations and solutions. Also, never be afraid to ask for help!
Bryan: My overseas experiences allowed me to cultivate vital soft skills, encompassing the art of effective event moderation, adept networking, and seamless collaboration within diverse teams. These competencies not only enriched my professional acumen but also elevated my capacity to navigate the complexities of the entrepreneurial and business landscape.
Following the culmination of my GII internship, I was given the opportunity to be the role of a moderator on GII Connect x RVLT Fireside Chat. This event was held on 11 September 2023, coinciding with the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan (LKYGBPC) Blaze Week, organised by SMU IIE. Additionally, I seized the opportunity to reconnect with my former internship host, XNode, during the International Entrepreneurship Week 2023 which took place at The Greenhouse on SMU campus, where XNode collaborated with another GII-affiliated employer, neoBay for a panel discussion. These experiences served as platforms to apply and further enhance the soft skills I had developed during my overseas internship.
Throughout these experiences, I honed essential soft skills, including effective event moderation, networking prowess, and the ability to collaborate seamlessly with diverse teams. These opportunities not only added depth to my professional skill set but also heightened my proficiency in navigating the intricacies of the entrepreneurial and business environment.
Looking back, what elements of your GII overseas experience do you believe uniquely prepared you to thrive in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world?
Rae-Anne: My GII experience has equipped me with practical knowledge of international business, a global perspective, and the ability to adapt and communicate in different cultures and work environments. I believe these skills and insights are particularly essential for personal and professional success in today's increasingly globalised world.
Hui Li: Reflecting on this experience, I've found myself challenged to capture its entirety in a single LinkedIn post. Even so, these past three months in Beijing have been truly remarkable for me—rich, fulfilling, and brimming with excitement and novelty. All these experiences are all part of a set of core memories that I will hold on to and treasure for a long time.
Bryan: The GII Internship experience has opened doors for me to the innovation & entrepreneurship space like never before!
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