“Wait, you worked this summer?”
It may come as a surprise to some that amidst the amazing experiences and adventures to new places, I did in fact have a full-time internship this summer. I likely refrained from writing about working in Singapore before because I did not work for a Singaporean firm, but I still learned so much both in and out of the office that I think is worth sharing… or maybe I’m just feeling sappy on my last day in the office.
Either way, working abroad has had major takeaways like learning how to be adaptive and understanding how to work on a team where no one shares the same culture. As I mentioned before, the company I worked for – Aimia, a loyalty and analytics company – was not Singaporean, but rather Canadian, which meant its corporate structure was much flatter and its culture more laid back. Through conversations with Singapore natives, I came to learn that a traditional Singaporean company is very hierarchical with little room for a work-life balance. Though I can’t speak to this first-hand, this likely means working long hours, contributing less in meetings, and not leaving the office until your boss leaves.
This was not my experience at all. Instead, Aimia challenged me to come up with new ideas for the company, offer insights whenever I could, and ask questions. I really felt like they wanted me to learn as much as possible during my time with them, and the best way to do that was to be a sponge and absorb as much as I could. Keeping an open mind, I was able to work on various projects across 4 different teams, which really kept me on my toes. This, in combination with adjusting to the new city, new people, and new food of Singapore, helped me embrace a “go-with-the-flow” attitude, which will be useful in positions at fast-paced, evolving companies.
My office was also incredibly diverse, which I like to think is simply a result of being located in Singapore. Oftentimes when I walked into a meeting, there were not even 2 people in the room who were from the same country – everyone was different. Different cultures meant different expectations when it came to how to behave in the professional setting. This further refined my ability to adapt to different situations and adjust my behavior depending on who I was working with.
All in all, working abroad is an experience like no other that offers you the chance to apply your knowledge in a completely new environment and walk away with more insight than you ever could have imagined. You will also develop heightened cultural intelligence, which is increasingly important in the workplace and everyday life, and not necessarily something you will be able to do as well working from home.