Hello! My name is Natalie Ma. I am a senior at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), United States, double majoring in International Business and Business Administration with a concentration in Operations and Supply Chain Management. This post will be about my experiences during my virtual global internship at Variantz – Singapore and what it has been like balancing work, school, and life.
At CSUF, I had two amazing opportunities to study abroad in Mexico and China. Since those experiences had such huge impacts on my personal and professional development, I knew I wanted to continue to have global experiences. I became an ambassador for my campus’s study abroad office so I could help students with reaching their goals, and it later made me want to travel again. However, as with every other student, my plans to study abroad again were foiled because of COVID. I thought my chances of doing anything abroad related were done.
After speaking to my study abroad advisor on campus and doing more research about virtual internships, I found CIEE and realized that the virtual global internship would be perfect for me. Virtual internships were still a new idea to me, so I was a little skeptical at first but then I told myself to try it out and see where it takes me.
I was offered to be a part of the Variantz team in Singapore. It is a smart technology company that focuses on using data and technology to improve consumers’ daily lives. Before the interview for this company, I was open to any sectors because I felt that it was best to keep an open mind. My interview with Philip Seow, the founder of Variantz, took place at 11PM for me while it was 3PM the next day for him. Right away, I was very excited to see what was to come. The international experience that I would gain was part of my goals. The company’s values and culture aligned with what I was looking for in a company: leadership, innovation, and collaboration.
Instead of being just an intern at Variantz, my teammates and I were each given different titles based on our skillset and experiences. As the Lead in Product Marketing, I am responsible for developing market strategies for products and services. Along with that, I get to explore my creative side with social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Technology and social media were never my forte, but it was been fun and challenging exploring both areas. I am leading my team as well as learning from my teammates throughout this experience. I also have my own project where I oversee developing a strategy for the launch of a product in Singapore. The most challenging tasks have involved looking at the bigger picture when creating a strategy and figuring out the how and why for our plans. However, in just a few weeks, I’ve already felt like I gained so much knowledge and experience.
Never would I have thought that I would be doing a virtual internship. With the pandemic, I was already taking classes online, but I did not know what to expect with a virtual internship. Working virtually and globally at the same time has been such an interesting and challenging experience that I have enjoyed so much. What I really like about this opportunity is that I am gaining and improving so many skills even though I am at home. I struggled in the beginning of the internship because of the time difference and working from home is different from attending classes.
I was able overcome them by working on my time management and communication skills. Next, I had to change some of my habits. Since I am home, getting distracted can be very easy. My working time is not monitored, and I basically can work at any time that I deem most convenient. There is no separation between my workspace and my room because they are the same thing, so self-discipline and finding the golden hours for work are keys for success in this internship. Working around the time zone differences is just another part of this internship that I had to adjust to. Besides the fact that Singapore is 16 hours ahead, it also means that my assignments and tasks should be done at least a day ahead to keep up with the time. It takes strategic planning and cultural understanding to figure out what time is the best to post across platforms and countries.
The amount of work and time that I have spent has allowed me to apply my knowledge gained from classes to the work I am doing. To me, that is one of the most exciting parts of this experience. Learning and doing projects in school is widely different from what I am doing now. This is a professional setting where my decisions and efforts make a difference for an established company. Another aspect of this experience that I like is working with different people from other areas of the world whom I also get to learn from. My leadership skills have been put to the test, and I feel like this is the perfect timing to see what I am capable of and what I still need to work on.
Doing this virtual internship exceeded my expectations. There are valuable skills that I get to improve on and sharpen. Besides launching a product and a service, I am also learning about the Singaporean culture and the differences between that and the United States. Virtual internships and working from home are the new future, and I am very grateful to have this opportunity to venture into this new way of life. There is a different set of skills needed in this internship to succeed, and I think that it could be applied any of my future endeavors.