PHOTO:Sylvia Chin
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Why did you want to intern in Sumitomo Electric?

I wanted to become a global intern in Sumitomo Electric because it encompassed many things that I love and feel excited about.

This internship is held in Japan. This fact held two points of significance for me. First, it means I will get a new perspective of Japanese culture, a culture that I have become increasingly interested in during my time in university. Second, a global internship program means that many students from all over the world will congregate in one area together over a good period of time. I really liked the concept and wanted more exposure to people from all over the world with different backgrounds. Each person brought with them a unique snippet of their culture and there was just so much to learn from everyone.

Another reason was to make use of the psychology education that I had and felt passionate about.

What do you do in the internship?

The major responsibility of this internship in the Human Resources Development Department was to interview non-Japanese employees and to contemplate how Sumitomo Electric could boost diversity. It was truly insightful to hear non-Japanese employees from various parts of the world share their views about lives in Japan and gain awareness about the problems that they face currently as well as during their transition periods. Finally, thinking about their problems and coming up with feasible solutions to them also proved challenging yet definitely very fruitful. My main contribution was suggesting various forms of cross-cultural training for both incoming/outgoing expats as well as global mindset training for Japanese employees to prepare the Sumitomo Electric workplace for incoming diversity. I was really happy to bring a psychological perspective to Sumitomo Electric's efforts for diversity.

What has been the most interesting you have learned in this internship?

One of the most interesting things I have learned during this internship is about “Change Management” and just how complex it is for an organization on the scale of Sumitomo Electric. Because my place in Sumitomo Electric is not only to promote change, but change itself, the imperative of change was really a central theme of my experience here. There were multiple times during the internship when the pointers I brought up were countered with explanations of the unique cultural background of Japan. I feel that this concern is a really valid one. As such it really got me wondering “How much should Japan change? How much of its unique cultural background does it need to hold on to? Would it still be “Japan” if all the suggestions I was making were implemented? How can Japan open itself up to diversity and survive in a world of flattened borders whilst still retaining its cultural identity?”

How can the internship help shape your career?

First, it helped me realize what I want and don't want in a career and in my future work climate. I gained these realizations from a mix of both personal experiences in Sumitomo Electric and also from conversations with kind, experienced people.

I think this internship was great for me in that it gave me a lot of freedom to do what I deemed fit when it came to each task I was assigned with. Because of that, I was really able to make use of a lot of my psychology education background in the feedback and suggestions I gave. This helped me realize that I was not ready to become a generalist after graduation, and that I definitely wanted a job that made full use of my psychology background. To be honest with you, there were also things that were missing during my time here. But I think these areas of mismatch was actually really helpful in realizing what was missing and important to me ? and to look out for it in my future career.

As a psychology student whose interest is in industrial and organizational psychology I was really elated when I met someone in HR who actually did psychology in university and went on to do a PhD in IO psychology. I had the opportunity to converse multiple times with this person, and he was kind enough to offer me really helpful advice regarding my career options.

Second, I think this internship helped open my mind to the world outside of Singapore, and also helped me grow my multi-cultural competencies. Just prior to starting my internship in Japan, I actually did a semester exchange in a university in America. I think the cultural differences amongst three places (Singapore, America and Japan) really helped to train me to interact with people of diverse backgrounds, values, ways of communication, and so on.

PHOTO:Sylvia Chin

A message to students who consider participating in the internship.

Do it! Jump out of your comfort zone and just go for it. If you are reading this interview transcript right now, it probably means you are already a little bit curious about working abroad anyway. Why not explore that tiny bit of curiosity? You'll never know where it may lead you to in the future.

I think this internship is an amazing opportunity. It gives us young people in our twenties an opportunity to step out of our comfort zone, fly away to a foreign land to learn more about the world beyond our home countries. We are expected to bring insights from the fields we are passionate in and are given guidance by professionals even as we falter.

When you are here, challenge yourself! Professionally and socially. Remember that “this too, shall pass” and that you can only grow through the opportunities to make mistakes and grow from them. You are in a foreign land anyway, why not step out of your comfort zone and experiment with your capabilities and personality.

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