A Look into My Summer 2018 Internship

**Feel free to skip to the 4th paragraph to dive into the topic directly.**

A few months before my 2018 summer break, I had already set a goal for myself – to obtain work experience and to build my career profile. My parents are both entrepreneurs in their own rights, so I had heard a lot from them on how ‘fortunate’ I am to be inside the ‘greenhouse’ throughout my whole life. Perhaps I have inherited the ‘warrior gene’ (this attributes to my persistence, can-do attitude and no, it is not a resemblance of the mutated gene which causes psychiatric disorder) from my parents, my urge to prove my value eventually transformed into a real action, actively seeking for the internship opportunities overseas.

At that time, I really wanted to try something really challenging and life-changing. Although I had a certain level of marketing, management skills which I had acquired from my parents and through self-education on top of my problem solving, analytical skills from the major that I was pursuing, my job history was just a plain white field on a paper. I was fortunate enough to come across an advertisement from an agency which helps foreigners to search for placements in Japan. When I started my application, the deadline was already fast approaching. I was an engineering sophomore, so my initial choices were of course engineering related jobs. However, the agency told me that it was impossible to look for one since those fields require high language (Japanese) requirement and their stringent policy means that I would have to go for other alternatives. Since my dad is into the real estate business, I thought that by working at a Japanese real estate company, I can acquire useful insights which could be beneficial for his business.

Soon, the Japanese share house company got into contact with me and we had an interview session. They asked a few questions on my interest in real estates and my hobbies. It was more like a casual chat rather than a typical interview. (I was quite curious about why would they take me in the first place, but I later learnt that because they really needed someone who was proficient in analysing and dealing with data. For those people who are still wondering why do we engineers have a broad range of work opportunities, this is the reason.)

I packed my stuff and travelled to Japan on the 13th of June 2018. It did not take me long before I fell in love with this land of the rising sun. When I first started working at the share house company, I mainly worked on the preparation of documents, translation and correction of Japanglish. Not long after working here, I realised that no one was able to tell me about how to apply my skills to benefit the company. So, I took the initiative to perform research on my own whenever I was free and presented the results during company meetings. I was given the freedom to do whatever I wanted for the company, so there was really nothing hindering me. My boss is an open-minded person so you won’t see the typical Japanese bureaucracy here. Her strict demeanour at work is a disguise of her loving personality. We had exchanged thoughts on the problems and the challenges faced by the modern Japanese society. (She actually published a book on human reproduction, which will be given to the couples who register their marriage in the Shinjuku area. Quite an amazing achievement if you ask me.) Having talked to her a few times, I came to believe that my dream, as absurd as it may seem, could possibly be achieved if I work hard enough and have an unwavering faith in myself.

When I worked there, my company had a partnership project with an education company in Japan. Being part of the project myself, I had the opportunity to meet and also network with students from the top universities in the world. It was interesting to learn about how the universities, especially those in the US, deliver education to the students. Their burning passion and their willingness to share made them fun to talk to. One of my responsibilities was to organise events for them, and I also had the privilege to join them. We had a great night in Hakone, one of the most touristic places around two hours of train ride away from Tokyo (it has a few hot springs and traditional Japanese hotels, so I highly recommend this place if you have the chance to visit Tokyo). Being an organiser of the cooking classes, I had the chance to learn along with them on the preparation of Japanese food. Another memorable event was the Tokyo Bay Cruise, which gave us the opportunity to enjoy the night view of the Tokyo Bay area (could have taken a few good photos there, but my iPhone camera turned into a potato at night.)

When I was not at work, I often joined my colleagues in the house meetings and the BBQ events. Grilling meat gets more intense when you know you can’t screw up since everyone relies on you. (My colleague Satoru with his ‘get this thing done now’ attitude gave me lots of troubles because he would throw everything onto the same spot. That’s not barbecuing, pal!)

Throughout my time working there (in fact, I’m still working remotely for the company as a part-timer), I was more like an employee rather than an intern because I often had to give myself a goal or objective every week. I worked along with the other colleagues, overcoming countless challenges such as arranging for housing for some 180 people, planning events and solving conflicts between house residents. I was also a social media manager throughout my time there, keeping people informed about the events happening every week. I also wrote English blogs for my company as a strategy to improve the SEO of our website. My analytical skill was being put to good use as I took the initiative myself to carry out a market research for the company.

I am always interested in business but I chose to go for a major in engineering. I had no regret choosing chemical engineering over business because chemical engineering is a very versatile major and it gives me a strong foundation of logical thinking which can be applied to many areas including business. I also pick up knowledge on business management on my own by reading books (I doubt I’ll still read books on business if I had chosen to go for a major in business instead).

Alright, that’s it from me this time. My semester has already started and I’m currently eyeing on a summer analyst position at JPMorgan in either Singapore or Hong Kong. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to successfully pass all the interviews. Life is just getting busier with no sign of slowing down.

Till next time.

Abel

 

 

 

Traits of a True Leader

In an organisation, opinion is like a two-edged sword. Too little of it and you will have a non-functional group; too much of it will turn your group into something not less than ants without any direction. This is the reason why we need someone who is able to prompt a discussion within a group of people on top of being able to listen to the opinions of the people in order to make the best decision — a leader. But, to be a true leader, it certainly takes much more than being able to lead as your other capabilities are also being assessed. Let’s proceed to answer the question of the century: what makes a successful leader?

Being able to understand the strengths and the weaknesses of the team members

A leader must be equipped with a certain amount of human resource knowledge. This idea is similar to the talent management system being taught at most of the business schools. Frankly put, a good leader will have to act like a bus driver who must be able to get the right people into the right seats on the bus so that he can drive it safely and efficiently. In any organisation, a person who sits in the wrong seat is a waste of resources and time, apart from possibly deterring the right person from doing what they are good at. By not taking any action to solve the aforementioned problem, a ‘leader’ is actually being selfish because he is wasting the employee’s time and opportunity to possibly land on a more suitable job offer. Before you could even realise, your organisation would already have lost the perfect opportunity to make a major leap.

Let even the smallest voice be heard

In a team, inevitably, there will be some people who hold their ideas too dearly and they refuse to listen to the other members, especially those with a shy and quiet nature. To be able to filter out the noises and to get to know the opinions of every member before an unbiased decision can be made is something that we would expect from a true leader. If a leader is a noisemaker himself, then I would like to send my deepest condolences to the organisation that he is involved in, because this would mean that it will not be long before everything falls apart. A leader does not necessarily have to be the smartest person in a team, as long as he is willing to listen to the other people before making any decision.

Lead with an iron will, speak with humility

In the business world, a true leader needs to have an iron will to be able to convince the shareholders that he has the capabilities to deliver what he has promised. An iron-willed leader can also pave ways for the organisation and be more ‘wolf-like’ rather than ‘sheep-like’, which is essential for the survival of any organisation. On the other hand, he needs to stay humble to be respected by his teammates. A leader who speaks with humility is also more likely to show his results through his actions rather than his words. As we always say, action speaks louder than words.

Look out of the window, look into the mirror

A leader will always look out of the window when he is giving credit, and look into the mirror when something goes terribly wrong. This might seem to be counterintuitive at first, but if you really look into it, it makes perfect sense. A leader receiving credit on his own not only is despicable, but he also traded away the trust of his fellow teammates. If he credits his teammates instead, it acts just like rocket fuel, encouraging his team and motivating them to go a mile further while working for their own organisation. By looking into the mirror, a true leader will have to take full responsibility for a catastrophe even though he might not even be involved in it. By doing so, he can prove himself to be trustworthy and dependable within his organisation and this can make the good workers stay for a longer time. Right people are the most valuable assets of an organisation, to lose them is just another way of sending your organisation to its own demise.

These are a few uncommon traits which inexorably propel a common ‘leader’ to become a truly world-class leader. Jim Collins even went as far as classifying them as the Level 5 Leaders to attribute their uniqueness.

 

That’s it from me this time.

 

Talk soon,

Abel

 

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A Letter from the Generation Y to the Generation Z.

Before I start talking on this topic, I thought it’d be better for me to explain the meaning of generation Y and generation Z. The internet defines the generation Y as everyone who’s born between 1977 and 1995 while generation Z covers the rest who were born after that. I was born in 1996 and I’d say I belong to the generation Y but to be honest, there is really no clear-cut between those 2 generations. Let’s proceed to the letter:

Dear Generation Z,

We’ve all been through the stage in our lives in which we feel lost. Some of us did not manage to get out of the maze and we started doing things aimlessly, either by picking up a random subject that we’re not even interested in or by going on to pursue an idea that seems too good to be true. Sometimes, this ends quite well but most of the time, it ends in a catastrophic failure. Frustration gets onto you and you don’t feel motivated to keep on walking the path that you’ve chosen yourself and finally, you decide to give up, losing precious time, resources and efforts that you’ve put in along the journey. To save you from falling into the pit, I’ve written down some of the most common mistakes that young people make nowadays.

‘Follow your passion’ is impractical.

Now, you might be thinking that there are examples of individuals who are incredibly successful in what they’re doing and also being passionate about it. Take the founder of Facebook – Mark Zuckerberg as an example. He is passionate about Facebook and he’s operating one of the greatest companies in the world that seemed like an overnight success to most of us in its early days (More on this later on). Guess what, I’m still adamant on my statement that ‘follow your passion’ is indeed impractical. Let me ask you one simple question: What is the biggest difference between Mark Zuckerberg and a person who can code? Mark is a genius. Combined with plenty of hard work, he was able to achieve a breakthrough that rocketed him to become the next big thing in Silicon Valley years ago. The next question is, why is this relevant to my statement? To answer this, you have to first confront the brutal fact that ‘follow your passion’ rule will only work if you could be one of the best in that particular field. Otherwise, you’ll end up being mediocre in whatever you’re doing and when you’ve come to realise this, you’d have already wasted a large amount of time in it. (Though I’ve seen some people who’ve settled on mediocrity because they really love what they’re doing. I have no objection to this, but first, you’ll have to ask yourself if you’ve really tried on various things to identify your passion.)

What if you don’t know what you’re good at?

Determining something that you’re good at can take a while if you had not started trying out things early. In Mark Zuckerberg’s case, he was lucky. His family had a computer when he was young so he could find out what he was capable of doing at an early stage (Being a genius coder and has an insatiable passion for it combined with a family background advantage, a pretty lethal combo isn’t it?). Anyhow, what I’m trying to say is that if you still haven’t found out your strengths, it could be due to the fact that you haven’t tried hard enough to identify them. Go explore the world. Read more books. Talk to more people. There are endless possibilities in this world. Some people just went for one of the mainstream courses offered by the universities even though they could be one of the greatest data scientists in the world. Sadly, they would have thought that ‘data scientist’ is just two words being put together randomly from a jargon bank. That’s just how gullible some of us are that left us with no choice but to seek the others for advice.

The Asian parents.

If you’re not a doctor, an engineer, an accountant or a lawyer, then you’re a disgrace to the family. – 21st century Asian parents

American comedian Jimmy Ouyang once said: “I was an economics major. Because that’s the easiest major that would still please a foreign (Asian) parent.” To be honest, I’m one of the victims who fell into this trap. My parents started brainwashing me ever since I was 5-6 years old to become a doctor. This went on and on until I’d finished my A-Level that I’d finally decided that medicine was not what I was passionate about. I can still remember vividly that I was really interested in economics and I used to borrow books from the libraries to read about them. I also spent my free time searching for economics-related knowledge on the internet. The only difference between me and Jimmy is that my parents won’t even let me study economics. For them, it is a learn-it-yourself kind of thing. Also, I remember back in the days, I did not even have to study hard to get the highest mark in chemistry exams. I was also very passionate about it. The idea of studying chemistry at the university once crossed my mind but my parents were telling me that I’m very likely to end up being unemployed upon graduation. Left with no choice, I took a gap year to figure out what I really wanted to do and even picked up accountancy (Yeap, I took the suggestion from my parents) for around 3 months before deciding that it’s not for me. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do when the UCAS application deadline during my gap year was approaching and I risked losing the opportunity to pursue higher education. That would mean that I would have to wait for another year to apply for a place at a university. I was really afraid of losing the chance so I only did a little research and eventually choosing a course that seemed to be the closest thing to chemistry and still falls into the Asian parents’ ‘Golden Career’ category. Little did I know that chemical engineering, similar to chemistry as it may sound, is actually not quite related to chemistry. I can be a very competent chemical engineer, but I’ll never be the best. My advice is, if you really love something, go for it. There is nothing that can stop you but remember, stay within practicality. You wouldn’t want to pursue a degree that will leave you jobless. If you are not sure about how to ‘stay within practicality’, you should consult other people in the field and hear what they have to say. I’m a strong believer in self-learning and I believe that your educational background will not hinder you from doing what you want as long as you have an insatiable hunger for knowledge. you will eventually pick up the knowledge after years of learning either by reading books, observation or by practising.

“Be My Own Boss.”

First, please ask yourself these questions: how much do you know about doing business? Do you have any experience in selling products, advertising and marketing, managing a group of people, negotiating…? If you don’t, the truth is that the likelihood of you being successful right away is almost non-existent. It’s also important to know that most of the tech giants and other big companies did not strike gold straight away when they first started out. A successful business is not something that can happen overnight. Media coverage often only comes in after a company has been enduring for years to achieve greatness. This creates a false impression of those companies being successful overnight. Traits like being responsible, curious, hardworking and persistent are also very essential to the success of a business. There is a reason why most of the companies are always looking for graduates whenever they’re hiring. Graduates are presumed to have a greater sense of responsibility and they are also presumed to have useful skills which are beneficial to the companies. Afterall, a company is not an education centre which aims to educate you. Rather, it is playing a survival game with many other companies in which only the strongest one will remain in the end. A crude example of Darwin’s theory – survival of the fittest.

I chose chemical engineering blindly instead of pursuing the subject that I could possibly be the best at. Have I ever regretted this? Well, my answer is no. Although my major is not even close to chemistry in the slightest bit, it offers me the opportunity to pick up many useful skills along the way. When I had (at the point of writing this, I was still working there) an internship at a Japanese company in Tokyo, I could leverage my skills to generate greater profits and also improve the efficiency of my company. This would later help me to find out that I’m actually very talented in management and also in the corporate world, which sets the path for me to continue pursuing my MBA (Master of Business Administration) in the near future. My point is, as long as you don’t give up, your mistake could possibly be a blessing in disguise.

I hope this article can benefit my young readers and also the parents by changing their perspectives on how they view a successful individual. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. Some of the most successful businessmen did not even complete their college. Provided that you have the right attitudes, you really shouldn’t worry too much about your future.

 

Best regards,

Abel

 

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