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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