Name: Neall Sarmey
Type of Project: Internship
For my STEP Signature Project, I took the opportunity to participate in a global internship that was arranged through the Fisher College of Business. During my internship, I was in Singapore interning with KPMG in their Southeast Asia headquarters working in their Management Consulting department. During my time in Singapore, I got the opportunity to fully immerse myself in Asian culture and to work for a Dutch multinational corporation in an Asia setting, which gave me a new perspective of Southeast Asian business and culture.
As a student interning in Singapore, I initially had a very difficult time adjusting to life in Singapore as a citizen and an employee. Many things about Singapore, including its very small size and feel of a non-Western country were very new to me. Although I am a native Indian and have visited other countries in the Asia continent such as India, I still found Singapore very different. I also struggled initially with confidence, as this was my first internship and, that too, with a Big 4 Auditing firm. However, as my time passed and I was fitting in at work, I was able to understand the approach that people in Singapore have in life: They put an emphasis on hard work and meaningful experience and opportunity. I saw a huge diversity in the office in terms of backgrounds, people from different work fields, etc. This gave me a better, well-rounded global view of what work was like and what business in a new country could feel like. In the United States, many people feel completely content with what they have and will act as if they have everything, but when I was in Singapore, people in KPMG in my department were always striving for the best, and were always dedicated to their work, well aware that they can accomplish more in life. Adjusting to life in Singapore was tough at first, but through various interactions at work and while roaming the country, I was able to slowly gel as a temporary resident.
Adjusting to the workplace in Singapore proved even more challenging in a variety of ways. First, I did not know what to expect as this was my first internship, so I was very anxious about my duties and what I would have to work on. Second, I was worried about whether I had enough background or whether I could learn fast enough as an intern in a limited 8 week frame. Finally, I am a Finance major and I was taking on roles in Management Consulting, so I was immersing myself in a field I had placed little emphasis on exploring in the past. However, one person who I met who really changed my perspective in my internship was my Performance Manager. As a student intern, I came in very timid and uneasy as I felt I had not learned much in school to prepare myself. However, one thing she taught me is that everything in work and life has two sides to it, one side is what you are capable of, and the other side is what you can learn. In other words, the second area, which is what you are trying to improve upon, is untapped potential. As a skeptic, I found this hard to believe, but as my internship went on, and I was assigned to 2 engagements, each relating to providing Financial Services and support for Insurance companies and Financial Institutions. I started to learn that every field in business might have something that I am capable of working on. Management Consulting was a field that I had little exposure of research completed on, but my internship gave me helpful insight into this field, and opened a door for many future opportunities.
While living in Singapore was a tough endeavor, it completely transformed my Worldview and understanding of the Globe. One thing that I noticed in the United States is that many people have certain comfort zones and a narrow-minded view of only the United States and nothing much. When I started interning in KPMG at Singapore, people have a completely different World view in that they have a huge willingness to learn and expand their World knowledge beyond Southeast Asia. I also met people in the company that were not even originally from Southeast Asia and were actually born in Europe, Australia, or the US but lived in Singapore for a long time working there. Thus, I felt glad choosing Singapore as a place to complete a global internship because I was able to expand my World view beyond the United States and get a taste of another region in Southeast Asia.
I also was able to learn a lot about myself in the workplace. When I first went to company orientation and met one of my supervisors, one thing she advised of me was to make the most out of my opportunity and use it learn more about myself. Those words sounded a bit obvious yet difficult because I was in a field that I had little exposure or knowledge about and thus, I was worried about expectations. However, when I was trying to get acquainted to the work I was doing, I often found myself completing work at a faster pace and beating the deadlines set by my supervisor. While the work I completed required little modifications as part of my client engagement projects, I often found myself bored since I had little work to do. Because of this, I often found myself seeking out others in the office and asking about extra work they needed completed or something that they wanted me to complete. Doing this, though, was a little difficult because in school, I was often used to being assigned work and always having something to work on even if I got nothing assigned in class. In the company though, I learned that I’d always have to seek out work as an intern if I finish assignments because I might sit around with very little work. While asking work, I was able to follow the words given to me by my supervisor and figure out my interests in my internship. One of my interests in consulting was regulations and controls, and I was able to explore this interest along with others in assignments I got or asked for. Overall, I learned a lot about the work environment in terms of the work pace and the company culture while in KPMG.
While KPMG always put a huge emphasis on performance, I was able to get involved in the social factor in work. The company had a recreation league with multiple sports that employees would use as a means of destressing and meeting other people. While in KPMG, I got involved in basketball, along with two other interns from Ohio State that were a part of my program. When I landed in Singapore, I did not know anybody, including the people also interning in KPMG. Through basketball, I was able to become good friends with the other interns from Ohio State while also meeting several other employees. Of course, I always kept a huge focus and emphasis on my performance and impressing my supervisor, but basketball was a great way for me to destress while also meet new people. Basketball there taught me that I should always try and seek out adventure while also making new friends when I am doing work. This is one lesson I hope to incorporate back in college so that I can complete my work but also destress and feel more confident and calm rather than being stressed.
Singapore itself as a country taught me a lot about maintaining an optimal combination of discipline and freedom in life. Singapore as a country is very strict, with penalties against littering, crossing streets without using a crosswalk, etc. In the US, there are many acts that we commit that are against the rules yet we do them since consequences are rarely handed out, but in Singapore, penalties and consequences are high for many small acts. Thus, I had to be careful and change myself completely. Another small act we practice in the US which we take for granted is chewing gum anywhere. In Singapore, chewing gum in public is illegal, which meant that I had to switch to mints instead. While these changes were not very difficult, they were a huge difference from life I lived in the United States, and this taught me a lot about keeping a discipline life and following order, which was something I was able to incorporate in work. Discipline is a very important idea that is required for success, and the high number of rules in Singapore taught me numerous lessons about discipline. Along with the rules, I also was able to realize the freedom I had. To get around Singapore, I bought a train card which allowed me to take trips all around Singapore. This then forced me to get outside of my comfort zone and explore the city to make the most use of my time in Singapore. I gained a new love of adventure and trying to be in motion rather than being stationary. This combination of freedom and discipline is one thing I seek to carry with me to Ohio State so that I can always be moving in terms of studying and achieving new things in life, yet understand my limit and the restraints to my freedom.
Overall, the changes I gained in Singapore are valuable to my life in a variety of ways. The main lesson I learned was about the way I complete and conduct work. I am a very pragmatic person who likes to look at the big picture in order to understand my assignments. When I was in my first engagement on IT and Financial Compliance with an insurance company, I would always find myself looking at the company’s style of business to understand what controls it should place on operations. This approach taught me a lot about making decisions and thus, lead to thoughtful and meaningful products that impressed my supervisor. Thus, my attention to the big picture is one valuable change for my life because it allows me to understand the context of all problems I face before I try to compile information or statistics. To me, details are useless without a solid understanding of the overall context.
Another change that is valuable in life from my internship is empathy and a willingness to help. While I was interning, I often found myself seeking out other assignments in order to occupy my time since I would often finish assignments way ahead of the deadlines I received. I started off very shy, but then had an enjoyable experience going out of my comfort zone to ask for more work. I was able to learn new skills in work, and I was able to connect with others when helping them with work that I could complete if I was bored. This willingness to seek out work taught me about empathy, which is an important skill as it allows me to connect with others in work and skill. In the end, my experience in Singapore was a complete life-changing experience that taught me a variety of lessons and completely transformed my World view, giving me the bravery and determination to conquer new challenges that wait ahead of my life.