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My Southeast Asia Ventures: Interning in Thailand taught me how to embrace flexibility and have some fun

I have always been fascinated by Southeast Asia.

Naturally, when I stumbled across an internship opportunity at 500 Tuktuks, a venture capital (VC) firm in Bangkok, Thailand, I jumped at the chance.

It was offered at the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship under the Global Innovation Immersion (GII) program at the Singapore Management University.

This was an opportunity for me to experience Thailand through a different lens that allowed me to immerse myself in the culture.

Before I interned as an investment analyst for three months from May to August of this year, my knowledge of the VC space was limited to the classroom.

Jumping headfirst into a hands-on, hands-on internship was something I longed for.

My experience with the 500 Tuk Tuk can be summed up in three points:

  1. take the initiative

Adapting to a new role can be difficult, especially if your boss is a Forbes 30 under 30 winner.

A team of 500 Tuktuks has completed multi-million dollar deals.

In my investment analyst role, I was assigned a wide range of tasks, from speaking with founders to conducting due diligence analysis on various start-ups.

The environment was dynamic and challenging given how novel these experiences were to me. Still, I enjoyed every moment.

I realized that I needed to take the initiative and participate wherever I could, helping with finer tasks or clearing up doubts.

I believed a proactive approach was the key to my personal and professional growth.

2. Be flexible and open to different work cultures

The main difference between Thailand and Singapore that stood out for me was the working culture.

Singapore has a more structured work culture that follows specific plans and timelines.

On the other hand, my experience with 500 Tuktuks was more flexible.

My team had adopted full remote work because I believe a more flexible approach would fit a job that required me to be on multiple calls on any given day.

At first, I faced the challenge of time management and how to separate work and rest.

But once I got a hold of the routine, that flexibility fueled my growth as a new hire.

I once tried to order food in Thai while out with a colleague in an effort to connect with them.

But instead of saying “ao” for the traditional “want” meaning, I said something completely inappropriate with an unintended sexual connotation!

Nonetheless, the embarrassing failure made my colleagues laugh out loud, and we developed a better relationship afterward.

Another misfortune happened during one of my first few founder meetings.

I was not yet fully accustomed to Thai greetings. It’s the wai, where you put your palms together and bow lightly, as is done when praying.

In this example, I fired my hand for a handshake while my opponent started bowing. This created a slight collision between my hand and his head.

I was pretty scared, but the founders laughed it off.

3. Learn to have fun

Easy to get sucked into the hustle and bustle of work

However, in a country as rich in culture as Thailand, it is a waste to think only about work.

I had a great time visiting places like Phuket, which is heavily touristed, and Koh Samet, an island southeast of Bangkok.

Going to Bangkok for an internship with five other friends from SMU was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Thai people are the friendliest and most sincere people you can meet and this made me love my time in Thailand more every day.

Those looking for work in the Land of Smiles will have an experience that broadens their horizons beyond Singapore.

Along the way, you’ll meet coaches and colleagues, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take that leap of faith!

About the lighter:

Adriel Tay, 23, is an undergraduate student at the Singapore University of Management, holding dual degrees in business and accounting. He is interested in startups and innovation and enjoys playing soccer in his spare time.

If you have an experience to share or know someone who would like to contribute to this series, voice [at] mediacorp.com.sg Include your full name, address and phone number.

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