Summer Internship 2021

Lessons from my 3-month summer break

Linus Koh

8/4/2021 2 min read

shallow focus photography of red and white for hire signage

Lesson 1 : Prepare Early for all eventualities 

Lesson 2 : calculated risks and asking for better terms

Lesson 3 : Trial and Error 

Lesson 4 : An eye for the future

Securing two internships in the midst of a pandemic has been a lesson in preparation and kiasi-ism (the Singaporean phase for being overly anxious and over-preparing). I had applied during a period of change where social distancing regulations were being relaxed and covid cases were on the decline. Yet, the only constant in a pandemic is unpredictability. Soon after, cases were on the rise, a new variant had popped up and increasingly stringent social distancing rules were in force once more. Seeing some of my peers struggle to secure internships or have their internships cancelled further bolstered the point that early preparation and prudence is key if one wishes to thrive in a pandemic-ridden future. 

I had managed to negotiate a rather favourable arrangement with my employers where I would spend about two and a half months at the financial technology startup and with half a month in between to attend to my second internship in the law firm. Not to toot my own horn, but I was quite pleased by my negotiating skills, honed from the negotiation competitions, in coming to such an arrangement.

While I do not expect future employers to be as understanding and accommodating, the overall calculus in refusing to ask as opposed to asking and getting rejected is simply a price too heavy to pay.

That said, I attribute my success in being able to identify the needs of my employer and addressing them in a manner that is mutually beneficial to everyone. Had I played my cards wrongly, the outcome would have been wildly different. 

At the counsel of my professors and parents, I had decided to embark on a somewhat unconventional path in terms of the internships chosen. My decision to undertake the study of law was not the most well-informed choice, my parents did not complete secondary education and I had only briefly skimmed through what legal practice entailed prior to my interview.

The prospect of being stuck in a profession that did not pique my interest brought about a sense of existential dread that I had to expose myself to other fields before it was too late.

While my time in the law firm was enriching and extremely fruitful, it was not as exciting nor as interesting as handling regulatory issues, or sitting through the tedium of 2-3 hour long meetings drafting and re-drafting commercial and contractual clauses in the Fintech startup. Seeing the intersectionality between the legal and business needs of the company, and seeking out solutions and workarounds for the company made everyday exciting, challenging and fulfilling.  

One of the greatest perks of working and interning is having the opportunity to interact and learn from people who have had the benefit of experience and the infinite wisdom gleaned from years of praxis. One of the more memorable things my bosses told me was to keep abreast of the latest developments. She had shared me personal anecdotes of the dreaded 3Rs (retrenchment, redundancy and restructuring) and how departments and teams were eliminated completely with the advent of technology and changing demands. A sobering reminder of the constant state of flux in this disruption-filled world. However, these very changes bring about new opportunities and new demands for the next generation of makers and doers to address.

Through the doom and gloom, the irresistible conclusion simply points to the significance of ESG and its importance to the future ahead. It is with this realisation that I seek to devote my time and energy in developing my competencies in future-proofing myself.