A year into the pandemic, Ashley Wong embarked on an internship with 33 Talent as a Human Resources and Talent Assistant. Here's what she has to say about her experience as a 33er during the back-and-forth world of COVID restrictions, large-scale government projects, and more...
I first heard about 33 Talent through “a-friend-of-a-friend” who gave a glowing review of her own internship - which is really enough to tell you about how 33 Talent works. Connections are undoubtedly important, but connections don’t matter at all if you don’t have the credentials or testimonials to back them up. My friend-of-a-friend promised that her internship at 33 Talent was an amazing experience, and I'm happy to report that my own three-month stint proved her to be right.
How was your internship impacted by the pandemic?
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic has fortunately equipped me with the necessary Work From Home skills; Zooming for work and pleasure (better to hang with friends online than not at all!), managing my previous school semester's workload online, and dealing with a sore back after sitting down for most of the day. It's hard to feel like life is normal when you wake up only to roll from your bed to your desk and then back to bed - repeating things day by day within the same four walls - so I was thirsting for some semblance of a traditional internship experience. I wanted to go to the office and interact with actual human beings in person rather than through a screen. Fortunately, I was immensely pleased when my internship kicked off 'normally' - I was able to travel to our wonderful WeWork and talk to the nice, new colleagues I'd heard a lot about. A few days later, however, this all came crashing down as Singapore re-entered into ‘lockdown’ and everyone was forced to return to their home offices. Honestly, I thought my internship was ruined!
Back to the endless grind of staring at my computer for 12 hours a day, being unsure of my productivity levels, and having people reduced to pixels on my screen...but I was surprised at how quickly these dreary expectations actually turned on its head. Despite being remote, my internship was incredibly intriguing (especially more so than my remote 'WFH' experience of the school semester) and I never actually did the same thing over and over again. Granted, my back was still sore from all the sitting.
What were your responsibilities as an HR and Talent Intern?
I joined 33 Talent at a crucial time. We were embarking on two huge outplacement projects that would train and upskill thousands of Singaporeans impacted by the pandemic, while working alongside the local government and notable multinational firms. This meant that I had the rare opportunity to observe how outplacement projects work on a larger scale, particularly in comparison to managing Human Resources for a smaller company such as ourselves. Beyond the scale and numbers alone, the nitty-gritty details of the business model and the clients' expectations were distinct information that I had to grasp quickly in order to help effectively.
Despite being an intern and therefore only a small cog in the much larger scheme of things, my contributions were never overlooked - even tiny tasks like drafting an email to a client and including a relevant scheme that could be of interest to them that I came across was appreciated. The skills I brought into the internship were also deeply valued, and as I emphasise later, I was highly encouraged to invest in areas that would also further develop my own interests.
Before coming into this internship, I was minoring in Computer Science alongside my Philosophy degree at the National University of Singapore. However, I had decided to drop out due to a lack of time before my graduation. Gemma noticed my fondness for programming after I made some tweaks on an Excel spreadsheet and encouraged our other colleagues to request my assistance with all things programming-related. This brought about my biggest pride and joy in this internship: the Coaching dashboard that I created to track 33 Talent’s Coaching sessions for one of our large-scale programs. Although I had practically no experience with Excel (everything I knew was from Google and prior experience with Python), the encouragement and support given to me by the team empowered me with ample opportunities to increase my knowledge in Excel programming - enough that I managed to attain LinkedIn’s Excel Skill Assessment badge near the end of my internship!
What takeaways do you have from your time at 33 Talent?
Taking part in these projects also meant that I got to interact a lot with the rest of my colleagues - all of whom turned out to be much less scary than my social anxiety told me they would be! I noticed that everyone is constantly brainstorming about how to improve in both their work and themselves and their pride in being a 33er actually shines through what they do. Getting to know people was easy, as I was encouraged from the beginning to use channels like Slack to shoulder-tap anyone I needed, as well as reach out and join in on anything that caught my attention. The healthy and friendly working environment enabled me to ask questions whenever I wasn't sure (being new to HR meant I was constantly asking questions), and I was met with willing answers to even the most obvious ones.
Amidst the chaos of helping manage projects like the Google Skills Ignition program and the ever-expanding business, what really struck me about the culture at 33 Talent was the emphasis on my own growth. My biweekly catch-ups with my supervisor Gemma revolved around what I was currently doing, what I enjoyed about it, and what I wanted to try more of. The question was rarely about what I needed to do more for the company, but rather what I wanted to do for it. This freedom to choose what I wanted to focus on in improving myself and the business served as my motivational catalyst to input 110% at work every day - regardless of the WFH reality and my familiar four walls.
Here at 33 Talent, people truly are at the heart of everything we do - the people we get employed, the people we employ for, and the people we employ ourselves. The care and effort that every 33er extends to each other and to the work they do immediately marks them different from any other recruitment agency (on top of the added HR Consulting and Coachingservices that we provide).
The invaluable internship experience is one that I can definitely back up my “friend-of-a-friend” on; if you’re interested in interning with 33 Talent as well, do reach out here and get in touch - you won’t regret it!