Internships Part 2: Takeaways, Tips and Tricks

By Kavya Aggarwal

Previously, U-Insight sat down with two engineering undergraduates who had just completed their summer-long stints at different companies. They shared their tips and tricks about securing internships and opened up about the struggles of working in a new environment especially during a worldwide pandemic. Similarly, in this article, we reached out to Sean and Gong Qi to speak with us.

This is Part 2 of a series of articles featuring internship experiences. You can read Part 1 here.

No exams, no stress? Apparently not. Sean keeps it real as he discusses a working engineer’s life…   

Shee Thoo Jun Hao, Sean, a Year 3 Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) student, was a Robotics Intern at ST Engineering. His project scope involved using camera images for localisation, mapping and detection in autonomous driving. He was responsible for using the obtained images to write appropriate code for test cases in object detection and working with the ROS (Robot Operating System).  

Q: Did you rely on InPlace to secure your internship? 

A: In my case, I saw a job advertisement posted by ST Engineering while researching for a module assignment. I was already interested in their projects. It just so happened that the company offered the same thing at InPlace too. As I had my resume and documents ready, I immediately applied for two separate projects with ST Engineering. I received a call within a week or so and went to their offices for the interview which was conducted by a panel comprising three members.  

QHow did you find the interview experience? 

A: To be honest, the job description did not contain a lot of information. During the interview, my interviewers elaborated more on the job, asked questions that tested my technical knowledge as well as got to know me better. In the end, they asked me to choose between the two projects I had indicated my interest in.   

QDo you have any tips for candidates interviewing for technical jobs? 

A: Know your subject area. Job advertisements don’t really cover a lot so try to research more prior to the interview. Be honest and curious – don’t hesitate to ask more questions to find out about future projects because you will potentially be spending a lot of time there. It’s good to clear your doubts and know if the work being offered interests you or not.  

Q: What were some takeaways from this internship? 

A: Be curious and learn as much as you can. Also, be open! An internship is a great learning opportunity. Lastly, be observant. Your supervisor likely has accumulated years of industry experience. Observe their work and the office environment in general.  

QWhat was the best thing about working an entire semester? 

A: Other than a break from exams? The change in focus of learning was refreshing. Instead of learning general things, I was learning skills which were more specific to the project and the industry. 

Q: On the same note, were there any less pleasant experiences? 

A: At university, you can make mistakes during exams. It only means you need to study harder for finals. But out there in field, it’s like an exam everyday where it is no longer about punching numbers into the calculator. As an intern, you are putting yourself out there, representing yourself as well as your organisation. A mistake may seem small but can have bigger effects. This may not be a nice thing to hear but it is a sobering sentiment that opened my eyes to the realities of interning. You aren’t studying everyday, you are being tested everyday.  

QAny tips for those eager to gain industry experience? 

A: If nothing catches your eye on InPlace, you should take the initiative to source for internships yourself. If you are stressed about writing cover letters or preparing necessary documents, there are a lot of resources at your disposal. Approach career coaches to seek for tips on resume writing and interview tips. For instance, there is also CommCube, a free appointment-based service extended to all NTU students to improve their written and oral communication skills at the Hive.  

Looking to intern in the focus area of your minor? Next up, we have Gong Qi Hew, a Year 4 Environmental Engineering student with specialisation in Civil and Infrastructure. Gong Qi shares his experience as a Professional Intern under the Urban Development Civil Engineering (UDCE) Department with Meinhardt Singapore. 

Gong Qi Hew interned with Meinhardt Singapore, where he accumulated valuable experiences in the field of his minor.

Gong Qi interned under an organisational supervisor in a managerial role. When he came to know about Gong Qi’s major as an EE student, he initially gave him work that required lesser technical knowledge in Civil Engineering. However, soon afterwards, when the company saw that he was capable of more, they involved him in their major civil design project work as well. Other than that, Gong Qi also assisted in conducting the review of LTA projects and civil infrastructural maintenance projects. Such reviews are conducted to ensure projects comply with the statuary engineering board requirements and codes.   

Q: How did you secure your internship? 

A: I first came across this opportunity via InPlace. I was quite interested and applied immediately. Although I am studying Environmental Engineering, I am keen to pursue a career in Civil Design and I am specialising in this area. Based on my application, I was offered the internship. Within Civil Engineering, one can specialise in Civil Design, Civil Infrastructure and Management, and Civil Construction. As I do not major in Civil Design and had not finished all appropriate modules, I was reassigned to their UDCE department. Despite that, the work I did was enriching and adds value to my career goals.  

QWas your work affected by COVID? 

A: Up until April 2020, I was reporting to the office. However, with the onset of Circuit Breaker, I switched to working from home. I found it hard to work remotely online – I felt it was less efficient. Personally, I prefer working in the office where the presence of my supervisor and interaction with different colleagues motivated me to learn. Additionally, during Circuit Breaker, I couldn’t attend on-site visits where company divisions will gather to collectively discuss the project goals. You can’t just visualise how to design a building by sitting in the office. You must go outside, analyse the environment and the topography. 

Q: What were your key takeaways from this experience?  

  • Looking back, I felt that I had not paid enough attention at certain times. I wish I had treated this internship more seriously.  
  • Moving forward, I will try to engage more with seniors. They may have a different perspective and significantly more experience in the field. I could have invested more in receiving their insights on subjects I don’t know much about.  
  • Being self-motivated is helpful. It encourages one to keep working and not get lazy.  

QAny advice for your juniors? 

  • Try to choose an internship where the role aligns with your future career goals. For instance, although my major is in Environmental Engineering, I am passionate about Civil and Infrastructure and made efforts to improve my knowledge in that field.  
  • Start early. Self-source as per your interest, apply directly to roles that appeal to you. Don’t wait until the last minute or rely only on InPlace.  
  • If you have the capacity to do so, try to take up more than one internship. It will allow you to experience work in different roles.