The inaugural NOC SE Asia Experience: with James and Jerome

James is third from the left (back row), Jerome is second from the right (middle row).

This summer holiday, 15 NUS students embarked on the inaugural NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) Southeast Asia programme, where they spent 3 months immersed in Indonesia’s vibrant and rapidly expanding start-up scene. Here, we catch up with Computer Engineering and Innovation & Design (double major) student James Arista Yaputra and Business student Jerome Lim, to find out more about their experiences. Both James and Jerome just completed their first year when they embarked on the programme!

First launched in Indonesia, the NOC SE Asia programme is specifically targeted at developing innovative solutions to challenges faced by Southeast Asian companies, and cultivating entrepreneurial talents familiar with and capable of operating within the region.


Tell us more about the start-up that you worked with

James: I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to work in GO-JEK, the first and largest unicorn start-up in Indonesia. GO-JEK started off as a motorbike ride hailing company, but has since expanded to various markets such as logistics, fintech and lifestyle. During my time in the company, I worked in the Fraud & Risk department, which is responsible for identifying, preventing, and suppressing any form of fraudulent activities happening within the entirety of GO-JEK’s platform - which spans 18 different products. My role as a software engineering intern revolved around providing support to the engineers whenever needed. I had the chance to contribute in various projects undertaken by the company, which proved to be very fruitful.

It gave me valuable insights to many different aspects of the organization.

Jerome: From late May to early August 2018, I interned at Wonderlabs in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Wonderlabs helps companies build and operate software development teams in Indonesia. Group-wide, their operations also include services such as recruitment, and food. Within Wonderlabs, I was first involved in conceptualising the strategy and framework behind their Training & Development programme, as well as to help with optimising other internal Human Capital processes. After those took projects off, I sought to gain further exposure by immersing myself in understanding and enhancing pre-existing procedures for Finance and Operations, and developing new processes. Through such situational analysis, I also honed my interpersonal skills and usage of e-learning and accounting software.

Note: Wonderlabs is co-founded by an NUS alumni, and supported by NUS Enterprise

GO-JEK’s Fraud Team. James is the fourth from the left, while another NOC intern, Dong Yunfan, is fifth from the left. Photo from James.

When you’re not working, what else have you been doing during your time in NOC SE Asia?

James: Even though I’m Indonesian, I spent most of my life living in Sumatra; Java was a rather unfamiliar place to me. So I took the time to explore various parts of Jakarta and the surrounding cities. Throughout the 3 months on NOC, I’ve explored Jakarta, Tangerang, which is a city westwards of Jakarta, and Bandung, which is about a 3-hour train ride away from Jakarta.

Since Indonesia is such a huge country, one city is simply not representative of Indonesia as a whole, so it’s always worth the time to explore different parts of the country to experience first-hand the difference in culture between cities and regions. I constantly find myself discovering new things about Indonesia, despite being an Indonesian myself.

Jerome:

The beauty of being in a different environment is the capacity to push myself beyond my comfort zone.

Personally, this included making new friends, taking the effort to understand the local culture, and being open-minded and ready to learn and try different tasks. This holds true not only in the workplace, but also when I had the opportunity to travel to Bandung, the outskirts of Yogyakarta and its different regencies.

Can you share with us what you found most meaningful during your time at NOC SE Asia?

James: My most meaningful and impactful experience in the programme is having the chance to have my work impact the millions of people that use GO-JEK’s products.

I got to see how my decisions affected the team, the company and most importantly, the users — which was very empowering.

Jerome: Being in a different environment in NOC SE Asia for 3 months provided me the room to seek out communities to pursue varied interests. Activities included trekking, badminton, and a memorable sharing with Indonesian students about Singapore at a local Madrasah*, with a fellow speaker from Yemen. Indeed, interacting with both Indonesian locals and international people has allowed me to grow — to find out more about the world around me, broadening my horizons. Particularly, the heightened knowledge of local cultural norms in Indonesia and Yogyakarta has given me a better understanding, to be able to relate to what I see in the workplace, such as the focus being largely on the present, and the strong preference for close and harmonious interpersonal relations.

* Madrasah is a college for Islamic instruction

Sharing session by Jerome at a local Madrasah. Photo from Jerome.

How would you say you’ve benefited from the whole NOC SE Asia experience?

James: Having just completed my first year of studies in NUS before embarking on this programme, it is fair to say that I really lacked the knowledge and skill set one might expect from someone who is working in the software engineering industry. NOC SE Asia provided me with not only the opportunity to learn and hone my skills, but also the opportunity to experience first-hand what is it like to be working in the industry, in a well-established company like GO-JEK, at such an early stage of my course in NUS. I don’t think any other programme in NUS would have been able to provide me with this opportunity.

Jerome: Definitely from the close mentorship in Wonderlabs provided by the co-founder, Keith, as well as the VP, Syaipul. I was able to gain the exposure, to get first-hand perspectives of the business and how they manage, drive and grow it. Furthermore, NOC SE Asia has provided me an invaluable opportunity to adapt to a working environment and local culture starkly different from Singapore.

By identifying these differences, it has refined my mindset and honed my skills, encouraging me to continue trying and tackling problems head-on.

With such an exposure, the whole NOC SE Asia experience has been a truly unique one in NUS.

What should juniors expect when they come onto the NOC SE Asia programme?

James:

I think anyone who partakes in the SE Asia program should expect to be challenged in all manner of ways, not only in the workplace, but outside as well.

The culture in Indonesia, whether be it the work ethics or social norms, is very different from Singapore’s, so you always have to keep the local context in mind in whatever situation you might find yourself in throughout the duration of the programme. Also, since Indonesia is very rich and diverse country, it’s always worth the time to immerse yourself within the local culture. Try out traditional dishes, take a GO-JEK ride to work, go visit a night market; there’s so many things you can do Indonesia, so long as you make the effort to explore.

Jerome: Come with an open mind and open heart, and Carpe Diem.

NOC SE Asia Batch 1 during our visit to Institut Teknologi Bandung/Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). Photo from James

Check out more photos of NOC SE Asia on Instagram @NOCseasia!


With the invaluable experiences gained from working with start-ups, the inter-cultural friendships forged and not to mention all the tantalizing cuisines, there are just so many reasons to come on-board the NOC journey. NOC Recruitment is now open - apply before 31 August 2018!