REDHILL Internship Program

My experience working in an emerging fast-growing Communications agency — a recap and what I’ve learnt

Being born and raised in Germany, but having a Vietnamese ethnic background, I always felt like I needed to prove to everyone that a big part of my identity is indeed Asian.

With that came the urge to learn Asian languages, to read up on Asia, its beauty, its potential and its astonishing economic development over the past 15 years.

My urge to stay connected to my roots had a great impact on my career choices and it didn’t take me long to accept an internship offer by my mentor who started his own company in Singapore — REDHILL.

REDHILL was founded in 2015 and its story since then is one of growth with over 27 retained clients in various fields and markets, serving big names like Emirates, Häagen Dazs and MOTUL — just to name a few.

Here’s what I had learnt during my time in Singapore and why I think working in Asia had dramatically advanced my career in Marketing and Communications:

  1. Marketing is kind of a new concept in Asia
    Asia has a lot to catch up on when it comes to Communications and Marketing. The market, once untapped, has a huge space for growth and experimentation.
  2. With rapid development comes constant change
    It’s not the constant change that makes you grow, but the skill you master in order to adapt to the changes quickly. Growing up in Germany, I’m used to a sense of consistency. Changes take time, not least because of the German bureaucracy. Don’t expect that consistency in Singapore. Not only is construction work done from one day to another, but the public opinion, the media tenor and client’s goals might change overnight. 
    I recall staying at the office till midnight to prepare for an event the next day, rehearsing the program and perfecting Marketing material according to the client’s wishes.
    Something a German client would expect you to do? Most probably not. Something you should still be able to master? Absolutely.
  3. Diversity
    Singapore with its four official ethnic groups thriving in harmony, is the epiphany of diversity gone right. While there is a “Singaporean Identity”, each group has its own identity, community and way of doing things to be very general. 
    Also, like every Southeast Asian country, the proximity to other nations in the region resulted in cultural influences from outside to seep into the country. It is also a factor to be considered when doing business — you develop a skill of respecting other cultures, religions and views.
  4. Always under-promise and over-deliver
    This one is about client expectations. If you’re Asian, the closest comparison would be the typical Asian parents. Don’t you ever tell a client you would do something and not deliver. What works well however, is to under-promise, but then ace it — surprise them with excellence, hard work and results.
  5. I am not that special.
    Yup, my mum lied to me. And your mum probably did, too.
    What I mean is the notion I had before coming to Singapore — that I was somewhat special and that I can rely solely on me being special to succeed. To be fair, I do speak 5 languages, I’m young, graduate with a post-grad degree soon and have a global network in my field. In combination with my — to Germans — exotic outer appearance, I got an ego push whenever I shared what I do and what my background is with new people.
    My friends and family always tell me how fortunate I am, how I am so special to have a unique set of skills and that things are always easy for me, “just because…you know… you’re Tien.”
    The truth is, Singapore is a country with a lot of skilled talents, hard workers and people that are highly knowledgeable. The high standards and thus competitiveness are a result of Singapore’s strict immigration and employment laws, allowing only the best global talents to work in the country and move the economy forward.
    If you can’t actively put in the effort and stay grounded along the way, you will soon be replaced by someone with your skills, maybe even better but just more humble than you.
  6. Interning in a startup is not really interning
    I came into REDHILL as an intern, but you don’t just stay in your initial role, you assist where assistance is needed and you serve according to your client’s wishes.
    Though intimidated at first, the lean team and flat hierarchy allowed for a quick learning process and getting thrown into things just forces you to step out of your comfort zone on a daily basis.
    With the knowledge came the responsibilities and soon, I was front-facing clients all by myself, even outside of Singapore.
  7. How to manage people the right way
    While I always had a very strong connection with my mentor whom I met at TU Dresden in Germany, I also had the chance to work with Surekha, co-founder of REDHILL.
    To cut things short, I just want to say that you clearly are able to manage your employees when they themselves feel responsible for the development and growth of your business. And once they do, your business will go places.

The experiences I’ve made, the self-development and the skill to manage everything yourself in a foreign country truly makes me think of this internship as a million-dollar experience.

My time in Singapore only reinforced my notion of Asia’s fast growing economy and untapped potential. It’s time to make Asian countries shine, to bring in foreign investors and to take away people’s concerns when it comes to doing business in Asia, especially Southeast Asia.

It’s time for REDHILL to step out of its own comfort zone and become a truly global agency… and I’m excited to be a part of that.