How Each Internship/Job Experience Helped Clarify My Career Aspirations
I’m a Software Developer in a Technology Consulting firm now but I honestly did not know where I’d be back when I was still a student. That said, you know what?
Every job I took since I was a youth taught me something about myself — regardless of whether it is a tech-related job
I will be taking you through each one of them (even the un-glorified ones) and how it has slowly but surely brought me closer to where I am and where I’d like to be.
I was 15~16 when I took my first job as a Banquet Waitress.
This job includes fancy walk-in balancing food on heavy glass plates on a single hand and waiting on wedding guests. The first day on my job, a customer chided me for being “slow to serve water” even when he witnessed me scalded by kettle. The same day, another reprimanded me for “not cutting the fish properly”. Guess what, I cried.
I came up with “hacks” for myself to work better since the first day — I volunteered to start walking in first with the plates so I can put the heavy plates down first. I learnt to “limit” my serving area so that I can serve my serving area customers better.
This job has taught me that F&B customers expect the quality of service. I cannot do anything about what they think or how they behave but I can be in control of the only variables which I can control.
I never cried since the first day but I’ve never felt appreciated throughout the duration as a Food & Beverage service staff.
This job has led me to understand that the F&B industry is not the place for me.
My next job was in sales at the IT fair.
IT Fair is a short term event when people purchase electronic gadgets. I remember standing through 10 AM-10 PM and needing to “rest my leg on a pillow” every night because of the soreness from standing all day. I cannot envision having a job which entails standing all day.
I also found out something about myself I never knew from this job — I could memorise technical specifications really well and I “sounded knowledgeable” (though I did not understand anything about RAM, SSD etc. then).
This job has led me to understand that I have a good short-term memory and the ability to communicate technical details.
The next job I can remember is a Sales/Beauty Assistant for a Beauty brand.
This is the first part-time job I genuinely enjoyed.
I like that customers “consult our expertise” in this line of work instead of viewing themselves as “superior”, as in the F&B business.
This job has taught me that I can get rewarded and appreciated for expertise — and this boosted my morale. I was actually looking forward to work!
Another lesson I learnt about myself is that I enjoy perks such as recurring clients because it shows that they trust my recommendations. This job has taught me that I desire to be recognised for my expertise.
I did marketing for two years full-time.
Two years was a long time and it felt even longer because it was a 5.5 days’ work week with 7 days’ annual leave. Don’t get me wrong, I would not exchange that experience for anything else in the world. It was this job which allows me to save up and live the dream of paying off my own university fee without worrying about student debt. It was also this job which led me to my first mentor, who I am incredibly thankful for.
This job has taught me that I can handle multiple things at a go, without compromising on quality. I was working on regular marketing activities (events), design and advertising (website, business collaterals) as well as market research and analytics.
This job has taught me that pure Marketing is not for me (Marketing activities get ‘repetitive’ around the year) I volunteered to work on the plethora of items mentioned above as I needed to fill my mental headspace with the non-repetitive items.
This job has taught me that I get bored when I stop learning and stop progressing — I had to ask to go on course 2 times throughout the span of 2 years oops.
My next job was attempting to implement tech in a non-tech firm
When a company’s bread-and-butter is something else and it is short-staffed with no manpower to commit to the technical implementation, it is tough to get things moving. I never actually completed my job and I still regret it today.
This job has taught me to face up to the fact that I am not an all-star player who can accomplish a major technical implementation myself.
This job has taught me that I need to be in a company which commits to using technology to elevate where it is.
Following, I was in an AI start-up as a Digital Marketer.
On top of this job further backing the hypothesis that I did not want to do Marketing anymore, I realised that I was pretty good at Project Management (Managing project timeline, features implementation timeline given the resources available, user acceptance tests, documentation, etc.) and I do enjoy it! I also enjoyed the pitch nights and networking events that a startup life includes.
However, there were many nights that I lie awake at night with one pressing question in my head: How can I do Project Management without knowing what a real Developer/real UIUX Designer goes through in their day to day job?
This job has revealed to me my knowledge gaps which I am dying to fill.
Then I did a Development internship.
I was initially extremely fearful of a development internship because I always told myself “I am not good enough”. I have always struggled in my algorithm modules but I told myself I’d need to go through this to grow as a person.
Fear became this whole mix of emotion I cannot explain with a single adjective. I relish this whole experience of looking into a problem, coming up with a suitable approach and bringing it to life. Along the way, I may stumble, I may get lost by going to a ‘wrong’ direction, but at the end of the day when the solution is fully implemented, the sense of fulfilment is unrivalled by anything else.
This job has revealed to me that I enjoy being a developer thoroughly, contrary to what I believed.
A chance at UIUX came by.
While I had always dabbled at design, I never had the chance to do it as a job and I thought to give it a shot — it also addresses my previous question to myself: How can I do Project Management without knowing what a real Developer/real UIUX Designer goes through in their day to day job?
While I enjoy designing beautiful interfaces and critiquing user experiences to make things better, none of the UIUX tasks gave me anything close to the kind of gratification programming provides.
The job has revealed to me that I enjoy UIUX, but I enjoy programming even more. I literally jumped at every opportunity to code.
It’s been a long journey, but that is exactly how I know Software Development is what I’d like to pursue at this point in time.
I did not know it from the start, Neither did I know it with just a snap of a finger.
Each internship/work experience brings me closer to my career aspiration.
Looking back, where I am right now ticked off all my (subconscious) checklist
✅ Not in the F&B industry
✅ Allows me to communicate Technical Details to clients
✅ Primarily sedentary
✅ In a field where clients consult for technical expertise
✅ Provides intrinsic motivation with “recurring PM who wants me in their team”
✅ Ability to do multiple things at a time
✅ Full of non-repetitive items — Constantly learning, constantly growing
✅ In a company where technology is their bread and butter
✅ Ability to work hand in hand with Project Managers
✅ Ability to code and build things daily
✅ Flexibility to use UIUX capabilities to refine solutions
If I’d said no to any of the opportunities I had, my journey could have steered towards some other direction — not that it’s good or bad because I firmly believe everything leads to somewhere.
I would like to leave you with an important quotation which coincides with my personal philosophy:
If you want something you’ve never had, then you got to do something you’ve never done
Think again before sticking to your comfort zone!