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Having interned in several startups, Computer Engineering undergraduate Baron Chan weighs in on why hands-on experience is essential and how the SME Talent Programme for Startups can help. 

An aspiring Software Engineer and third-year Computer Engineering student at NUS, Baron Chan is somewhat of a serial intern. He has completed several internships, most recently with Glints, an online talent recruitment and career discovery platform headquartered in Singapore. This was supported by the SME Talent Programme for Startups, which matches students to startups and provides financial subsidies of up to 70% of the intern’s stipend to help young companies cope with talent costs.

The programme seeks to facilitate more internship opportunities to benefit both startups and students, which is welcomed news for Baron.

“In my field, I believe that employers would value work experience over grades,” he explained. “By actively seeking out internships, I am demonstrating a keenness to improve my technical expertise. At the same time, being an intern allows me to experience what it is like working on a production-level software, which is an opportunity that my school curriculum cannot provide. This is vital as the tech industry is constantly evolving. Practices and frameworks change rapidly and the material taught in class may not be up to date. While it is still important to learn the underlying basics in school, adapting to industry standards is equally important.”

This was the case in Glints and part of the reason why Baron believes he learnt more in his three-month stint with them than longer internships elsewhere.

“During my time with Glint, from May to July 2017, I was mainly helping out with the development of the company’s main product – the Career Discovery & Development Platform. As a relatively inexperienced developer of the platform (node.js), I was unfamiliar with the industry conventions and methods. Thankfully, my colleagues in the tech team were there to give sound advice whenever I encountered obstacles. They were also very open to my suggestions when I had different ideas on how certain features could be designed and implemented,” he shared.

“I also loved how the whole company seemed like a family and close to each other. As the office was in a revamped landed property, it literally made me feel at home with them. The company even brought all us interns along for a retreat in Malacca – something I did not expect! I thoroughly enjoyed the trip with them.”

While Baron does not limit himself to internships with startups, he does find himself gravitating towards the startup environment.

“In startups, you are forced to learn many things as the roles are often not as clearly defined as compared to larger companies. Many startups also do not have the luxury of having a set of internal tools to deal with issues, so you have to be prepared to try out new and unconventional ways to resolve them. Teams are lean, which means your colleagues and superiors are there to help but they won’t micro-manage. As an intern, you have both autonomy over, and accountability for, your tasks. It takes a strong sense of responsibility, an open mind to challenges and a willingness to learn to thrive in this environment, but the experience is immensely rewarding and deeply enriching.”

Whether you’re a student looking for an internship opportunity or a startup in need of talent, the SME Talent Programme for Startups can help! Students and startups are both welcome to apply. Eligible startups can look forward to a 70% subsidy on their intern’s stipend to help offset talent costs.


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