Gladwin Lam tells us why he pursued an internship at e-commerce site Shopee, and how SUTD prepares students for the tech world.
Flexible working hours, sleep pods, and even free dinners and massage services – these are some of the perks of working in a trendy e-commerce outfit like Shopee.
Perks aside, what drew Gladwin Lam to the world of online shopping for his four-month summer internship was the challenge of working in the fast-paced, competitive online retail sector.
“I wanted something related to technology, but something fun as well!” says the 23-year-old from the SUTD-SMU Dual Degree Programme in Technology and Management.
Gladwin started thinking hard about his career options after attending a compulsory career workshop in year 2. He felt that a position that required a mix of technical and business skills was what he wanted.
As a business intelligence intern at Shopee, he analysed data on buyer demographics, popularity of items, and the effectiveness of keyword search on Shopee’s website. He also recommended strategies to other teams based on these data. Given the keen competition in the e-commerce world, effective use of data is key to gaining and retaining customers.
“I like the challenge in trying to develop strategies to win customers over from other platforms as well as converting new users onto the platform,” he says. “It is a good mix of both engineering and business knowledge, which is in line with what I am doing in school.”
He enjoyed a lot of autonomy even as an intern. “I didn’t need to report to my supervisor on the progress of my work all the time. They had the confidence that I would be able to manage and complete my tasks before the deadlines,” he recalls. “I could book a meeting room and organise meetings with the respective teams and I attended business development and marketing team meetings alone.”
(And yes, he did enjoy some of the staff perks at Shopee too. On the days when he had to work till late, he tried out the free dinner service. He recommends the ayam penyet.)
Gladwin credits the technical training at SUTD for preparing him for his internship role. There were around 100 interns from other universities, who took up roles mostly in human resource, business development and operations. Though there were just three interns from SUTD, they were all in data-related positions.
“I think our programming skills really give us an advantage over the other students from other universities,” he says.
“The Freshmore terms in SUTD exposed me to the world of programming, and I learnt Python in the Digital World module. Even though I mainly used SQL instead of Python at Shopee, what SUTD had taught me was the approach in picking up a new programming language independently,” he elaborates.
Gladwin is currently taking more courses on data analytics in SUTD as part of his dual degree programme. He says the programme is unique in offering perspectives in engineering and business management.
“I think anyone who joins the dual degree programme will find it really useful, especially those who aspire to be an entrepreneur in the technology industry.”
He quickly adds: “It can get pretty tough so my advice is that if you are interested in this programme, do prepare to work hard for it!”