GRIP, Internships Abroad Interview with Supervisor

November 16, 2023
By Alexandra Curtu, Wharton '26

GRIP: PR & Marketing in Bangkok

Alexandraone of the Global Career Guides, shares her experience abroad during the Summer 2023 semester. Follow along with the group of guides on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.

Consulting, Banking, Venture Capital, Entrepreneurship. If you think I’m describing common
careers Penn students go into you aren’t wrong but what I’m actually describing is the vast
career experience of my GRIP Internship supervisor in Bangkok, Thailand. Kris Supavatanakul
who is the current Founder and CEO of Cheewid, the cloud software program serving nonprofits
in Thailand that I interned at this summer, has worked in all of these fields. Through my
interview with him I not only learned what considerations go into creating an internship
experience but I also learned more about each industry he’s worked in, including how to be
successful and common misconceptions – many of which are believed by Penn students.

Our conversation began about what it takes to create a successful and meaningful internship
experience for students like us (the other two interns from Penn and myself). Kris states that this
was Cheewid’s first batch of successful in-person interns through our well-structured, two-month
long program with a clear expectation of deliverables. He emphasizes the importance of
understanding interns’ expectations before bringing them on. Before our arrival to Cheewid, Kris
conducted interviews with us asking us to consider whether we wanted to practice specific skills,
gain awareness for future career paths, or what our goal was from the internship. This has
allowed our internship experience to be very fulfilling as it aligns our interests with Cheewid’s
organizational roadmap, exploring new initiatives and bringing in a fresh perspective. Kris also
expresses that bringing on interns from an Ivy League institution like Penn has advantages. He
mentions that students and interns from U.S. schools like Penn tend to focus more on corporate
and tech aspects of a company rather than the personal or fieldwork aspects that Thai students
and colleagues focus on. He thinks this has created a great balance in creating a more well-
rounded Cheewid.

In our transition from speaking about the internship to his career experience, we covered the
topic of increasing efficiency by practices like having a hybrid work schedule, where specific
types of tasks are done in-office versus on a more asynchronous basis to use time strategically.
This efficiency model he adopted to Cheewid is a product of his experience working long hours
and a wide range of projects during his consulting career.

Kris spent four years as a consultant at Accenture where the organizational culture focused on
deliverables and client satisfaction. He notes that contrary to popular belief, consulting
emphasizes achieving results rather than building relationships. There is a professional
environment prioritized during weekdays, with little interaction regarding personal lives or
hobbies. While this American consulting culture is aligned with his academic training, it
contrasts Thai work culture that is a mix of work and socializing throughout the day and has a
more gradual work approach. Because of this experience, he recognizes the ability to adapt
your communication style based on your clients is a crucial skill to have in consulting. Diving
even deeper into client engagement, he’s learned that asking the “right” questions is crucial to
project success as a consultant. He expresses that often client’s will not explicitly highlight their
weak points but it is important for you to understand them in order to provide the best
recommendations. He advises students who tend to be perfectionists in their project work to
redirect that energy to uncover hidden challenges facing clients and make key decision-makers
feel involved in the process.

After his job at Accenture, Kris entered the entrepreneurship space by founding Cheewid. Kris
speaks to the differences between consulting and social enterprise sectors. He states that
although there are a lot of people genuinely passionate about social issues, there are also
pretentious individuals. He underscores that the social entrepreneurship sector requires careful
evaluation of founders’ intentions and missions. His advice for ethical dilemmas that may arise
with founders who may have questionable motives is to stay true to your values. While it may be
tempting to prioritize professional advancement for financial gain, it is more important to
maintain integrity. Kris says that Cheewid being an independent social enterprise allows it to
choose the clients it works with, ensuring that their values align. He also says that building the
right team is a defining component of your entrepreneurial venture. He emphasizes finding
individuals who are passionate and knowledgeable about the themes aligning with the
company’s values.

While this holistic evaluation is something Kris still applies at Cheewid, it is also applicable to his
other current job in corporate venture capital at SCB10x, the largest bank in Thailand. For those
aspiring to work in venture capital or banking, Kris advises that students focus on clearly
identifying how they can provide value to startups beyond just capital investment, like offering
their guidance, expertise, or networking connections. A key difference Kris notes between his
consulting career and working in venture capital is this use of networking. He explains that in
corporate venture capital banking, building a strong network is essential for establishing
credibility. He mentions that positive interactions with founders and being recognized as a
genuine, intelligent, and valuable investor is critical to success. This differs from his experience
in consulting where success was measured more from quality of deliverables produced.

Kris evidently has a lot of experience in the most common professional fields of Penn
graduates. He acknowledges the institutional and cultural pressure for students like those at
Penn to pursue more lucrative careers like consulting or banking. Despite this, he urges that if it
doesn’t feel feasible to enter passion-entered careers right after graduation, students should
consider integrating their passions into their professional career, rather than feeling forced to
choose one over the other. His example is founding Cheewid by taking a couple years off after
his consulting career and now being able to oversee Cheewid operations while still working full
time in corporate venture capital.

Throughout our interview about the internship experience and his broad career experience, Kris
emphasizes the importance of strong values, passion, networking, and striking a balance
between financial compensation and meaningful work. From his point of view, Kris believes that
opportunities like Penn Abroad’s GRIP are incredibly valuable because a cultural exchange,
both professional and personal, are beneficial to everyone involved and are one of the best
ways to gain experience in the fields you are interested in and be better prepared for your future


The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce.