GRIP, Internships Abroad Working the Singaporean Way

July 29, 2022
By Arnav Ghatiwala, SEAS '25

Business Development in Singapore

My first day in Singapore, I walked into the office, only to be welcomed by the loveliest group of co-workers. In a foreign country with its own practices and norms, I had not expected such warmth. However, they made me feel like a part of the company from the first minute. The co-founders of the startup, Knovo, invited me for a chat into their office, understanding my expectations for the internship but also those for these lovely two months in Singapore! My supervisor, the Product Head, helped me through onboarding, introducing me to every feature of the web app we provided and helping me set up the needed software on my laptop. Throughout all of this, everyone kept asking me questions about the United States, Penn, and my experience in Singapore (however short it had been). All the nervousness that I had before coming in transformed into a passion to work with the team and for the company. Through little actions such as taking me out for lunch, getting to know my strengths, and answering every question I had about the product and the software, the Knovo Team made me feel like I was at home.

From there, my time at Knovo has been wonderful. However, by wonderful, in no sense do I mean easy. I am a programmer, a product person, and an ideator, but my first exposure to a real business environment had its unique set of challenges. While I knew web development, Knovo’s website was built using TypeScript, React, and GQL - languages I was foreign with. I pride myself on my technical knowledge, yet my supervisor assigned me the task of leading the management of their new certification product based on blockchain - a concept I only knew the basics of. In my cocoon at Penn, I thought I had many skills to help me motor through to success, but my first week at the job showed me that there was much more to learn.

It has been a steep learning curve. I have gone through an entire React/TypeScript bootcamp in a week, and understood blockchain and implemented the entire architecture for our product in another. This week, I have further applied my new skills to add multiple features to Knovo’s web app. And yet, the grind has motivated me to only learn more. In fact, while this has been a lot, the biggest chunk of my learning has come from the people. From talking about the future of decentralized servers with fellow interns, to discussing the lack of innovation in the 21st century with my supervisor, to taking tips about the best restaurants in Singapore from other co-workers, I have taken back something from every conversation. Amidst the challenges, fears, and nervousness, this internship has taught me to learn from every resource I have to fight back.

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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.