Intern at Human Resources Division Global Human Resources Planning Group
Grace is from China, currently studying at the National University of Singapore. She is pursuing a Bachelor degree in Sociology. Grace interned with us at our Human Resources Division at Osaka Headquarters for 10 weeks.
Why did you want to intern at Sumitomo Electric?
I wanted to join Sumitomo Electric as a Global Human Resources intern because I believed that this experience would enrich my knowledge reservoir on two dimensions.
First and foremost, as a student who just set out to build a future career, I think an internship at Sumitomo Electric would help me lay a solid foundation as a first step in my career path. This is a giant Japanese corporation with a long history dating back to 19th century and an extensive global network of subsidiaries; which means that throughout the years, the Global Human Resources Division has accumulated a wealth of experience on how to manage a vast employee population of diverse background. As my previous experience in Human Resources was only limited to recruitment, I hoped to expand my knowledge in this field by learning about devising guiding global Human Resources management strategies directly from experienced professionals. A better understanding of Human Resources functions will help me determine if a career in Human Resources is the right choice for me.
In addition, my personal interest in different cultures led my decision in spending a summer on an internship in Japan. Coming from a sociological background, I always want to understand a society more in-depth, and I thought spending some time living and working in Japan would allow me to see another façade of Japan less known to tourists. In my opinion, working at a globalized corporation such as Sumitomo Electric would give me opportunities to interact with both Japanese and international employees. That way, I can learn more about Japanese companies and Japanese society in general from multiple perspectives. These factors eventually led me to intern at Sumitomo Electric.
What has been the most interesting thing you have learnt from this internship?
The distinctive Japanese working culture is the most interesting thing to me. I learned that when receiving name cards, you need to bow and receive the card with both hands humbly. If you see a guest off, you need to bow until the door of a lift closes. There is also a unique rationale behind seating arrangements in meetings. These practices are very different from Chinese customs and were very eye opening for me. I found them interesting and reflecting of Japanese cultural thinking.
What was a typical workday like for an intern at SEI?
For me, a typical workday started with checking my schedule and email inbox to see notifications or updates from colleagues. I usually had one or two meetings in a day with the project team I was a part of. For the rest of the day, I would be working on the projects assigned to me, consulting with my mentor on problems I encountered, or discussing with my supervisor about my work progress. For this internship, I was assigned two projects: administration of global talent database system and career website renewal. Therefore, I would plan the daily tasks for each project and allocate the time proportionately to the work progress.
My favorite part of each day in particular was doing the Taisou (exercise) every morning and afternoon! This is a unique Japanese companies’ tradition to invite employees to stretch before starting a day of work. I always felt invigorated after Taisou. Definitely going to miss it!
How has the internship help shaped your career?
Understanding the kind of career I want was the most valuable lesson this internship taught me. In terms of job functions, I realized that I am interested in a role that manages global level issues and that would have a large-scale impact. Interning at the headquarter of Sumitomo Electric provided opportunities for me to witness how cross-border and cross-cultural coordination happened and how to utilize a global view to initiate corporation-wide projects. I think a role that involves a global perspective is really exciting.
Network wise, this internship at Sumitomo Electric is a platform where people with heterogeneous backgrounds meet and bring their own cultural assets to the table. It became clear to me that I enjoyed working in a company where I can meet with various people to understand their ways of thinking, because when different thoughts collide, innovative ideas are born. This is the kind of environment I want myself to immerse in.
What advice do you have for future students considering to participate in this internship?
I genuinely appreciate Sumitomo Electric for providing this precious opportunity for me. I am glad that I have been chosen to join this internship this summer. I acquired much more knowledge than I had expected, both in and outside of work. So I want to urge you: If you are interested, wait no more and apply to have a memorable summer in Japan. If you still have concerns about going to a foreign land and working in an unfamiliar culture, I think this is the perfect chance for you to identify your comfort zone, jump out of it and grow. Seize the opportunity and broaden your horizon! Also, if you don’t speak a word of Japanese… Learn some basic phrases so that you can bond quickly with your colleagues.