“It empowered me to explore the unexplored, and in return, I gained so many learning opportunities."
Interest sparked in Tech (in Asia)
It was back in 2015 when Charlotte Chan, now a Cloud Consulting Analyst at Accenture, knew she wanted to pursue a career in the technology industry. Studying Economics and Management in Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), University of London, at the time, all she knew about technology was that it was an up and coming field. The snazzy “Tech in Asia Singapore 2015” conference was making its rounds in via campus marketing and caught Charlotte’s eye. The tickets cost over $1000 each but enterprisingly signing up as a volunteer enabled her to attend the event for the whole 3-day duration. Despite initially being overwhelmed by the technical jargon frequently used, Charlotte calls the conference “one of the most life-changing experiences” she’s had where she mingled with numerous reputable industry professionals and bonded with her closest friends in the industry to date. She also credits this event as the pivot in her life that led her to where she is today.
From Fireside Chat to IONS to Accenture
After that “Tech in Asia Singapore” conference, Charlotte started attending more tech events and it spurred her to propose her own initiatives in tech to make up for the lack of similar opportunities people were exposed to in her university.
The first of such initiatives was SIM’s inaugural Fireside Chat – the university’s very first tech-focused interactive panel. Leading up to it, the university management was sceptical of this student-led initiative. They could not visualise how it would be any different from the other events they have rolled out, back with more resources and capacities than a student. On the day, Charlotte herself was quite nervous about how people would respond to her initiative. But she needn’t have worried. Within a couple of minutes, the registration queue grew from a handful to at least 100 people waiting in line. Buoyed by the participants’ and panellists’ enthusiasm and good energy in the room, she was ecstatic. To this day, she is still grateful to everyone who turned up to support her.
The success of the Fireside Chat accelerated the process of establishing SIM’s Innovation and Networking Society (IONS): It was up and running within 3 months. Setting up her own society was what Charlotte had in mind the whole time, but she knew she had to be strategic about it. She needed proof that there was student interest and demand for what her society had to offer, and the Fireside Chat was it – the school management couldn’t deny it. Founding and leading IONS positioned Charlotte advantageously when connecting with industry professionals higher up the career ladder because she could provide an opportunity to present them as mentors to students, and in their way giving back to society.
“I was going to 30 to 40 events per year.”
In addition to her consistent and conscientious networking, Charlotte was heavily involved in the tech ecosystem, regularly going for tech events which totalled up to 30~40 events per year for her. By the time she was graduating, Charlotte realised she was drawn to the role of tech consulting as she enjoys connecting with people from different backgrounds and cultures. She also felt it was imperative for a fresh graduate to better understand how the economy works and adopt a more global perspective, which made tech consulting feel like a great start to her career. Somewhat serendipitously, Charlotte met her recruiter from Accenture at an open campus career fair she went for and eventually joined Accenture as a Cloud Consulting Analyst.
Contributing Social Good
Work aside, Charlotte is a strong advocate for the social causes she believes in. One such cause is the importance and benefits of self-promotion, especially for underrepresented groups like women in tech. Charlotte explains that self-promotion refers to speaking about one’s achievements with confidence and in a way that promotes one’s personal brand.
Having participated in a workshop raising awareness on the importance of self-promotion, she was motivated to bring this newfound awareness to her company. She approached the coordinators of the workshop, became a Google-certified #IamRemarkable facilitator and together with her Accenture co-facilitators, trained about 50~60 women in their company just last year.
Lessons Learnt from Her Academic Experience
Grit and foresight are the two qualities that encapsulate Charlotte’s work ethic and general approach to life. She emphasises that the working world is a totally different ball game compared to student life. You enter the former with a blank slate because no one really pays attention to which school you graduated from.
However, she does acknowledge that sometimes having to work a little harder to prove her abilities and not being given the same resources as her peers from other local universities made her crave those opportunities more. This galvanised her to strive for what she believed in and empowered her to explore the unexplored. In fact, she says if there wasn’t the need to set up IONS in her school, she may not have been able to exemplify her leadership capabilities to potential recruiters. She also may not have cultivated connections with leaders in the tech industry and beyond via her position as founder and grown her network to how it is today.
To conclude, Charlotte advises current undergraduates in university or other tertiary institutes to be proactive in the following ways:
Engage in activities beyond studies to build your portfolio. This is the most straightforward way to brand yourself, shape the story you want to tell potential recruiters and differentiate yourself from the hundreds of other job applicants out there.
If you do not know what you want to do as your career, do not put it off till “next time” thinking you’ll figure it out eventually. LinkedIn is a great resource, accessible with a click of a button. You can simply scroll through the “Jobs” page to get an idea of what you might be interested in doing. Take a look at the job descriptions – if you feel the roles and responsibilities suit you, find out what skills are required. If you do not have the skills required, you still have time to seek opportunities to equip yourself with said skills.
Network as much as possible. This may be a hard truth, but you likely have a higher chance of getting through to interviews or even being offered the job if you applied for it via your connections. Just because you may be a student now doesn’t mean you don’t have a reason to network with reputable people from a variety of companies. You can get started by going to school-organised career fairs, talk with the recruiters and get their contact information (LinkedIn and/or email) – learn how to build connections and sustain them.
Do internships during summer breaks. Try to go for the industries, companies or roles you can see yourself working in the future and take the internships seriously – the temporary position might be converted into a full-time one if you do a good job.
There is also a lot to gain from picking up some public speaking skills and learning to work effectively as a team. In particular, the ability to speak eloquently will reflect well on you and it’s an essential skill in any workplace. You can practise and hone these skills by participating in project work, case competitions and utilising the plethora of resources online.
Charlotte would like to leave you with this: “Regardless of your background, hold your head high. Don’t doubt your abilities, and don’t let others doubt your abilities too. Have faith that you are good enough and continuously improve on yourself. Experiment, find ways to present your best self in the most comfortable way. You will make it!”
Here at CareerSocius, we hope to empower individuals to find a job they love. We would love to be part of your journey.
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