An Intern Discovers the World of Business and the Strength of a Global Perspective

by Diana Drake

Elizabeth Oh, 15, is a student at the Singapore American School. She recently contacted Knowledge@Wharton High School in hopes of sharing highlights from her business internship during winter break. Here, Oh writes about her experiences gaining important workplace skills, including independence, responsibility and collaboration.

As a high school sophomore at Singapore American School in Singapore, I have always experienced the comfort that most students feel in an academic setting surrounded by friends. It is my comfort zone. But on the first day of my recent winter internship at Holmusk, a health technology startup, I felt like I was in a new world – and equal parts intimidated and excited for the weeks ahead.

Holmusk is a data science and digital health company headquartered in Singapore with offices in London and New York City. It is devoted to addressing mental health and chronic diseases through real-world, evidence-based data platforms. Through the harnessing of this data, the company is able to tackle a variety of illnesses, including mental health and chronic metabolic diseases. As a STEM kid, I was especially intrigued by the data-analytics projects based on chronic metabolic illnesses, including diabetes, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.

Over my winter break, I was able to get in touch with the CEO of Holmusk, Nawal Roy, through a teacher recommendation. My teacher had known Nawal personally and kindly suggested me to him as a possible intern. With the exchange of a few emails, I was able to land a spot as an intern with his company for the remainder of my winter break.

People talk all the time about the value of internships, and now I see why. I took so much away from my few weeks interning for Holmusk. When I discovered the KWHS student essay opportunity, I wanted to share those lessons with other teenagers around the world – some who may be looking for internships or others who aren’t sure if they should take the time and energy to pursue one.

“I want to learn more about people from different countries and cultures, which is crucial to being part of corporations that have offices around the globe.” — Elizabeth Oh

Here are four ways that it proved to be the right decision for me:

A new degree of autonomy and responsibility. From the very first day of my internship, I was shocked by the difference in the Holmusk environment compared to what I was used to at school. Interning at Holmusk showed me a completely different idea of freedom. I had to work, motivate and challenge myself during the nine hours in the office, mindful of the collective team goal to advance the company’s mission of managing patients’ chronic diseases. I didn’t have a teacher to tell me to stay on task, nor did I have grades to encourage me to produce the best work possible. I realized that I was the only one responsible for finishing my work with excellence. I really appreciated this new freedom and trust that I was given, so I made a conscious effort not to take advantage of it. I did so by setting goals to accomplish each day that would keep me accountable for my work. For example, my first goal of the day was to arrive at the office 10 minutes before I was expected. This allowed me to settle in and plan the project work that needed to be completed each day.

Embracing opportunities to learn. For the first few days of my internship, I worked on a report compiling companies in China that are focused on mental health. I was given simple instructions and a supplementary document. Initially, I felt overwhelmed. But after sharing a draft and receiving feedback from CEO Nawal, I had a much clearer idea of what I was expected to do. I also relied on past project reports. This helped a lot. It not only gave me a rough idea of what I was expected to do, but also inspired new research ideas. I was especially intrigued by the telemedicine companies (which use electronic communications and software to provide clinical services to patients without an in-person visit), and had the chance to explore that interest by spending extra time doing additional research. Aside from finding basic background information (like the year the companies were founded, number of employees, annual revenues, and so on), I also went into more detail about how the companies had progressed over the years and their future plans. This, along with the opportunity to learn about real companies, was a really valuable part of my Holmusk experience.

Commitment to collaboration. Once I was settled in at the office, I had the chance to cooperate with fellow intern Daniel on a new project regarding Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Electronic Medical Records (EMR) companies in the United States. These companies work to collect patient data that can then be easily accessed by doctors and patients. This allows for a sharing of health care data across various health care settings, making patient treatment more efficient. The EHR/EMR companies that I researched were also potential partners for Holmusk.

Although Daniel and I were given a task similar to my previous project, I learned something entirely different through our collaboration. The execution process was very different from the previous report about China. This was Daniel’s first time working on researching and collecting information for Holmusk. Through my explanation of this project, we were both able to gain a better sense of the work and the ways in which we could branch out to further expand our learning. This process allowed us to eventually arrive at a method that not only satisfied his approach for efficiency, but also my interest in further exploring each company outside of the specific research parameters. And our report was stronger for it. In fact, out of all the experiences that I have gained at my internship, I am especially grateful for being exposed to such a valuable partnership, as it opened my eyes to the importance of collaboration and the successful impact that it can have.

So THIS is leadership. After getting in touch with Nawal Roy, I was especially excited to learn that he was an alumnus of Singapore American School. On my first day, I had time to sit down and chat with him. I learned what steps he had taken to lead Holmusk. Honestly, I previously thought that anyone with a CEO title must be too busy to sit down for a casual chat with a high school intern, but in fact he emphasized fostering communication and a culture of learning from each other, whether they were senior executives or interns like me.

I also discovered that Nawal had worked in companies all across the world before starting a company in Singapore. The skills and knowledge he had gained through the global experience had given him an upper hand in creating such a strong company. Learning this inspired me to take greater steps outside of my comfort zone and outside of my home country to gain insight about the world. Most importantly, I want to learn more about people from different countries and cultures, which is crucial to being part of corporations that have offices around the globe.

My Holmusk internship allowed me to gain a much more realistic understanding of career options in health care technology and data analytics, areas that I hope to pursue in college. I also realized that it’s okay to feel out of place sometimes. You just keep pushing ahead, asking questions, and doing the work and you will soon enough regain your footing – and learn so much along the way.

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Conversation Starters

How does Elizabeth Oh’s internship experience help you understand how data science is transforming industries?

What are three important insights that Elizabeth Oh gained during her time at Holmusk?

In explaining her collaboration with Daniel, Elizabeth Oh says, “Through my explanation of this project, we were both able to gain a better sense of the work and the ways in which we could branch out to further expand our learning.” What does her reflection say about the power of teaching others?

4 comments on “An Intern Discovers the World of Business and the Strength of a Global Perspective

  1. Incredible, Elizabeth! Your journey in finding a global perspective has, in turn, shaped your identity – a transformation that I find both inspiring and imperative in our society.
    The duration that youspent at Holmusk is one that I closely identify with, particularly, the anticipation that you felt, immersing yourself in a new world and gaining a new sense of independence. Like you, I was an intern at a company committed to teaching students, mainly underprivileged students, various economic skills to develop toward adulthood. However, a distinction between our experiences is that you seemed to do more data analysis and project reports than I did, who did more on-hands teaching. I believe this distinction becomes important, as it displays a different approach to achieving the same goal of a global perspective.

    As for me, I went into this internship, not knowing what to expect. However, being in charge of progress reports and the company’s teaching methods meant having numerous spreadsheets under my responsibility to complete, a daunting task that initially intimidated me. Regardless, I learned to find the benefits in the task, a shift that is best described through your experience!

    As iterated by Elizabeth, the experience gained from internships are so invaluable, as they teach interns to collaborate, realize responsibilities, and be a leader to other people. As I read this article, I find that my interning experience continues to be enhanced by Elizabeth’s experience. Before this, I saw internships as a way for me to learn. However, Elizabeth’s interaction with CEO Nawal Roy has made me realize that internships are also another way for me to help others. For instance, on a day when I was teaching the students about credit cards and the concept of credit, I, in turn, was able to learn the value of leadership and collaboration in the workplace, particularly, helping students be more aware of their own economic commitments as they grow older.
    Adding onto Elizabeth’s journey of a global perspective, internships should also act as an outlet for personal growth. I can tell that Elizabeth has grown from her internship at Holmusk, shaping her identity into what it is today, notably, an identity enhanced by a global perspective. Similarly, I feel the same way after my internship. Although we live in a generation that sees internships as a method of workplace experience, I believe that internships also play a crucial part in personal development. It is not to say that internships don’t provide experience, but that they provide much more personal meaning than just work experience. For me, my internship was a period of growth; it allowed me to understand who I was, and what my place in the world was: as an educator, a leader, and a responsible colleague. Although there is so much more to understand about the world of business, internships are a perfect way to reinforce that global perspective, a perspective that is a necessary start for careers at global corporations.
    On a final note, this article ultimately highlights the potency of a global perspective, one that I find incredibly vital in the world of business. Just as Elizabeth addresses, remaining inquisitive and persevering is the way to achieve a global perspective, a perspective that I would define as an accumulation of global experiences in the workplace. Having different experiences in different parts of the world provides a more holistic, cohesive, and universal viewpoint – one that I am motivated to discover as I integrate myself into the world of business.
    Ultimately, I find that Elizabeth’s journey to achieve the global perspective is a breath of fresh air to a lot of people, including me. This article presents the start of something incredibly fascinating, the potential of the global perspective. As Winston Churchill iterates, “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential.” Equipping ourselves with a global perspective through consistent perseverance will allow for a world of business that continues to amaze us through its boundless potential!

  2. ​​On a breezy day in the spring of 2001, a serendipitous encounter at a cloth manufacturing company in Korea led to my parents’ swift marriage and the start of our family. Seeking better opportunities for success, they made the bold decision to relocate to Guangzhou, China, where they embarked on their journey as entrepreneurs in the cloth printing business. As they delved into the world of original equipment manufacturing (OEMs), it became clear that their success hinged upon securing orders from buyers and other enterprises.
    Swiftly resolving minor logistical challenges such as workspace and staffing, my parents focused their efforts on proving themselves to potential clients. Their dedication yielded gratifying results: Major clients placed their faith in my parents’ company, bolstering its reputation and value. However, what set them apart was their extraordinary commitment to customer care. Going beyond the call of duty, they even addressed personal issues faced by their clients. A noteworthy example is when my mother’s client was battling severe insomnia. Drawing from her own experiences, she recommended a suitable medication, temazepam, to alleviate the condition.
    “If your Insomnia does not get any better, you should really try temazepam. I also once suffered from insomnia, which was my saving grace.” My mother told her client.
    “Good to know, I definitely should. Thank you for helping out!”
    The client was grateful for the assistance and became a loyal customer. Such genuine concern and exceptional service enabled my parents to garner positive reviews, even catching the attention of prominent fashion companies like Adidas, Victoria’s Secret, and Emporio Armani. Their exemplary use of collaboration, even with heavyweight enterprises, became a driving force behind their success.
    As the world rapidly evolves, the priorities of the business landscape are also undergoing profound transformations. Among the four essential points highlighted in Elizabeth’s internship story—responsibility, opportunities for growth, leadership, and collaboration—it is the latter that truly shines, particularly in an international context. For young generations like mine, who possess the potential to shape the future of the business world, acquiring the skills to cooperate effectively with other enterprises and countries is paramount for a brighter future.
    Entering the twenty-first century, we find ourselves in a world where the barriers of nationality and race are crumbling and encounters with diverse individuals from all corners of the globe have become commonplace. This phenomenon, inconceivable just a few decades ago, continues to accelerate in the era of the internet and social media. Its impact extends beyond the business realm and permeates society at large, even shaping the educational landscape. International schools, which have experienced gradual growth since 1924, now constitute over 20% of educational institutions and continue to expand. This trend underscores the inevitability of an increasingly diverse future society, characterized by multiculturalism and multinational collaborations within companies and enterprises. Whether we embrace it or not, our world is becoming an amalgamation of cultures and perspectives.
    It is imperative that we seize this transformative change. Drawing from the example of my parents’ journey, their astute recognition of the value of partnerships allowed them to flourish, even in an unfamiliar environment. Collaboration has gained significant traction, particularly among businesses operating on social media platforms. A personal anecdote serves as a testament to this truth: When I ventured into launching my own clothing business about a year and a half ago, I encountered initial difficulties in gaining traction despite my earnest efforts. In a moment of despair, inspiration struck as I stumbled upon a TikTok video featuring an influencer promoting a sponsored perfume. Realizing that I had a friend on Instagram with over two hundred thousand followers, I wasted no time and reached out to him:
    “Do you still have that account with like a million followers?”
    He responded, “Yes, it is just that I do not use it frequently anymore.”
    “You want to make some cash? I’ll give you five hundred bucks if you advertise my T-Shirts on your account.”
    “Sounds great. Send me some shirts and I’ll do it.”
    Offering him a chance to earn some pocket money, I proposed a collaboration: I would pay him five hundred dollars to advertise my T-shirt-selling business. We later conducted a joint live stream on Instagram to promote my business. The outcome surpassed my expectations, generating a profit of around a thousand and two hundred dollars—significantly more than I could have achieved alone. Collaborating with an influencer gave my business an extraordinary boost.
    Elizabeth Oh rightly asserts, “I want to learn more about people from different countries and cultures, which is crucial to being part of corporations with offices around the globe.” Our generation must rise to the occasion and prepare to lead the future. As previously mentioned, our world is rapidly blending, eroding the significance of differences in nationality and race. This societal transformation underscores the ever-increasing importance of collaboration and communication. With every passing day, as our society advances, the criticality of these skills will continue to escalate. To navigate this brave new world, we must promptly grasp the significance of cooperation and communication, leveraging them as catalysts for success in an interconnected and diverse business landscape.

  3. Elizabeth’s journey towards her realization on why broadening our perspectives and stepping out of the comfort of our own community is crucial in the world of business heavily mirrored the same realization I went through this past few months. Ever since November of 2022, I’ve been waking up at 4:30 a.m to connect with a group of teens on a zoom call from all over the globe such as Singapore, China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Canada, and other various countries. Our main purpose was to discuss occurring issues within our own local communities, which we had known all our lives, as well as the global issues that seldom received thorough attention and ironically, didn’t involve communication between the gaps that persist in our world today. Additionally, I reached out to a girl from Kabul, Afghanistan, to assist her in math, as girls beyond sixth grade are prohibited from attending school. Although I have gotten to reflect on my evolved perception of collaboration, understanding that transformative process remained almost elusive. However, while reading Elizabeth’s highlighted experiences from her eye-opening internship during winter break, I immediately found parallels. In particular, her four bolded points in this article were able to walk me through my very own journey these past months.
    Her first point talked about how her internship showed “a new degree of autonomy and responsibility.” Like Elizabeth, I was nervous prior to joining the first few group zoom calls and projects with this completely different group of people that I would normally consult with regarding global issues. After the first session, I sat there, in my bed, dumbfounded at the fact that I had always been aware of the differences in my life to another 16 year old across the world, but hadn’t actually been able to witness how where we live and the environment that surrounds us warps each of our perspectives in ways we don’t realize. Elizabeth said, “I was shocked by the difference in the Holmusk environment compared to what I was used to at school,” which accurately describes my reaction after having direct conversations with this group of teens from such diverse backgrounds.
    Elizabeth’s second point was that this internship allowed her to “embrace opportunities to learn.” Just as Elizabeth’s uncertainty and curiosity “not only gave her a rough idea of what I was expected to do, but also inspired new research ideas,” my curiosity and unfamiliarity inspired me to take a step further and brainstorm different ways we, as a new international community, could help combat the issues we had outlined, such as water insufficiency and period poverty. Together, we bridged the gap between our indifferences and were able to create designs of products we feel could support and benefit not just one area of the world, but every part.
    Elizabeth then moved on to highlight a point of “commitment to collaboration.” By surrounding myself with voices I don’t hear on a regular basis, it forced me to try to understand their perspectives–to put myself in someone else’s shoes. In Elizabeth’s internship, she found that the process of gaining diverse insights not only “allows her to eventually arrive at a method that satisfied approach for efficiency, but also her interest in further exploring each company outside of the specific research parameters.” This quote made me notice that people tend to stick with what they’re comfortable with, which can lead to a closed-mindset and a lack of empathy; in the modern business world, empathy is consistently what drives and motivates life-changing projects and collaborations. In order to find empathy, the youth change makers cannot keep turning to what’s apparent in our own backyard. We must search for new ideas, new perspectives, and people who will bring all different kinds of experiences and opinions to the table.
    The last key comment from Elizabeth is “so THIS is leadership”, and that alone stood out to me more than any other five word phrase has. I had thought to myself, what exactly does it mean to be a leader? and this article quickly gave me the answer. Being a leader means to reach out, to find the hidden voices and not wait for someone else to call for help. Being a leader means to follow your own belief, while constantly leaving a door open for a new idea to step in. In the dynamic and interconnected business world today, being a leader who actively seeks out diverse opinions is of utmost importance. Embracing our differences is an essential component for fostering innovation, driving growth mindsets, and ensuring a long-term relationship and success. Like Elizabeth, “I want to learn more about people from different countries and cultures, which is crucial to being part of corporations that have offices around the globe.”

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