To extend the possibilities for students beyond their academic learning, GESS officially launched BeyondClassrooms programme in end 2021, partnering companies and partners, bringing about internships, career counselling, industry talks, site visits and more. We speak with Alessandro Weifenbach who landed an internship with BMW Group Asia.
As the first intern under our BeyondClassrooms programme, how do you feel about the initiative, its benefits to students and your internship with BMW Group Asia?
I feel that the BeyondClassrooms programme will be highly beneficial to GESS students in many aspects.
For me initially, I was still unsure which area of finance I would have liked to specialise in, prior to completing my internship. However, after going through the month long internship, and having time to digest everything that I learned, I was able to identify exactly which roles I found exciting.
This experience helped me make a decision for my future career.
Additionally, the experience from being exposed to such internship opportunities and the corporate environment would no doubt help with university and future jobs.
What was your role in BMW Group Asia’s Finance Department? What was a typical day like for you at work?
On a typical day, I would be in the office around 8:30am and begin my assigned tasks. I had a mentor throughout the internship journey, named Gabriel, who was really helpful in guiding me in my work.
In the 4 weeks I worked at BMW Group Asia, I was exposed to 2 weeks of working on accounting and another 2 weeks of working on financial controlling. I got to work with different people in the specific departments who would give me tasks to complete. These tasks vary in the degree of responsibility assigned to me, and it was enjoyable to see so much of how a company functions.
Upon completion of these tasks, I was given the privilege to work with the Treasury Department, where I aided them in completing a cryptocurrency transaction.
How did you manage to secure this opportunity, and would you recommend this to fellow classmates who are interested? Any aspects that you feel would be beneficial for GESS students? (E.g. more companies, more vacancies, longer duration of internship, etc.)
Back in 2020, I had expressed my interest in an internship with BMW. However, the Covid measures made it complicated to truly get a working experience, as everyone was working from home back then.
In 2022, BMW Group Asia has been working with GESS on various collaboration for BeyondClassrooms, including a presentation to students on BMW’s sustainability efforts. It re-ignited my interest as the measures now allowed my exploring an internship. With the help of my teacher and career counseller Mr Thomas Walton, we emailed Ms Preeti Gupta, Corporate Affairs Director at BMW, and 2 weeks later, we confirmed my internship.
If I were to do the internship again, I would definitely recommend working longer than 4 weeks, so that I may have chance to also experience more complex projects that required more time. Without doubt, any similar internship would still help GESS students advance their knowledge in finance.
What were some of the challenges you encountered and how did you overcome them?
For one, my colleagues were mainly Singaporean-Chinese and spoke a mix of Singlish and Chinese, something which I struggled quite a little to understand. To overcome this, I made a personal effort to engage and converse with individual colleagues, to get to know them better.
At a business level, I found a cryptocurrency project that I would be undertaking with the Treasury challenging. Working with some members of the IT team, I needed to devise a process that would allow for a cryptocurrency exchange between BMW Group Asia and BMW AG, by drawing out the separate tasks required for completion. I was able to resolve this problem by studying a number of videos about crypto exchanges amongst other companies. It was quite satisfying when I was eventually able to formulate a plan to aid in an exchange.
Do you feel the experience has helped you plan your path after your journey in GESS ends?
The entire experience was extremely useful in helping me plan my path after GESS. A lot of the work I did gave me helpful insight into the finance industry and even FinTech. While I may not have liked everything that I got to work on, I was able to find new interest in other areas. Going into the internship, I did not have a clue as to which aspect of finance I wanted to work in, and my career vision was quite broad. I am now quite inclined to pursue my interest in treasury along with accounting.
It was also valuable to experience the workload in different positions and the responsibilities involved in each. I can better appreciate now that every industry has its own challenges and difficulties.
During your internship at BMW Group Asia, you had many Singaporean colleagues. What did you learn from them about their life and culture?
Working with a financial group consisting of Singaporeans was quite an exciting experience. I noticed that in daily conversation, many of them would continue to switch between English and Chinese. Rather quickly, I was able to understand the gist of their conversation.
I was really able to learn about the local lives and culture during lunchtime. My colleagues would bring me to different “hawker centres” (local food markets), and I tried some rather unusual food. One of which was a tendon soup which was surprisingly good. My colleagues also helped me learn more about Singaporean cuisine – beyond the chicken rice and laksa that I already know.
I observed from our interaction and conversations that my colleagues were extremely hard working – good role models I can learn from.
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For GESS students, if you want to learn more about opportunities under our BeyondClassrooms programme, email firstname.lastname@example.org!