The ultimate interns

  • Branded
  • Sunday, 29 Dec 2019

Universiti Teknologi Petronas Student Affairs and Alumni Deputy Vice Chancellor Assoc Prof Dr Nor Hisham Hamid.

UTP’s seven-month-long high impact internships turn sneaker-clad students into savvy and confident graduates ready for workplace challenges of the future.

The best feedback is from the interns themselves.

“They tell us that internship provided them invaluable real life working experience, better perspectives on working in industry and great ways to meet and network with people in industry.

“It also reinforced their knowledge – both technical and soft-skills – and opened up and showed them many opportunities, pathways and options for their future, ” says Universiti Teknologi Petronas Student Affairs and Alumni Deputy Vice Chancellor Assoc Prof Dr Nor Hisham Hamid.

The students are changed. After their high impact internship, UTP undergrads return to campus with maturity and self-awareness – they speak more assertively and responsibly.

“They even dress differently and have an aura of professionalism acquired from the internship experience, ” says Hisham. “They can see a career path involving their interests. This is exactly what we want.”

UTP’s seven-month-long mandatory internship began when the university was founded in 1998. It is the longest internship offered by any university in Malaysia as typical internship lasts three to six months.

The internship has two phases. First is immersion into organisation, job responsibilities and familiarisation of projects. The second phase involves high intensity project execution.

Every student is assigned an academic supervisor and a host company supervisor who continuously monitor, coach, provide guidance and feedback as well as jointly assess or evaluate the students’ performance. The whole experience has to be relevant to the student’s course and relevant to the times we live in.

“We have observed that UTP interns are highly sought after by companies, even financial institutions like banks and insurance companies. These companies approach UTP consciously seeking long-term interns because they believe UTP interns are technically competent, equipped and ready to handle real projects with deadlines, real targets and outcomes, ” says Hisham.

About 1,200 UTP undergrads go out annually as interns – about 40% to oil and gas companies. The vast majority go to local host companies like Petronas, ExxonMobil, Schlumberger, Intel, PWC and Hartalega; a small number, around 9% go overseas.

Although UTP does not mandate renumeration for interns, most receive between RM800 and RM1,500 depending on their host companies. Some overseas hosts offer free accommodation, airfare, insurance and a small stipend.

In addition, UTP’s Career Office will facilitate and provide advice on financial responsibility and financial support to students.

“We want our students to get exposure and experience working in real industry environment. Knowledge is important, but attitude, responsibilities, drive, culture and workplace practices are a big part of learning.

“Our students are inspired by their internships; they become aware of various career opportunities out there including becoming entrepreneurs. In fact, we observed that some of UTP interns went back to work in the same industries and later become entrepreneurs – from job seekers to job creators, ” says Hisham.

Low Han Lun, 22, from the Petroleum Engineering, Class of 2020 underwent internship at Carigali Hess Operating Company (CHOC), KL (May-Dec 2019)

“Everything I learned has come alive. I am entrusted with the tasks of a junior engineer monitoring actual offshore operations and drawn into real-life brainstorm and discussion. I was delighted when my views and ideas were adopted into the planning of a data dashboard.

“I’ve met many highly experienced engineers, senior management, government officials, external contractors and company shareholders. These encounters give me insight into being flexible and versatile, having discipline, goals, quality sleep, fitness and a good attitude.

“I had butterflies in my tummy until I witnessed real teamwork from drawing board to final presentation to clients. The big lesson is that there is no one ultimate answer to anything. In the real world, we need to accept and monitor the uncertainties that lie in every problem and every answer.”

Muhammad Aiman Rosli, 22, from the Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Class of 2019 underwent internship at Intel Corporation, Kulim (May-Dec 2019)

“My passion is electronics so I feel blessed my internship involves working on the design and validation of a high quality ethernet card for a client. It involves technical work, communication, social skills and leadership skills as I deal with engineers, team mates and other support teams. I report to one senior engineer who is my mentor in every way.

“I know that when they keep asking for my input, they are actually seeking to use my ideas and training me to think of solutions. That feels very rewarding. I’ve learned that the way I present my views and findings is important. From the first day, everyone has been kind, welcoming and generous with their knowledge. I think we will become lifelong friends. I’m really looking forward to a career in electronics.”

Thusaleni Ponniah, 22, from the Applied Chemistry, Class of 2020 underwent internship at Sojo University, Japan (Jan-Aug 2019)

“They are like family now, in touch every day and persuading me to return. My lab mates and supervisors made me feel welcome and worked hard at speaking English to include me in every conversation. They gave me gifts when I was homesick and we went on trips together. When I left, they presented me with a kimono.

“My internship was dedicated to lab-based studies on carriers for bone development at the cellular level. My favourite part was using sophisticated electron microscopes and always being asked my opinion on the research. The skills are related to my final year project and to my future in research.

“Housing and transport were free for international interns like me. I am so grateful. This experience taught me independence, communication and research culture. I also learned how supportive my amazing KL family is – they shipped a 10kg food parcel to me.”

Kang Chin Ann, 22, from the Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2020 underwent internship at Mercedes AMG Petronas Grand Prix Ltd, Brackley, UK (Jan-July 2019)

“I feel transformed by the no-blame culture in this company. Everything is put down to successes and learning experiences. I now approach new tasks fearlessly. I learned time management, efficiency and the meaning of urgency in a different way.

“Among my tasks was to manufacture composite parts made with fibres and resins in super sterile rooms. Theory became reality. This was satisfying, especially when hand-assembled parts were approved for their design. My favourite part was learning to use laser projection to get precise design and minimise waste of composite material. For this, we used some amazing software.

“The atmosphere was friendly and casual. I felt encouraged by everyone at the company, especially by my mentor Oscar Crespo Gonzalez, a Spaniard. The big difference? As a student, I could skip class without giving a valid reason – no way when you’re an intern.”

Amirah Wahidah Mohd Rusli, 21, from the Information Technology, Class of 2020 underwent internship at ExxonMobil Exploration & Production Malaysia Inc, KL (Mar-Aug 2019) and Center for Neurological Imaging (CNI), Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston (Aug-Dec 2019)

“At ExxonMobil KL, I worked with a team developing a tool to check on price reasonableness to help purchasing decisions by buyers. It was thrilling to work on a project that would reduce manual intervention and raise productivity.

“Now, at CNI, I work on the front-end development of a web platform for researchers to design and manage their experiments. I’ve always been fascinated by neuroscience, so it is so exciting to be working alongside research fellows from Harvard Medical School.

“At both centres, I’ve had to work with non-IT people – a tough but awesome experience, as I had to explain technical details. They are the visionaries and I’m the one who realises the vision.

“In both places, people have been warm, friendly and included me in work and leisure. For the Boston stint, it was my first time overseas; I was responsible for finding housing, transport, visa, and discounts for everything.”

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