After the first year of the Master in Management (MIM) program at ESMT Berlin, I decided to take a gap year and continue working at enpact, a non-profit organization founded with the goal of empowering entrepreneurs in the context of international economic cooperation.
Why I chose a gap year
I initially started working with enpact for the required internship as part of the MIM program last July. They offered me a one-year contract and this helped me to decide to take a gap year. I found their work interesting, in particular how they are connecting the Asian community with Europe and building an ecosystem. I also saw it as an opportunity to gain more international experience and exposure.
While I was looking for my internship, I found that a lot of companies were looking for candidates with international experience. It was interesting because I worked at some startups and at Deloitte in China, but it seemed like the companies were more interested in the experience I gained while working at Mondu, a fintech startup where I had a student job for four months during the second semester of the MIM. So, I wanted to gain more professional experience in Germany and enpact seemed like the right place to do that.
How I found enpact
I first came across enpact through a job posting that I found on our career group page. It was shared by an ESMT alumnus who works as a senior manager at enpact. I got in contact with him via LinkedIn and was able to gain insight into the company and the role. This was a good chance to learn about what I could expect from the role, what challenges I might face, what the company dynamic is like etc. His insights gave me a good impression, and that’s what made me apply.
My role at enpact
With funding support from government or other public institutions, enpact completes various projects that promote business and social progress. During the first six months of the internship, I was introduced to AsiaBerlin, a project that connects Asia and Berlin and promotes the Berlin startup ecosystem. Together with the Berlin Senate, enpact was one of the organizers of the 25th AsiaBerlin Summit which took place last year.
My day-to-day work included analyzing data from the project and the company’s social media accounts each month, producing reports for the Berlin Senate, and representing the company at exhibitions or networking events.
While working at the AsiaBerlin Summit, I was responsible for overseeing and taking part in an important area of the three-day summit – the Corporate Interaction Zone and the Ambassador Zone. This was an interactive booth area where startups and ambassadors from different countries could engage with each other. I also worked with my managers on developing a new community strategy plan to empower multiple stakeholders.
In addition to the project, I was also involved in working at exhibitions such as Metaverse and the NFT Exhibition.
Enpact also hosts ambassadors from different countries to show them the startup scene and culture in Berlin and organizes trips for European startups to visit Asian countries, such as Japan, China, Singapore, Indonesia, and India, where we work with local organizations to show them the market fit and connect them with the right people.
After finishing the AsiaBerlin project, I began working on another interesting project, the Berlin Landing Pad, a program that supports founders from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe by providing them with tools, guidance, and networking opportunities to help them to expand their businesses internationally.
The first and third months of the program take place online and during the second month, everyone comes to Berlin to do it in person. This is a project that I am still working on. Together with our partners, we provide a month of offline immersion and activities for the founders of nine green tech and climate tech companies to get to know the German market and meet potential partners, investors, and consumers. For the third edition of the program, we have chosen Web3, Blockchain, and IoT as the focus areas and have just recently completed the evaluation of the applicants.
I’ve learned a lot from this experience both personally and professionally. I think people sometimes have a stereotypical perception of Asian people that they are introverted and do not want to speak out. But for me, I have always been encouraged by my managers and mentor at enpact to speak out and connect with different people. They always take the opportunity to include me and for example, have introduced me to managers of the Berlin Senate. There’s a good atmosphere at our office, and I enjoy working there.
The internship has helped me gain experience working in project management, communications, and social media management, as well as helping me to expand my network and make connections that may help me when I look for my next working student job or when I graduate.
I think the experience will give me more leverage when I enter the job market after the MIM program.
Advice for students
Students who are thinking about taking a gap year need to consider the advantages and disadvantages before they decide.
Taking a gap year will definitely provide you with the opportunity to consider what you’re really interested in. For example, I did my bachelor’s degree in biological science, so I didn’t have a clear career path planned before I joined ESMT and was feeling uncertain about what I wanted to focus on in the future. But after taking this gap year and gaining professional experience that I can combine with what I have and will learn from the program, the gap year has helped me figure out what I’m really interested in or what I’m willing to do, and see what opportunities could be in my future.
One of the disadvantages that students should consider is that there are visa limitations for international students. You can only work for 120 days per year if you are a non-EU citizen.
Another thing to consider is that you shouldn’t take a gap year just to waste time. If you are unsure about what it is you want to do and you take a gap year, you really need to set yourself goals. For example, you can use it as an opportunity to experience a different industry. You need to ask yourself what do you want to achieve from this experience? How is it going to help your career? You need to put a lot of thought into it before you make the decision.
During the first year of the MIM program, I took a course on negotiations and like every course, you have case studies that are made to feel like a real-world experience to help you develop those skills. But sometimes it can be difficult to try to translate the experience into a real-world situation. However, when I started negotiating in a real setting, I could use the course skills to help me, and this is something I want to further develop when I start the second year of the program. I think if I revise that course content I’ll be able to combine the classroom experience and internship experience to hone those skills.
I feel like the gap year has helped me to become more focused on what I’m interested in. ESMT provides practical experience to help prepare students for getting a good job and accepts students from different backgrounds. In my first year, I was trying to take in everything from every course but now when I go back to school, I know which courses I need to focus more on and where I need to put more effort.
I’ve learned how to speak up and how to take ownership of my work and I think this is very important. The experience has built my confidence and I feel more ready for entering the job market when I graduate. It’s also shown me that finding a company that shares the same values as you is important. Sometimes job seekers focus on a specific industry or salary, but I’ve learned that the work environment is an important aspect when searching for a job.
I am very grateful to the alumnus who provided me with this opportunity by supporting me in getting this role. ESMT has a supportive community that helps you reach your full potential and develop the skills you need to succeed in your chosen field, and that is what keeps the school thriving. I am happy that I decided to take the gap year and look forward to the second year of the MIM program.
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