My Unforgettable Internship Journey with Soap Cycling

Managing a team of 19 interns from 9 different countries was a challenge that I would never have accepted before I joined Soap Cycling. The hands-on experience I gained as a member of the HR Team this semester has taught me how to lead, support, and create impact in society. With responsibilities ranging from event management, team coordination, and stakeholder communications, this semester brought many highly rewarding milestones.

Fall 2018 Soap Cycling intern team (from left): Tiffany Tong (HK), Pearl Wong (author, HK), Michelle Kam (USA), Sherlin Wongso (Indonesia)

“Do you only need to enforce rules and ensure your co-workers are happy with everything?" It sounds quite easy, right? However, the duties of a Soap Cycling HR intern are broad indeed. As a member of the HR Team, I felt my duties were diverse and ever-changing. Not only do we need to organize and make the weekly intern team meetings productive, but we are also required to manage the activities for the local operations team, such as arranging manpower for volunteering services and collecting content so that Soap Cycling can promote its work to the general public. Coming into this position, I often had no idea what I should be doing and initially lacked confidence in my skills. After a semester of learning from my mistakes and discovering hidden talents, I now know that I can tackle any work situation when I graduate and enter the workforce.

DBS MEY ( 美 ) elderly workers and student interns pose after the Oct 10 team building event

Our biggest project this semester was a massive challenge both for myself personally as well as for the organization. On October 12th, Soap Cycling gathered 12 elderly workers from their MEY (美) social employment program to help facilitate a large group teambuilding event with DBS in Wan Chai. Bringing different generations and cultures together to achieve a common goal was difficult. Managing the materials (over 2 tons) and participants (130 total) required to run the session occupied much of my time and energy in the early part of the semester. To be honest, the preparations didn’t run as smoothly as I originally expected due to myriad communication problems. As it was the first time Soap Cycling had attempted to run such a large and complex activity, there was no playbook to which we could turn for reference. After an emergency meeting with management, we got everything back on track and redoubled our efforts as a team. With hard work we managed to run the event smoothly and everyone was pleased with the result. Throughout this experience, I have learnt that I must start planning much earlier beforehand and be more proactive --- ask questions whenever I am confused or unclear about the instructions. An important aspect of leadership is influencing without authority. In order to mobilize my teammates to help, I have to use clear communication and understand their motivations.

Soap Cycling MEY (美) elderly workers enjoy a snack before the event with DBS on Oct 12 in Wan Chai

Another valuable lesson learned during the internship was the importance of flexibility. In November, I organized a hiking event for our alumni and the current interns in the hope of strengthening our bonding as a team and learn from one our seniors while having fun together. As the date approached, however, several participants informed me last minute that they couldn’t make it due to school commitments. After discussing with my HR teammates, I had to make the tough, but necessary decision to postpone the outing. Working at Soap Cycling this semester, I learned the value of analyzing a situation quickly, soliciting feedback from peers, and to making difficult decisions under fast-changing circumstances.

Soap Cycling HR interns join minority youth MEY (美) worker, Bibi, to welcome attendees of the Q4 stakeholder meeting at the Pizza Express in Sai Ying Pun on Oct 8

Overall, I’d say this semester has been one of the best of my life. Apart from gaining so much valuable leadership experience, I have also gained many friends from all over the world. With eight different countries represented in this semester’s intern batch, we all had an invaluable chance to learn about different cultures and working styles. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to this precious opportunity offered by Soap Cycling.

Soap Cycling, thank you!

Soap Cycling 2018 fatl intern team dinner at a local dai pai dong (from left): Ben Curl (USA), Harold Reisma (USA), Anson Wong (HK), Tiffany Tong (HK), Pearl Wong (HK, author), Ng Wing Lau (USA), Sargam Malani (Thailand), Japrin Bhuiyan (HK), Sherlin Wongso (Indonesia), Michelle Kam (USA)