Alumni Spotlight: Imogen Wallis

Imogen Wallis is a 20 year old undergrad from London, England, attending the University of Hertfordshire. Studying Marketing with Advertising, she is currently working for a non-profit in Malaysia since July 2013 in their communications department as part of her Sandwich year.

Why did you decide to volunteer as an intern with SOLS 24/7?

Spending time with SOLS 24/7 volunteers in Kuala Lumpur

Imogen: Since joining university my tutors always encouraged myself and my peers to gain work experience, due to the competitive job market, and take a Sandwich year out of university.

I spotted the opportunity to work with Science of Life Studies 24/7 (SOLS 24/7) on my universities website, and having worked with charities in the past, I knew I liked working for organisations with a good cause that were less corporate in style.

Through working with an NGO I hoped my role would be flexible and I’d be involved in numerous tasks. Having the opportunity to work on different projects and gain a variety of skills was a really important experience I wanted to gain, as it would enable me to decide what I enjoyed and what kind of job role I would like to apply for in the future.

However, what attracted me most was the opportunity to return to Asia. Having travelled in the past to SE Asia, I wanted to go back and experience more of the culture and working style to help decide if working internationally or within an international company was something I would like to do. As well, it would be the first time travelling abroad by myself and living in another country, which I felt would really boost my confidence and enable me to become more independent.

Describe your day to day activities as an intern.

Imogen: As part of the communications department my duties cover a wide range of activities. Continuously I run social media sites including FB and Twitter, whilst writing articles for donors and the website.

As communications concentrates on the voice and brand image of SOLS 24/7, I have learnt the importance of generating the right content to our followers and how to respond to them in way that appeals to the target audience. This was further highlighted when SOLS 24/7 recently redesigned their website, where I was able to learn new skills in html and help with the layout and content of the site.

Other day to day activities involve tracking trends in the media that may be relatable to the organisation, or researching and promoting events, such as encouraging volunteers to join on blog and forums.I have also been lucky enough to attend several marketing summits and events to learn more about promotion, entrepreneurship and brand positioning.

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer internship?

Enjoying the the new SOLS 24/7 Tech office

Imogen: Since joining SOLS 24/7 and coming to Malaysia I have met such a wide variety of people from different cultures. It is always interesting to learn about other people’s pasts, their reasons for joining the organisation and what they want to achieve.

Particularly when I interview people for the website profiles, I get to learn how their culture and upbringing differed to mine and how it got them to where they are today.As many of us are in a completely new situation and far from home, you bond with people very quickly and I feel like I have made a second family here.

Work-wise I get a lot of flexibility with the projects I am involved in and after my initial first months I have been given more independence and have the ability to generate and test my own ideas. This increases my skills in organisation, management and decision making which will really benefit me in the future.

This is further developed through attending some great opportunities such as a 2 day course with Microsoft where I learnt a lot that will help me in my final year at university. I feel far more prepared and confident in any future interviews or jobs I apply for.

Tell us about one person you've met there.

Imogen: Soon after my arrival to SOLS 24/7, another volunteer also from England joined named Gigi. Similarly to myself, she joined SOLS 24/7 to gain further experience and help decide what career path she would like to take in the future. Due to our similar situation, age and interests we quickly bonded, exploring Kuala Lumpur together, and working in the office strategizing SOLS 24/7’s social media platforms.

Despite Gigi deciding she would like to teach, moving to one of the centres, she has always been there for me as is the same with many of the other girls I have met and it is great to see each other during the training meet ups. I am really glad to have met her and admire Gigi for also leaving home to go travelling.

As Gigi will be visiting Australia and South America after her time at SOLS 24/7, I definitely now have the confidence that I too can plan and travel by myself across the world once my internship has finished.

The best part of my experience with SOLS 24/7 has definitely been the people, and luckily due to everyone being from all over the world, it gives me a great excuse to continue travelling to see them again!

How has this experience impacted your future?

Promoting SOLS 24/7 at KL’s first NGO carnival event

Imogen: I am so glad that I decided to take this opportunity to intern for SOLS 24/7 rather than stay in the UK. I have become far more independent and confident as a person, as I have learnt to take risks and use my own judgement.

I now know that I no longer need to completely rely on my parents and that if I want something done I have to do it myself! Visiting several of the centers has also made me really appreciate the effort my parents made to provide me with a good education.

It is really inspiring to see the Community Development Officers and trainees dedicate their time and resources into teaching the community’s. When you see some of the students speaking English after only 3 months, it really encourages you that goals are achievable if you work hard.

The flexibility of my role has been great and I don’t think I would have ever learnt so many varied skills if I had worked for another organisation. Everything I have learned will definitely help with my final year at university and I feel far more confident talking about my experience and what I can contribute in future interviews. I now know that I definitely want to work in an international company and now debating to do a masters degree!