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Interning at Gulf: A Serendipitous Opportunity

July 10, 2019
• by
Elizabeth Fedde
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Let’s talk about the real reason I’m spending the summer in Bangkok, Thailand - to get work experience! I'm interning at Gulf Energy Development and I think it’s safe to say that I am one of the luckiest Marshall International Summer Internship Program interns. Not only am I learning about a part of business I can see myself pursuing, but also every employee at Gulf has been so welcoming to me. I consider myself lucky because I didn't get to choose where I would be interning when I applied for MISIP and I couldn't be happier with my placement.

Gulf is one of the largest energy companies in Thailand and was founded by a USC Viterbi Alumni, Sarath Ratanavadi! Since it’s an energy company, a majority of its employees are engineers, but as a Marshall student I'm interning in Gulf’s corporate planning department under Bubby (pictured above), the manager of corporate sustainability. I am interested in corporate sustainability because I sincerely believe that the private sector is the largest and fastest way to reduce environmental impacts and that if corporate sustainability is implemented correctly, then businesses, society, and the environment will reap the benefits. 

When I arrived at Gulf, there was a huge report due in less than ten days that would allow Gulf, who just recently went public, to be placed on the RobecoSAM international sustainability index, which is a crucial step for investment opportunities. I was put straight to work to help Bubby as much as I could with the parts of this process that were in English. 

After the report was turned in, I began to analyze the sustainability reports of companies that were highly ranked on the sustainability index to indicate the most material issues overall and where Gulf should be prioritizing improvement. Once I compiled and presented this research, Bubby and I began planning presentations and workshops with the goal of unifying everyone’s understanding of corporate sustainability at Gulf. 

Currently, most people associate sustainability with environmental issues or corporate social responsibility projects, but it’s so much more than that. The real purpose of corporate sustainability isn’t just to plant trees, it is to ensure that your business will be able to run (and profit) for a long time! To make this happen, it’s necessary to take into account your environmental and social impact along with your economic impact. Sustainability is almost a buzzword in America, especially in SoCal, but the people and companies of Thailand are just starting to consider it. This being said, the real push for sustainability in all countries comes from investors who are only willing to invest in companies that meet sustainability requirements because this ensures that the business will continue providing them with a consistent return on their investment.

The best part of my internship is that I’m not just learning new concepts, but I’m learning about how they are perceived and applied in a Thai culture versus and American one. Bubby has a unique perspective on this because she lived in America for a few years, earned her masters in London, and used to be a university professor teaching classes on sustainable development. Her diverse background gives her immense knowledge, perspective, and patience and I’m so grateful to learn from her!

As you can tell, I’m thoroughly enjoying my time in the office, but I have to mention how amazing and welcoming Gulf has been to me outside of the office as well! I always am invited to lunch whether it’s with someone from a random department who I’ve never met or the group of employees who I work with in corporate planning! I’ve been taught (and forgotten how to pronounce) countless Thai phrases and co-workers will help me order my lunch to ensure it isn’t too spicy for the “farang” (foreigner). 

This past weekend, two co-workers P’Marty (a USC alum!) and P’Nan met up with me to guide me through the Sampang wholesale market in Chinatown and visit Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn). They both have lived most of their lives in Thailand and had never seen this famous temple on the river so they were happy to be tourists for the day with me. Things like this are what makes it easy to avoid homesickness. (:

I only have about four weeks left at this amazing company and I’m looking forward to the presentations, workshops, power plant site visits, lunch dates, and other adventures to come!