Thursday, January 12, 2012

Overseas Placement Programme @ Boston

By Muhamad Hilmi Bin Harris, Year 3, Diploma in Business Enterprise IT

Photo by Slack12
Not everyone likes to set out on a road less traveled but an adventure would never be one without obstacles. My overseas attachment to Wunderman global network with Fortelligent, a business intelligence company, started out like this since the day I arrived in Boston, Massachusetts on the 12th of October 2011.

Due to a flight delay at my Dubai stopover, I missed my connecting flight to Logan International Airport (Boston), and arrived two hours later than expected. I was feeling really tired by then. Furthermore, there was no car to pick me up from the airport as planned due to a miscommunication. All I wanted to do is to lie down on my bed, but I braved myself and tried to find my way by taking a cab to my inn in Saugus, Massachusetts.

Along the trip, I discovered something unsettling from the driver. My inn was really far from Fortelligent’s office. I would have to spend a lot of money to commute back and forth to work. Thankfully, I was only there for 3 days before moving a little nearer to Allston, Massachusetts. During the first (rainy) week, I fit in some travelling and sightseeing between scouring hundreds of ads in Craigslist website to look for suitable lodging.
Left: Red Roof Inn, Saugus (MA.) Right: Farrington Inn, Allston (MA)

It was tough getting a place to stay as many brokers needed me to sign a minimum of 6 months of lease. I was only going to be in Boston for 4 months. After 2 weeks of grueling search, I finally settled down at Brookline, Massachusetts (at the border of Boston). This taught me that finding a place to stay was not easy as there were a lot of factors to consider such as rental lease period, utilities, laundry, security deposit, proximity to public transport, and rental fees.

My apprenticeship started five days from my arrival in Boston. During my first day, I was given some reading materials, paperwork, and set up my computer and corporate email. I met my supervisor, Tiffany, on my second day. She sat down with me to find out what were my expectations during this internship and discussed her objectives and plans for me.
Left: The building where Fortelligent is located. Right: My desk with a nice view
I was also informed that my position was Junior Business Analyst and I will be working primarily on a AT&T Prepaid project, focusing on QA Analytical processes and dashboard development under her supervision.
Welcome lunch with Fortelligent (Advanced Analytics Team). From left(Clockwise): Randy, Marc (Manager), Jorge, Nancy, Tiffany (My Supervisor), Me, Yelena and Jirong.
Food in Boston was just fantastic. The portions were very generous and the service was great. I had a chance to eat an all you can eat buffet at a Pakistani restaurant for only $9.50!

Left: Pakistani Buffet Restaurant. Middle: Cheesecake Factory Chain Restaurant. Right: Legal Seafood Chain Restaurant
I also had the opportunity to experience Halloween in Boston. Wunderman decided to hold a Jack-O-Lantern carving competition amongst teams from different states. My colleague invited me over to join her family and friends to carve the pumpkin. It was a very interesting experience and I enjoyed it very much. It’s much easier than you think as the pumpkin is mostly hollow and smooth. I won an award for “Best Effort!”
In picture: My Jack-o-Lantern and I. Award winner of “Best Effort Pumpkin.” HA!

Our various pumpkins
Right: Neil Townsend and I. The 99% and 1% of America
I had the chance to meet some interesting individuals, and one of them was Neil Townsend, my flatmate from Cincinnati, Ohio. I learnt about Baseball, Ice Hockey, American Football and College Football from Neil. We also dressed up as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement during Halloween.

Overall, Boston is a very charming city. It has a lot of nice architecture and scenic views. One Sunday morning, I went out to catch the Head Of The Charles Regatta@ at Charles River. There were different booths set up along the river and thousands of people came down to watch the races. It was a rewarding experience.
Charles River
Boston Common, the park police on a horse
Besides the many major US holidays, there were also International ones. American-Muslims gathered at mosques around Boston to celebrate Hari Raya Aidiladha on 6th November 2011.

A friend of mine introduced me to a fellow Singaporean Muslim family living in Boston. I paid them a visit during Hari Raya and we had a little feast with other Singaporeans & Malaysians. I was fortunate to be able to celebrate an occassion close to my heart in a different environment.
Left: Yusuf Mosque at Chestnut Hill. Middle: Malay-Muslim Singaporeans in Boston Right: Congregational prayers for Hari Raya Aidiladha in Boston
Overall, the first month has been an eye opener for me. I experienced different weather, places, people, working environment, culture, customs and traditions. I believe that I will continue to learn new things as I spend the next few months here in Boston.

Till the next update!

Hilmi is part of the Zed Academy programme, an international apprenticeship programme that gives senior year students the opportunity to spend 3 to 6 months working at Wunderman offices around the world.


  1. Awesome!!! It's great you took the first step in applying for this internship. I am certain you won't regret it. Many many years ago, I went for an overseas exchange as well to Germany during my time in NYP. Up till now, I still consider it the best period of my life.

    Hilmi, enjoy the experience thoroughly and cherish every moment spent there. Opportunities like that are rare. :)


    1. Thanks for reading JY :) You're right, best decision ever. Germany sounds fantastic too, I'm sure you had fun then!
      I've yet to check out Europe!

      Well with that said, I would definitely recommend and urge students in future to step up and apply for such opportunities should it arise.

      -Hilmi Harris