Starting a startup is hard, but scaling it is even harder. This was the big realization I had when my startup organization YouthHack was facing growing pains as we started to expand our programs all over the world. I'm thankful to have gotten the opportunity to learn how a company scales through my 10-week summer internship at Uber Philippines.
With the best managers I could've asked for
Internships are the perfect time to build your skillset
Coming into the internship, I wasn't sure what to expect as an intern in the City Operations team. I figured that I would be using previous skills that I already had in marketing, content, sales and business development.
However, I quickly found out on my first day that I was on the Strategic Analytics team and that I would be doing analytics using Excel and the statistical programming language called R, which I had to learn during my first week while working on my first project.
The struggle was real but with the help of my managers, a lot of Googling, and a lot of time spent watching tutorials, I was eventually able to get the hang of using R, doing statistical analysis with Excel and automating my R scripts using the web framework called Shiny.
Listen to your users, they know best
'Build something users want', is a famous quote that Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator likes to preach. It was at Uber where I got to see this motto practiced day in and day out.
Uber truly makes it an effort to listen to both its partner-drivers and its riders. I still remember all the surveys I had to send to gather information about our users, all the support tickets we had to answer, feedback and comments we had to process, and thousands of data points I had to analyze with the goal of making sure users of Uber have the best experience.
Small changes can make a big difference
When you're working in a company that serves thousands if not millions of people each day, every single detail is extremely important. One of the early lessons my manager imparted to me was how to not only double-check my work but also triple-check it.
Hand in hand, it's amazing to see how one small feature, implementation, email or detail can make such a big difference in how a city moves. One of my proudest moments was improving the pickup view of the app for one of Manila's biggest malls Megamall, and then seeing tweets of riders talk about how it helped them get picked up faster.
Give numbers a chance
Not being the best at quantitative skills or the biggest fan of my statistics class back in college, I wasn't really the best in crunching numbers. However, interning at Uber showed me the importance of numbers and always backing up every assumption and every idea I had with numbers.
Whether it was collecting data to validate potential projects or testing for the statistical significance of certain features I had rolled out, I got to see how data is used to measure the impact of projects and in making strategic decisions. Suddenly, I had a newfound appreciation for numbers.
Process is extremely important
Throughout my internship, I tried to soak in as many lessons as I could learn about how a company scales. Looking back at all the notes I took down in my Evernote notebook, this was the one lesson that kept popping up--process is extremely important.
Whether it was writing reports for the rest of the team to know what I was doing or updating my managers on the status of my projects or creating playbooks on best practices and lessons learned from the projects I worked on, it was evident how much Uber cared about creating processes in order to keep things sustainable and scalable.
Seize every opportunity, even those that you aren't qualified for
With one week left in my internship, I remember that one message the General Manager had sent on our interns group asking if someone wanted to help him build an application to streamline one of our processes. He was looking for someone, who could 'sprint on it for the next three days'.
While I didn't have any background on the app creator and scripting language he wanted to use, after viewing a quick tutorial and going through the specifications with the General Manager and realizing the importance of what he wanted me to build, I decided to give it a shot.
Although the project turned into a 3-week long project that had me coming in to work even after my official internship end date, I finished up the project knowing that the application I had built would be used by thousands of people in the Philippines.
It's all about the people
I ended my internship at Uber not only developing new skills and learning how a company scales but also becoming best of friends with 27 other co-interns. In over two months spent interning together, we got to see each other struggle through different challenges, work on real projects, and celebrate small wins and big wins.
We'd stay in the office until 9pm, 10pm, and sometimes even past 11pm finishing up our projects and exchanging stories about life. We simply weren't just co-interns anymore. We were a family making magic happen, and witnessing how Uber has impacted our country and the lives of Filipinos at an unprecedented rate.
As I headed home on my very last day, it was clear to me what the most important thing is when it comes to scaling a company: it's all about the people.
Special thanks to my co-interns for all the #mems, the full-time employees for all the lessons and kwento-sessions, and of course, my Strategic Analytics managers for believing in me, giving me the opportunity to take on real projects and for being ever so supportive throughout my 10-week internship.
You can learn more about my Uber Internship experience in this website I built. For students who are interested in interning at Uber Philippines, you can learn more about the program and apply here.
Thanks to all the interns and the Uber Philippines City Team for making my summer internship an extremely fun learning experience