A STARTUP is always 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 began to expand our programs all over the world. I’m thankful to have gotten the opportunity to learn how a company makes an uphill climb during my 10-week summer internship at Uber Philippines.
Internships are the perfect time to build your skill set
Coming into the internship, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the city operations team. I figured that I would be using skills that I already had in marketing, content, sales and business development.
However, I quickly found out on my first day that I was in 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 on 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 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 taught me was how not only to double-check my work but also triple-check it.
Hand in hand, it’s amazing to see how one small feature, implementation, e-mail 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, SM Megamall, 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, internship at Uber showed me the importance of numbers and of always backing up every assumption and idea with numbers.
Whether it was collecting data to validate potential projects or testing the statistical significance of certain features I had rolled out, I got to see how data was used to measure the impact of projects and to make strategic decisions. Suddenly, I had a newfound appreciation of numbers.
Process is extremely important
Throughout my internship, I tried to imbibe as many lessons as I could about how a company gets on its feet. Reviewing the notes I took down in my Evernote notebook, I noted 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 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 sent to 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.”
I didn’t have any background on the app creator and scripting language he wanted to use. But 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 task turned into a three-week project that had me coming to work even after my official internship had ended, I finished 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 together, we got to see each other struggle through different challenges, work on real projects and celebrate small and big wins.
We’d stay late in the office, sometimes past 11 p.m. finishing our projects and exchanging stories about life. We simply weren’t just co-interns anymore. We were a family trying to make 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 last day, it became clear to me what the most important thing is in a company’s rise: people.
Special thanks to my co-interns for all the #mems, the fulltime 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 at uberdos.davidongchoco.com. For students who are interested in interning at Uber Philippines, you can learn more about the program and apply here: newsroom.uber.com/philippines/celebrate-cities-with-the-uber-ph-internship-program/