Thoughts after meeting with a shipper with disabilities

Internships are valuable opportunities because they are chances for you to meet new people. It’s not only a matter of networking or expanding your social connections. More than that, it is also people you meet, stories you hear and conversations you have – it is those simple, very random things that can bring you meaningful lessons and thoughts. To me, such a special encounter occurred just recently, when I met a special shipper – one with disabilities – during my internship at AhaMove.

He came to our office on an early Friday morning. Different from other motor riders who also came that day to sign up for AhaMove, he had only two fingers on each of his hands. Having such disability should make it extremely difficult and tiresome for one to do even the most simple task such as writing. Therefore,  despite coming 20 minutes before our training session for new riders, he couldn’t finish the preparation process, which included filling some signup forms, on time. Our team was also so understaffed that day to personally help him. Only after every other rider had finished moving into the training room did I realize he was still in the corner of our lobby struggling with the paperwork.

I had a closer look at him as I came to help. He wore an old shirt with a sun-burned skin color and tiredness on his face. I told him our session had started, asking if he could come back in the afternoon. “Yes, yes I will”, he replied. He asked if I could help him finishing the preparation process right then, worrying he might not make it on time again in the afternoon. As we filled out the information form together, he shared with me he had been doing delivery for some shops and stores before coming to AhaMove, but the job was unstable. “Some days they hired other instead of me, some days there’s simply no job to; nothing to deliver”, he said with a low voice. Given his disability, I guessed he didn’t have many options either. After that, he did came again in the afternoon, attended the training session and became our new shipper. Before he left, he came to thank me again, looking much happier than when I first met him in the morning.

Afterwards, I didn’t think much and almost forgot about him, until about a week later when we met again. He came as our shipper to deliver some equipment also for our office. He still wore an old shirt with a sun-burned skin color and drops of sweat of his face, but no tiredness this time. As he swiftly unpacked the stuffs, his two-fingered hands grabbed some plastic chairs and helped us bring them insides. Recognizing me, he nodded to say hi. I asked how things were going. “Much better, thank you!”, he said with a smile on his face. That was the second time I saw him smile, the first time was the afternoon after he had finished the training session and become our rider.

His smile lingered in my mind for a while. He seemed to be a hardworking man whose life had never been easy. He came to us, to AhaMove, looking for not only a more stable job but also a chance. A chance to fight against his disabilities, his disadvantages in life. Thinking about him looking happy as he helped us moving the plastic chairs, I hoped we at AhaMove had somehow really helped him.

That day, when I was on the way going home, my minds kept wandering around with thoughts. I wondered what the main purpose of a company should be. Many companies were built upon founders’ personal interests, whether they were to satisfy one’s passion for a particular idea, to make profit or whatever. However, I came to believe that, besides personal interests, a company must also have social benefits at its goals. Contributing to society should always be among the main purposes of a company. For a start-up, like AhaMove, it will be to do so in a revolutionary way.

I cherish the random meetings with new people and chances to hear their stories so much! They help me realize that internships are valuable opportunities not only because of things we can do – apply what we’ve learned in schools and explore career options. It’s also the people and conversations at work that can be meaningful lessons and make those working experience truly precious. Having said that, I am more grateful than ever to be a recipient of Dickinson Internship Grant! Without the support from the college and our generous donors, I would definitely not have these opportunities.

Looking forward to my one and a half month left at AhaMove!

Our training session for new riders on a regular afternoon. Credit: our CEO Truong Nguyen

Finding an internship – To know what you really want

Since when I received the offer letter from AhaMove, which was few months ago, some of my friends have asked me about where and how I found and got this internship. Those questions are not easy. First, it is because, to be honest, I don’t think I am the best person to answer them; I am not any recruiter, just a rising junior with barely any experience and this is just the first internship I have ever had. Second, there are too many things I have learned from that long applying process to share in only few words. However, there are few things I consider to be the most important when one’s looking for an internship, and do really want to share them. Hopefully they will be helpful to anyone who is looking for an internship or is having problems finding one.

I used to believe that determination is the most important factor when one is looking for an internship, since the application process can be very frustrating. Day by day you have to put much time and effort in it, browsing through hundreds of programs, researching carefully about the companies, preparing and polishing your resumes and cover letters. However, most of your emails may go not responded. If you are a bit luckier, the employers may be kind enough to send out some rejecting emails after having a glance at your profile.

Yes, admittedly I am exaggerating, but about the details only, not the level of exhaustion and disappointment you may have. A senior once told me that she had to applied for around 50 programs before finally receiving the offer. For most of us, finding an internship could be very tiring and discouraging, and we all need some kind of mental preparation. With that in mind, I started to look for a summer internship believing that as long as I remained determined, persevered and kept my hopes, at the end things would work out.

The first application I sent was never replied. It was nothing and I was still very calm. Then the second, third, fourth and fifth. “This is just one-tenth of it”, I said to myself, mentally prepare to do 50 applications if necessary. However, probably because I’m not much of a patient person, before the 50th email was sent out, I started to believe there must be something wrong.

I started to sit down to think. Then, I realized my problem was that I did not have any focus. I applied for various programs, ranging from financial services (because I was an INBM major and thought it could be a good fit) to accounting (because of my interest in working with numbers) and data analysis (because of my beginning passion for data science). I tried all kinds of programs in all kinds of companies, small, medium and giant corporate. With no particular target in mind, I found my time and effort spread out wastefully, my cover letters and resumes too general and not convincing enough.

Therefore, I stopped sending out countless emails everyday, beginning to think of what I wanted my summer internship to be. I was mostly interested in numbers and data, so a data analyst’s job should be a good fit. I also believed that a start-up in which the boundary between employers and employees does not exist would be the best environment to learn, and hoped to work in a company based in Vietnam since I had not been home for 9 months. I listed out several aspects of a desired internship of mine. With more specific targets and less options, I was able to focus better, further polish my applications, and show more of my passion. Finally, I was able to secure a position in the Operation department at AhaMove.

I realized how important it is for one to know what he or she really wants when looking for an internship. I would not say it would 100% help you find one; success in job-searching depends on many factors including both luck and talents. However, having a particular goal and being able to focus your effort on it definitely give you a better chance.

Therefore, to anyone who are or will be looking for an internship or a job, my advice is that sometimes you need to slow down a bit. Determination is good, but every now and then you will need a moment to reflect on yourselves and your desires. With a clear target and an unstoppable will, time is all that’s left before you can get what you want.

A real experience

It’s been over a week since my first day at AhaMove. It’s not long and definitely not enough for me to say much about the company and my three-month internship. There are problems and challenges for me, of course. However, everything has been going well and great. Things I did, people I met, conversations I had – the experience I’ve had so far is just as what I hoped for when applying for the internship – a real experience.

AhaMove, the company I’m interning, is a startup that focuses on same-day delivery on a technological platform on smartphones in Vietnam. “Just like UberEATS or Dropoff”, one may say. However, there is one difference between us and them: we are a small company founded just two years ago. Working in a newly-founded startup is obviously different from that in a big company. Besides more work and probably higher pressure, in a startup things seem less structured, organized and, I would say, “messy”.

I remember my first day at AhaMove. My job as an Operation Intern is to help the company increase supplies of deliverers, in terms of both quantity and quality. However, I did not know what I need to do even until stepping into the office on that Friday morning. I spent half of that first day reading brochures and posters about deliverer recruitment processes, trying to understand how everything worked. There was no training program or instruction on what I need to do in the internship. Whenever I had questions, I had to bring them to my supervisor or ask colleagues who had worked before me. Things were learned on the spot, and this sometimes can be challenging to many. To me, however, I also find this experience to be especially priceless.

I understand college and real world can be really different environments in many ways. One will need not only technical skills and knowledge, but also the abilities to adapt and constantly improve. That’s why I chose a startup like AhaMove. It’s an environment in which everything is still small, everything has just started and is constantly changing. In such an environment, I will be exposed to everything and have the chance to try and experience everything. A real experience! Besides, working in a startup allows me to get to know and learn more about all the young, passionate and talented colleagues. All of these I doubt will be available in a big, multi-leveled company. What can be taken out of that, therefore, could be more than just work but also life experience and good friends.

As I rode my bike out of the company’s parking lot at 6:30 PM everyday, my mind was always full of thoughts about the experience I have had so far. Like I said, it’s been only over a week and too early for me to say much about this internship. However, I’m feeling like I’m growing and learning a bit more every, and I look forward to the next twelve promising weeks.

The company's office on an early Tuesday morning
The company’s office on an early Tuesday morning