The people at AhaMove

Considering a job, there are two important things I will look at: what I will do, and who I will do it with. In the previous posts, I’ve talked a lot about my job at AhaMove, but never mentioned the people I worked with. It’s not because I had nothing to tell about my colleagues. In fact, it’s the other way. Meeting, talking to and working with my Operations teammates and other people in the company everyday left me with so many thoughts and feelings that I didn’t even know where to start.

They are very young. Most of them are just around my age, with many still in college or having recently graduated. I think it kind of suits the company – AhaMove was founded just two years ago and celebrated its second birthday last week. You can feel the company’s spirit among its people, who often come at 9 despite the 8:30 – 18:00 official working time but also are willing to stay past 9 PM to complete an unfinished project. Their energy, passion and even a-bit-of-messiness seem to transform into the company’s culture.

It’s often thought that “young” means “inexperienced”. However, for my teammates, their ages are not limitations for their abilities. Although only a few years older than me, many of them are already executive members at AhaMove, leading one of the top-listed technologically based companies in Vietnam. Their knowledge and creativity have been inspiring me since the very first moment I joined the office. Looking at how skillful and passionate they are at such young ages, I feel the urge to work harder everyday.

The internship at AhaMove has allowed me to work besides some of the most talented people I know and, more importantly, to make friend with them. They’ve made my every stressful, tiring day at work just as comfortable as a day out with friends, and I appreciate it so much. After this three months, I’m surely going to miss our jelly-and-yogurt afternoons, our messy group chats with hundreds of unread messages everyday, and our beach trip together.

Having said that, I feel deeply grateful for having received the Dickinson Internship Grant. Such generous support from the college and its donors have realized this opportunity of mine, allowing me to meet, know and learn from such amazing people.

As my time at the internship is nearing, I started to look back on this summer. The last three months have been an awesome journey for me. I have learned and grown a lot thanks to not only the job at AhaMove but also the people I’ve met there. These experiences are undoubtedly valuable for me, and I just want to say “Thank you” to everyone who has been a part of my time at AhaMove.

Now, it’s time for the next chapter of my life.

My Operations team with our newly-changed logo and uniform. I was the one in the back with arms swinging the other direction.

5,000 Kilometers and A Busy Summer

Above is the photo of my motorbike’s odometer at the beginning of the summer and now. Working at AhaMove, I’ve been traveling a distance of 35 kilometers twice a day, six days a week and for the last three months. That added up to 5,000 kilometers, or 3,100 miles, which is equal to 16 times the distance between Carlisle and New York. In terms of time, it’s taken me one and a half hour per day and almost six days in total to just literally go to work.

Having to travel that much to work has its own bright side for me, a person who works closely with motorbike couriers. It shows me experiences and troubles and difficulties the couriers may have on the road, giving me a bit of how it feels being a motor-rider myself. Understanding of the job you’re doing and the people you’re dealing with is undoubtedly important.

However, the downsides of having to devote such amount of time and effort outweigh those advantages. Besides my full-time internship and this weekly blog, I am currently taking a mandatory summer course due to curricular differences between Dickinson College and University of East Anglia where I’m studying abroad next semester. That’s already a lot of work, not mentioning my two VISA applications, one US and one UK, and the Dickinson’s Internship Notation Program (INP) I have to occasionally report to. Going back home at 7:30 PM already worn out after a long working day and long journey, therefore, doesn’t seem to be my favorite thing this summer.

Having said that, such a busy life is not totally a disaster. Human’s body is like a machine; if you leave it inactive for too long, the gears will be rusty and the engines defective. On the other hand, however, if you keep it overworking for too long, the machine will get overheat and gradually broken as well.

I did not expect nor realize my summer would be this busy until the beginning of it after all the things I had signed up for at the end of the semester suddenly rushing towards me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about those things at all – the internship has been one of the best summer experience I’ve had, while this weekly blog program allowed me to reflect, understand and appreciate such experience even more.

It’s just not really a good idea to have too much of anything. It’s like food – despite how good it is, you wouldn’t be able to have anymore if you’re already full. You’d be overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed. Everyday after eight hours at work, I’d go home and prepare a blog, write an INP reflection or do my summer course’s homework until 1 or 2 AM. I haven’t really had much time with my family and friends, and that’s what I felt bad the most about.

Having said that, I’ve realized how important it is to have a positive mindset particularly during an internship. Your internship could be one of the most amazing, eye-opening experience you’ve ever had, but you would never be able to get the most out of it with a tired, unmotivated spirit. I recommend that you maintain a hobby, something that can refresh your mind and keep you going, something of your interests. For me, I’ve chosen my occasional after-work soccer matches and it’s worked pretty well, even though it’d delay my returning home until 11 PM and make me stay awake even later that night to do homework.

This has been the most active summer I’ve ever had, and I think I’ve managed it quite well. In exchange of all those three month’s time and effort, I’ve gained and learned a lot of lessons, enough for me to say that I’d do it all over again if the time ever rewinded. There are only a few days left in my internship and my summer, and I look forward to closing my time nice and neat here!

Thoughts about our new project at AhaMove

It’s been almost two months since we at AhaMove started the Pooling feature. Like some of you who’re familiar with Uber may guess, it’s a new function that allows customers to use our service at lower prices but higher delivery time. Specifically, our couriers will pick up multiple – instead of one – packages whose routes are relatively similar and deliver them at the same time. Even though it’s just started at the beginning of June, this project had been designed and developed for over a year, long before I came.

I joined AhaMove when the preparation process was at the end. Everyone was holding their breathe waiting for the service’s debut; this is one of the most important project of our company this year. After all over a year of hard work, there were still many problems. How to increase the matching rate between different orders’ routes while still ensuring lowest delivery time? How to make couriers accept and even love the new service despite its lower prices? How to promote it among our customers? Even after the program has been launched, there were still many other issues, from major to little, tiny daily ones we needed to work on. There were countless discussions, meetings, and even conflicts. The whole company was on fire during these two months, from our CEO, the departments’ directors to even us employees.

Being a part of such “chaos” was admittedly pressuring but also very inspiring and eye-opening. Pooling is our completely new feature. Seeing the launching of this project is like seeing how a company build its everything from scratch. For a potential entrepreneur like me, that was definitely an invaluable opportunity.

In my previous blogs, I have been talking about how the internship at AhaMove so well. It’s still true, and I appreciate this experience so much. Having said that, I am deeply grateful to Dickinson College and its donors for my internship grant. Without their generosity, I undoubtedly would not have had the precious opportunity of working at AhaMove. I’m really looking forward to the last four weeks and upcoming experiences at the company.

The hustle and bustle even at lunch time in our office during the launching of the new Pooling project. Credit to our CEO Truong Nguyen – thank you for helping us capture our precious moments!

A bit about my job at AhaMove

“Operations Intern”. That’s my title at AhaMove, with “Operations” being the department I’m interning in. Different from a normal business whose target is only consumer, a digital-based last-mile delivery company like AhaMove works with both sides of the market – consumer and supplier (or courier). At AhaMove, Operations is responsible for the company’s courier side. Our team, called Ops-Growth, is one of two sub-teams of Operations and dealing with new courier. Recruiting, training, solving daily operational issues, creating incentive programs… anything that helps turning a motor rider into one of our couriers and then keeping them with us for the first four weeks at AhaMove – that’s our jobs.

Being an intern in the Ops-Growth team, my work at first involved heavily with recruiting and training new couriers. That included sending SMS to those interested in working with AhaMove, calling them to make an appointment, and preparing them when they came to our office for training. The job was quite laborious. During the first few weeks, for eight hours at work, I would spend three to four hours for contacting potential couriers and the rest for training session preparation.

The work gave me fascinating insights into the company’s operations and chances to meet and talk to a lot of people, and I liked it. However, as an Economics major with interests in data science, I understood that was not what I really wanted to do – telesales and human resources training. At first, I hesitated to talk with my supervisor about my expectation. It was partly due to the employee – manager distance, partly because I did not want to be seen as too demanding – it was a valuable opportunity to work in an organization like AhaMove and I didn’t want to lose it.

However, I think a good working environment should be one where employees have the same voice with managers. Also, I believe that the more I value this internship at AhaMove, the more I should use my time here wisely. Therefore, I talked to my supervisor about my expectation, which was data analysis. Fortunately, he understood, and now I’m working as an interning analyst for the Operations team, doing research on driver’s metrics and driver-incentive programs.

I’ve also realized how important it is to understand myself. As a rising junior, I know how inexperienced I am and how much I still have to learn. However, if you really understand yourself and know what you truly want, then it’s important that you follow it no matter what the challenges are.

An Operations team’s weekly meeting in which I (red shirt, behind the guy with striped T-shirt on the right) presented my research results

An office culture with more freedom

The other day, our family was gathering and chatting in the living room after dinner. The topic turned to my internship at AhaMove, with questions about the company, my jobs and people at work. During the talk, my parents asked me to show photos of where I sit in the workplace. “I don’t have a seat!” – I told them. Understandably, my parents were quite surprised – I used to be as well during my first days at work.

Technically we have places assigned for each team, with our Operations team at one corner, Business Development in another, Marketing next to the wall etc. It was not really mandatory, however, and member of the teams are not required to be at a particular table for a whole day. We can sit wherever convenient for our work! For me, some days I sat with Marketing to discuss with them about new advertisements for courier recruitment. Other times when I needed to work on my analytic projects, I grabbed my laptop and move next to Business Intelligence team, in case I might need their help.

This is not the only difference between AhaMove and a typical company whose office culture is often very organized and structured. A typical work day at AhaMove starts from 8:30 AM and ends at 6 PM, but we employees don’t have be at office for all nine and a half hours long. Some occasional absences from work are no big deal as long as we have reasonable excuses and our jobs are still finished at the end of the day. In addition, there is no mandatory dress code in our company – no suits, jeans, business casuals or anything. I myself wear shorts and t-shirts (mine, not the company’s) with flip-flops to work everyday. Even my supervisor does too!

Such a work environment with so many extra “freedoms”, from my experience so far, seems to be beneficial for the company. At AhaMove we can do what we like, where we like and when we like it! It helps make our office less ordered, structured and systemized – less office-like, making the workplace just as enjoyable as a place to hang out. Moreover, with less restrictions, it reduces unnecessary pressures and distractions and focuses us on what more important – the work and results.

Such a work environment with more flexibilities goes beyond matters about clothes and work time. It transcends into an office culture of freedom, where we have more opportunities for personal development and career exploration. In the Operations team, my jobs are supposed to involve heavily with recruiting and training couriers and almost nothing with data analysis. Knowing my interests in data science, however, the company has given me chances to delve into the field. My supervisor the company usually  constantly gives me jobs that are more analytic and data-related, ranging from researching on our new incentive programs to collaborating with the BI (Business Intelligence) team on their other projects.

I’ve also gotten to know other people whose positions in the company have changed based on their interest. Mr Binh Do, a BI team’s senior data analyst who is close with me, was first a member of the Business Development team and worked with customers.

Such a “culture with more freedoms” has been one of the reasons why I think AhaMove is a perfect fit for me. I wonder if a workplace with less rules and restrictions, more flexible working conditions is typical for every start-up. Anyway, I hope to learn and enjoy for the one and a half month left of my internship.

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