The people

Today marks the end of my summer internship at AhaMove.

The last three months have been a blast for me, again. This is the second time I come to AhaMove. I have had the chances to do what I desire, or at least is desiring to do – data science and data analysis.

However, more than that it is the people that I am mostly grateful about this opportunity. The young, talented, hopeful, energetic and inspiring people of AhaMove. Everyday coming to work was a day full of mixed feelings. The fun of being around people with the same age, same ideas and dreams. The enthusiasm when finding new things and learn new stuffs. The inspiration  of working side by side with those brilliant people. Everyday coming to work was a day full of hopes, energy and happiness for me.

Personally, going back to AhaMove but in a different role and a different team was a perfect move of me. I got the chance to be back in the dreamed working environment of AhaMove, but was still able to challenge myself in a different position and meet new people. Again, especially the people. Three month went by and our bonds have surely been stronger than simply coworker-ship.

Having said that, I am thankful to be a receiver of Dickinson’s Internship Grant. This grant has again allowed me to do what I love to and fulfill my summer, which no doubt has been a huge step in my career path in the future.

These last few words are for my Business Intelligence team at AhMove and the great people there. Thank you for the last three months. Thanks for opening up and welcoming me, for teaching me lessons and for being friends with me. I have known, I have learned, and, most importantly, I have felt happy. No one knows what the future holds, but I hope we will meet down the road, and definitely you and AhaMove are something I am absolutely never going to for.

Here to the “Vote Kill” team!

Where to look for an Internship?

Our Business Intelligence team at AhaMove

Initially this was not one of the topics I planned to write a blog on. I am an experienced recruiter, nor the path leading to my current internship is a typical and easily visible one for everyone to follow.

Still, I have learned a lot after what I have been through, and therefore hope that my experience could be more or less helpful for someone who is also starting their professional career.

From my experience, there are three sources which a student can keep an eye on to look for an internship. The first – and also the most distant – is the Internet. Yes, everything nowadays can be found on the Internet. Internship-searching sites are now everywhere. Websites like LinkedIn and Internblitz.com connect employers and candidates from all around the world, making the search for a job easier than ever. One search for keywords “data science internship” on Google brings around 93 million results. Even if only 1% of those results are useful, they are already more than enough for you to look at.

It was through LinkedIn that I first heard about AhaMove, the organization I am currently interning at. Therefore, personally this is a very useful source that has worked for me!

The second source is academic. Almost every college and university now has a career center in which students can ask for help on their CVs, learn about professional tips, and, most importantly, connect with alumni. Yes, alumni are the second source a student can look at for a job opportunity. They are employers or employees who were once students and in need of support just like you, so most of the times they understand and are very eager to help.

Though I have not used academic relationship in finding an internship, this source has been more than important to me. I came to Dickinson Career Center regularly to ask for feedbacks on my resume. More importantly, thanks to Dickinson’s internship grant I have been able to take on this wonderful opportunity at AhaMove, so I definitely recommend this second source anyone looking for internship.

Finally, the last source is personal. Look at your personal circle, the people around you, the connections you have made in college, in high school, around your home, or at the summer camp. Some of them may be recruiters looking for suitable candidates, while others are people who know the recruiters mentioned above. Some people may shy away from asking their personal connections for a job opportunity, but that’s a mistake. You are not asking for a job or an internship, you are only asking for an opportunity. If you are not a good fit for their organization, then so be it – nobody loses anything. But if you are, that’s totally a win-win situation. The key here is to always be confident, honest, and thankful no matter what the result is.

These three sources are from my personal experience. They are listed in the decreasing order of abundance and difficulty, with the first source having the largest number of opportunities for you to look at, but also being the most difficult to secure one. However, they are only based on my limited experience and I really wish to know more about professional opportunities and tips, so if you know about any other sources that will be helpful in finding and securing an internship please feel free to comment below!

A Start-up Environment: With Great Freedom Comes Great Responsibility

As I mentioned earlier, I am interning at AhaMove, an e-commerce delivery service startup in Hanoi, Vietnam. Our company is specialized in last-mile delivery with a smartphone app through which customers can make orders for their packages to be delivered – just like booking an Uber for a box. The company is still at its very early age – it was only recently founded in 2015. Even the employees are young as well –  most of my coworkers are around my age and our CEO is only in his early 30s. A new company in  a developing service type and filled with young people, AhaMove has a unique business culture with extremely great level of freedom that I have not seen anywhere else.

By freedom I mean flexibility. In everything. We do have a 9-to-5 working time range (actually 8:30 to 6), but people are not required to be present in the office at exactly that time. If we come late, we leave late. We can even work at home in case the weather is terrible with heavy rain and storm (which happen a lot during summer in Vietnam). There is no dress code, no suit and tie. There is no boss going around checking if we are coding or are i-messaging.

Yes that sounds like an easy job and all and AhaMove is a disordered company, but it’s not. We can go to work late, dress in sweatpants and t-shirt, and even i-message all day if we want, but at the end of the month we still have to deliver the work we were assigned earlier. We still have to make presentations for our boss (yes we also have a boss), submit reports, and, in my position, provide useful and crucial business insights through several projects.

What distinguishes AhaMove as a tech startup from other traditional companies is its work culture. As long as the working results are guaranteed, we don’t pay much attention to the process. Such great working freedom allows any quality employees with any working habit to adjust, work and strive in the company. In fact, it is even more difficult than the traditional rigid working culture, because we have to control our constant temptation to procrastinate and slack off and to focus on our job.

I personally love this working culture at AhaMove. Thanks to it I have had chances to work better (since I can adjust my schedule to my habit), develop more skills, and deliver higher quality of work. I have also learned how to control my mind and have better concentration, since I am constantly surrounded by distraction and have no supervisor around. Surely this has been one of the biggest benefits I have had working here, at a young startup like AhaMove.

Company trip

I have recently returned from a three-day-four-night trip with the whole company. It was the second trip I had chances to enjoy as a member of AhaMove – the first time was three weeks ago with my Business Intelligence team, and this time the whole company joined with us.

Our destination was Danang, one of the most famous and tourist attracted cities in Central Vietnam. Our company’s limited budget put us on a sixteen hour-long train, but instead of inconvenience and discomfort we had amazing time together to play cards, board games, and watch the World Cup which was getting to the final stages at that time.

Us on the train enjoying our company-wide board game “Werewolf”

We spent the next three days and two nights with sand, beach, delicious local food, and shopping around the near-by local markets. It was a super relaxing getaway where we could all take a break from the data and number and the stressful work before getting back refreshed and ready. Our company and team are both young and full of people around my age, so rather than a formal company thing it was more like an enjoyable trip with friends.

Bonding time by the beach

Having said that, I feel very grateful having been able to join the trip. The whole trip’s cost was personally very high for me, around four-fifth of my as well as other interns’ monthly salary. Therefore our team’s other members each decided to make a small donation in order for us all to be able to enjoy this opportunity. Words cannot describe how thankful I am and how strong the bonds within our team have become.

This trip also made me think about the important of a break and when to have it. It is crucial to be focused and submerge yourself in the work to have the best understanding and deliver the highest quality of work, but when needed a break is important. A fresh and relaxed mind, after a break, will obviously benefit you and your work more than a constantly stressed and tired one.

Hoi An Old Street – one of the destinations during our trip in Danang

Choosing Career In A Different Academic Field

If you have read my previous posts, you will know more or less about my job in this internship at AhaMove. Data Analyst Collaborator – that’s my title. Everyday I manage, extract and analyze data – hundreds of millions of data points – to build analytical models and seek for useful business insights. Having said that, my job is very heavy on coding and involves a lot with math.

On the other hand, I am not a Math major. I don’t study computer science (or comp-sci as we often call) that much either in college – all I have taken is the very first intro to comp-sci class. What I do – Economics and Business Management, which are mostly about how businesses run and individuals interact in economies, apparently cannot provide a strong technical background for me and my aspired career path in data science. As a rising senior who has only realized his passion recently, I cannot change my academic major either.  I’m risking into the field I have not been prepared, and possibly wasting my years of studying in college. Uncertain and worried, therefore, are the obvious feelings.

Bringing up this topic, I received various reactions. My parents, who are worried about the future of their son more than anyone, suggested trying other options beside data science. My close friend who has always been supportive to me cheered me up, saying persistence and hard work will always pay off.

I have realized that only I can make a decision for myself. Maybe data science is the right choice, maybe not. One way or another, I can only know once I have tried my best and put in everything. To do so, I decided to overload and take more classes in order to be a math minor while at the same time self-studying online courses and coding. Before summer, I tried to apply for various data science-related internship, and got an offer from AhaMove.

When I first came here, it surprised me that none of the analysts at AhaMove studied math or comp-sci in college. In fact most of them were like me, economics or business management majors, with one or two mechanical engineers. They all self studied and took online courses in coding, math, algorithm, machine learning… both in college and even when working at AhaMove.

Seeing people who have similar challenges and, more importantly, have overcome those obstacles, I became more confident.Obviously their successes do not guarantee mine, but they do show me that if data science is what I really want, if I work truly hard and put everything into it, there’re still chances for me. That’s one of the first and foremost things I have learned here at AhaMove, and I guess also one of the most important.

Team trip

We had our first trip together as a team last weekend. We went to Sapa, a famous tourist area up in the northern part of Vietnam. Among the mountains and forests, we spent two days and two nights to climb Fanxipan – the highest spot in Southeast Asia, visit villages, enjoy delicious local food, and sometimes just simply stay in our hotel rooms and play board games until morning.

Sounds more like a fun trip with friends rather than a company trip, isn’t it? I guess it’s because of the culture of our company,  a tech startup composed of mostly young people – even the oldest member, our CEO, has only been in his early 30s. Working with like-minded people of similar ages makes everyday at work seem more like a day hanging out with friends than a regular rigid 9 to 5 office day.

This is the same feeling I had when I was working in the Operations team last summer. Such relaxing and connecting atmosphere, one of the reasons I decide to come back here, has been a unique characteristic of AhaMove, creating strong bonds between individuals of the company. We have our second trip – the real company trip –  coming in two weeks in which members of both Northern and Southern branches are going join together on a two-and-a-half day in Danang. “Excited” surely is not enough to describe how I’m looking forward to this. Should be a fun and memorable time of me in this internship.

“Vote Kill” (with the thumb down) is a popular phrase in the Werewolf board game and has become our team’s motto after the Sapa trip

 

 

A New One-day-at-work Experience

As mentioned in the previous post, this summer I came back to AhaMove, the technological delivery company I interned at last year, but with a different role and in a different department. Therefore, despite my previous experience working here, there still are several differences that I have felt, seen, and needed to adjust to. Among them, the most noticeable change is how a typical day at work of mine proceeds.

Last summer when I worked for the Operations department, which deals with the driver-side issues of the company (AhaMove has a two-party system to work with – Driver and Customer), my day would be quickly and easily filled up. Early in the morning I would assist the on-boarding team in registering and training new drivers. The job typically took up to 45 minutes with 30-minute rest between sessions, during which I would go back to my desk and practice my coding skills. After an one-and-a-half-hour lunch break I would divide my afternoon into two halfs, one for analytical work such as research and data-driven assessment of the company’s driver policies, and the other for telesales and driver recruitment tasks. Admittedly a day like that would go by quite fast and busy but, at the same time, also simple. I had lots of work to do but the jobs were pretty straightforward and clearly defined.

On the other hand, as a Data Analyst in the Business Intelligence department, things are not that apparent. Obviously there are tasks assigned by my supervisor and co-workers, but they are not many and half of what I do are not clearly laid out in front of me right at the beginning of the day like when I was in the Operations team. Like other Data Analysts in the team, my job is to provide useful insights into the company’s activities and suggestions to improve its operations. What information, therefore, can be considered useful? What problems the company is having besides those already known to other teams? What actions needed to resolve the issues? Because even the questions are not specific, the pathway and solutions therefore cannot be evident. We will need to talk to other teams, dig into our databases and look at numbers and data before knowing what we need to do.

This is the most visible differences I have perceived between my current job and the one I did last year at AhaMove. The benefits are obvious –  we are free to do what we like and when we like it. However, challenges also exist – we are required to provide “value”, in terms of useful data-driven information with practical and specific plans and actions, for the company. We have meeting only once a month, and our manager’s first question for each team-member in those meeting is always “What have you done this month”. Our great freedom does come with huge responsibility.

The two way of working, the clearly defined way and this one, both have up- and down-sides, but so far I think I prefer this “freedom” more. Admittedly it is stressful and ambiguous at times, but this way of working allows me to explore and learn more, to always critically question and dig deep into problems. Hopefully I can get as much as I can out of this opportunity in the next two months.

Back to Back at AhaMove

It’s been three weeks since I started working at AhaMove. Or, more precisely, “re-started”. Yes, last summer I had interned also at this technologically based delivery company, and also for three months. I was a member of the Operations Department in which our role was to ensure a robust and healthy team of shippers. The tasks varied a lot, including recruiting drivers, training them, resolving their operational issues, and developing incentive programs to improve their productivity.

I was mostly interested in the developing and analyzing incentive programs – I have always been keen on math, and that role let me dig into databases and work with million of numbers to find insights related to drivers’ working processes. For that reason, this summer I wanted to return to AhaMove, or “Aha” for short, to explore more that interest of mine. A month after finishing my application and online tests for the Data Analyst Collaborator position in the Business Intelligence, I got accepted.

Many people including both friends and family asked me why I wanted to return to Aha. Why go back? Why not apply for another company and diversify your experience?

I agreed with them on the benefits of having a diverse experience. However, it does not mean that this return will the same with last summer. AhaMove is a potential startup which changes and grows remarkably day by day. There’re always lots of new things for me to learn, especially after a year of growth and development. More importantly, this time I am in a different department with a different position. I will work not only with the Operations team on drivers’ issues but also with the Business Development department on the customers’ side and with the Marketing unit to tackle branding challenges. My new role in the Business Intelligence is going to allow me to explore more about data science – my career interest, which I could not do previously in the Operations team.

At first I chose AhaMove partly because it’s a start-up – I love working in new and small companies in which I can see everything being built from scratches and take lessons firsthand. It still is a young and dynamic company where I know I will learn greatly. Moreover, the people is also one of the reasons that brought me back. We at AhaMove have bonds that expand outside the company’s walls and offices.

Three weeks into the programs, everything has been just as I expected. I have been exposed to many opportunities, met a lot of people, and learned a lot. It’s still early to say anything further than, but I feel very hopeful about this return of mine.

Front doors of the On-boarding room in which new drivers come to register and receive training