Written on June 21, 2015
I arrived in London last Sunday and started my internship at Kayako on Monday. Since then, in just a short 7-day period, many things happened and I learnt quite a bit. Hence, I decided to write a blog post to reflect on what happened and so that I could read it in the future.
I’ll keep it concise!
1. Staying calm and the Good Samaritan
When I arrived in London on Sunday, I lost my wallet in the tube while I was on my way to meet some friends. It was not the best way to start the stay here. Thankfully, I was with a friend who is always very calm (he didn’t even panic when his bus was late, causing him to be late for his exam). He told me to list out the things in my wallet and he recorded them on his phone. While I called the banks to cancel my cards, he helped me submit a lost property report with the Transport for London. Thanks, buddy!
Lesson: Shit happens. When things don’t turn out well, stay calm and think of what to do. Panicking doesn’t help much.
On Monday evening, I received an email from a stranger who said that he picked up a belonging of mine and if I could identify it, he would return it to me. I was over the moon. What’s incredible about this was the amount of effort he put in to contact me.
He could have simply given it to the police or the tube station staff and let them take care of it (which would have taken at least a week to reach me). However, he didn’t. He messaged me on Facebook, but I didn’t see it as we were not friends on Facebook and the message was hidden. So he searched for my email address online and emailed me. I got back my wallet by Tuesday evening.
When I thanked him for his effort to contact me, he simply said, “I believe you would have done the same”. Wow.
Lesson: When I’m in a position to help, help. A simple action can mean a lot to the receiving party.
2. Kinterning at Kayako
This is my first internship at a startup and it has been quite an eye-opener! Previously, I worked in the armed forces (RSAF) and a large corporation (SGX) so it was refreshing to see how the team at Kayako work.
One major difference was the level of autonomy given to me, even as an intern. I didn’t feel like an intern; I feel that I am treated like a full-time staff. The team isn’t very strict with working hours and I could choose to work from a cafe or home too. I believe it’s because they value output more than the flawed measure of the number of hours in the office.
All that is brilliant and I believe that that’s how teams should work. However, because of my background in the armed forces and a large corporation, I couldn’t get rid of the old mentality. I feel that I shouldn’t be the first to leave the office even when I complete what I’ve planned for the day and should continue working, especially since I’m an intern. I feel that that’s expected of me.
The team probably looks at my output rather than the number of hours I clocked. However, I’m not sure how to change the likely incorrect expectations I put on myself. This is something I’m still trying to figure out.
I like to be super productive so I would usually plan out my week on Sunday and each day the day before. However, over the exams period, I stopped the practice as all I did every day was only to study, eat and sleep. Slowly, I lost the habit of planning my schedule. And it was disastrous.
I thought that I could wing it, but I was wrong. Last week has been a mad rush. I rushed from place to place and even went to the wrong swimming pool. Also, I didn’t manage to do as many things as I thought I could.
On top of my internship, I tried to keep up with my usual triathlon training (7-10 times a week), wanted to work on my side projects and met friends for dinner. Without proper planning, fatigue quickly set in. By Wednesday, I was too tired to go for any training after work.
Lesson: If I want to be productive, I need to plan my time (/energy) properly.
Hence, I reviewed the past week and planned for the week ahead. I roughly planned out the activities for each day.
I found that this exercise helps me understand how much time I have and what I can and cannot achieve each day, so that I do not overwork myself. My planning is definitely not perfect, but it gives me a good gauge of the activities for the upcoming week.
Apart from the lack of planning, I’m wondering if I’m taking on too many commitments too. On top of my internship, I want to keep up with my triathlon training, work on my side projects (Be Nice and another project), contribute to the few online communities I’m in (Remotive and Support Drive), and also catch up with friends. A friend is also asking me to join him for his project.
It seems that even with perfect planning, it would be hard to give my best effort for all of them. So for now, I’ve planned to reduce my triathlon training and social life and politely say “No” to my friend.
Lesson: Assess my priorities and commitments before taking on more projects. Once in a while, check if I’m having too much on my plate and learn to say “No”.
I’ve read about how unproductive commuting is, but I didn’t really understand it until now. It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the office, so that’s about 2 hours of commuting each day.
For now, I either read my book or listen to a podcast. However, as I’ve to change train once on my way to work, a big part of my commute is walking. This makes it a little difficult for reading. Also, I find it a little tough to concentrate on the podcast when I’m walking to and from the station and in between platforms.
Lesson: Commuting can be a major productivity killer!
I’m trying out different things while commuting. Do you have any suggestions?
So that was my first week in London! Now, bring on week 2! 🙂