This summer, I was fortunate to be offered an internship with the Growth team at Kayako, a customer service platform. I was really lucky because I could only work for about a month and they still accepted me (Thanks, Kumy and Jamie!).

Despite the short internship, I have learnt many valuable lessons and I would like to share some of them in this blog post. These lessons are mainly for my personal development and do not include more technical stuff such as things I’ve learnt about writing and community building.

Personal Development Lessons

1. Have side projects

Kumy, Growth Lead at Kayako, and I knew each other from Leancamp London 2014 and we have been following each other on Twitter. He knows that I’m interested in marketing. Upon discovering my side project, Be Nice, a weekly newsletter of customer support and experience articles, he realised that I’m interested in the field of customer service and support too.

At that time, his team was not even actively looking for interns as they just started the Growth team and they were unsure if interns could contribute to the team.

However, seeing that I might be a great fit for his team as I am interested in both marketing and customer service, he decided to give it a go and offered me an internship with his team.

I would probably not have gotten the internship without my side project. I realised that having a side project would really benefit me in finding an internship or job as the other party can learn more about me through my project.

2. Onboarding beforehand

As my internship was pretty short, neither the team nor I have much time to spare to onboard me to their working processes.

Fortunately, I had kind of onboarded myself to a large extent before the internship. I’ve read most of the books on their required reading list. I was already involved in Support Driven Chat, a Slack community for customer support pros. I’m familiar with most of the technological tools the team uses such as Slack, Trello, Google Docs and Google Hangouts.

When I joined the team, there was less onboarding required – left mainly their current projects and enterprise software such as HubSpot and Wiki. This allowed me to add value to the team almost immediately.

Several companies write about what they are doing on their blogs. That is a good avenue to gain insights about what the company is doing and how their internal processes are like. An example would be Buffer. They share very transparently about their company on their Open blog and list required readings on their job application pages.

3. Autonomy

Kayako gave me a huge degree of autonomy, despite me being only an intern. In fact, I didn’t feel like an intern at all because they treat me like a fellow full-time colleague. Working hours are quite flexible. Some people prefer to go to the office earlier and leave earlier while others do the opposite. The team is also flexible with people working from home or remotely once in a while.

I learnt that I am more driven when I have the freedom to decide what to do and how to do them. It’s hard to quantify how much more driven or productive I was during the internship. However, the team did mention that they are happy to have me again when I have the time. I will take that as a sign that I’ve added much value to the team 🙂

4. My working style

When I want to focus on a task, such as writing, I prefer to have a certain amount of undisturbed time (2 to 3 hours) by myself. I find that tiny distractions can easily break my train of thought.

This internship has reinforced the fact that I like to work this way. It is nice to be working in an office with the team than to be working alone remotely. However, that also means a higher chance of distraction or interruption from fellow teammates.

Hence, when I was writing, I would usually go to a quiet corner of the office, sit on a beanbag and plug in my ear piece for a few hours. Also, thanks to Slack, communications became slightly less disruptive. Instead of speaking to me directly and interrupting my flow, my teammates would leave me a message on Slack and I would check it when I take my breaks.

5. Give others time to work on my requests

I made this mistake several times during the internship. I asked my teammate about my request a few times within a short period of time, which made her pretty annoyed.

I failed to consider that my teammate might be working on something else at the moment and would work on my request afterwards. By bugging her, I could be interrupting her flow.

I think a better way of communicating a request would be to specify a timeframe so that the teammate knows when he/she has to get back to me and to get an acknowledgement from him/her that she received your request. Also, it would be nice to give it some time (depending on the urgency of the situation) before approaching the teammate again.

6. Communicate transparently with my team lead

In my last post, I mentioned the mismatch between how I thought I should behave as an intern and what my team expected of me.

In the end, this issue was resolved by having a one-on-one chat with my team lead (Kumy). My team lead checked in with me almost every week to ask if I’m learning enough and if there are more things I would like to try.

If I’m not wrong, he brought up the topic and told me not to worry that I should behave in a certain way because I’m an intern and that the team does not have any expectations of me to behave like an intern.

It seems better to clarify any doubts or issues I have with my team lead and teammates than to assume things in my mind, which could be wrong.

All in all, I’m really glad that I was given this opportunity as it has been very enriching experience. If you wish to go through a similar experience, then you are in luck! Kayako is looking for an Inbound Marketing Intern! (This is NOT a sponsored post haha.)

First Week in London

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.

Faith in humanity restored

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.

3. Planning

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.

Week 26 Schedule

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.

4. Commitments

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”.

5. Commuting

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! 🙂


Reflection On Learning To CodeLast November, I wrote about how I would focus on 3 priorities in my life after watching Joel Gascoigne and Leo Widrich’s Startuplifeshow video, “What are the 3 things you focus on in life?”. After some consideration, I decided that the 3 things would be:

  1. Coding
  2. Triathlon
  3. School

As I did not want to repeat the mistake of not being consistent with my effort, I also decided that I would review my progress 3 months later.

Out of the 3 priorities, I feel the most inclined to share more about the first on the list — coding. This is because, I have been having a knee injury since then and was mainly trying to recover from it, instead of doing triathlon training. Also, I feel there aren’t many interesting things to share about my school work.

So, in this long overdue post, I would like to share my reflections on focusing on learning to code over the last few months.

Learning To Code

Here’s a little background to share: I’ve been trying to learn to code for almost 2 years now. However, as I’ve not been consistent with my effort to learn and practice, I never went beyond the basics of programming. Also, I was hopping from learning HTML and CSS to Python to Ruby and back Python.

After I wrote my blog post on focusing on 3 priorities, I came across One Month Rails through an unexpected series of events. This online course, taught by Mattan Griffel, promises to teach me sufficient Ruby on Rails knowledge to create a simple web application within a month. Following my commitment to prioritise learning to code, I decided to take the dive and paid for the course.

Diligently, I tried to go through the videos from the course and practise daily. To ensure that I would be consistent with my effort, I decided to record my daily learning log on a Google sheet:

Coding Log

I also set up an IFTTT recipe to send me an email daily to remind me to log my progress. It also served as a reminder if I had not learnt or practised coding that day. It was effective as I have a habit to check my inbox at least once a day.

IFTTT Email Reminder

I also have another IFTTT recipe that allows me to log my progress to the Google sheet through an email. This helped to reduce the friction of logging my progress as I didn’t have to open another tab and go to the Google sheet before I could log my progress.

The log was really useful in getting me to practise regularly and getting me back on track whenever I slack off. When I did not code for the day, I would record “None” for that day and it did not feel good. Whenever I record “None” for a few days continuously, I would force myself to find some time to code the following day.

None's on Coding Log

Progress So Far

I’m glad to share that I have gained sufficient knowledge to make simple web applications and websites with Ruby on Rails and deploy them onto Heroku. Here are some web applications and websites I’ve created in the last few months:

University of Warwick Triathlon and Road Cycling Website (live — it has a gallery page where I can upload photos and it also pulls Instagram photos with #warwicktriandcycling.)

Warwick Tri Website

Simple Blog (Not live — it was a practice to refresh my knowledge of Ruby on Rails.)

Simple Blog

Be Nice Subscription Landing Page (Live — it is a simple landing page I created yesterday in 2 hours for my latest side project, Be Nice, a weekly newsletter on customer service and support. It is linked to Mailchimp.)

Be Nice Landing Page

I’m really happy with my progress and my effort for the last few months and would love to learn more about Ruby on Rails. However, I am lowering the intensity of learning as I’ve shifted my focus to other areas — mainly writing and my side project, Be Nice.

What I’ve learnt

I’m glad that what I’ve learnt went beyond the knowledge to make web applications and websites with Ruby on Rails. Here’s a list of other things I’ve learnt while learning to code:

  • I learnt that if I want to pick up a new skill or improve a skill, it is about having the commitment and putting in the hours to learn and practise. There’s rarely any shortcuts.
  • I learnt that I learn faster when I’m working on a project I’m passionate about. As I was really keen to build a website for my triathlon club, I picked up Ruby on Rails much faster than when I tried to learn Python by doing tutorials. It also helped that I was focusing on a few priorities.
  • I learnt how to search for answers myself. It would be great to have someone to help me whenever I’m stuck, but I might not be able to get help all the time. Thanks to Google and the nice people who made countless resources and guides online, finding a possible resolution to a problem has become much easier.
  • I learnt that I might not always find the best solution immediately, but I can implement whatever works for now and iterate when I find a better solution or gain more knowledge on the topic. For example, for this reports page, instead of using a script to pull the images and information from the reports, I used HTML and CSS. Instead of using a script to apply a shade over images from the reports, I used Photoshop to do it manually.

Warwick Tri Reports Page

  • Last but not least, I learnt that I’m interested in creating things, especially aesthetically pleasing things, and I like to use images in my designs as I find that images bring more life to the designs.

To be honest, before I typed this blog post, I had been wondering if my attempt to learn to code was fruitful because I’m not very good at coding yet; I have to refer to my notes or search online every now and then when I’m coding. However, after reflecting properly and typing out this blog post, I feel that I’ve benefited from this experience way more than I expected and I’m really happy that I took the time to invest in myself ☺

(This is my 4th blog post of my 30in30 challenge — 30 blog posts in 30 days. Through this challenge, I hope to feel comfortable and more confident with writing and become better at writing.)