Reflecting On An Incredible Year At Grab
12 months back, when I told people that I was leaving my rather cushy job in New York and moving to Singapore to work for a ride hailing startup, they thought I was crazy. Ever since I left Google in the spring of 2016, I’ve moved from SF to Tokyo to NYC and yet this move was the boldest of my career. The fact that I was getting married in 5 months also felt like too much change all at once. But then again, what’s life without some uncomfortable excitement. So here I am.
A year down. Having (grown the team from 16 to 100, setup offices in 8 countries, worked the longest & most stressful hours of my life, built my first product, built our community program and led my first team) the journey @Grab has been nothing short of spectacular. Entrepreneurship always evaded me, but at-least I was finally got a slight taste of what it is to to be an Intrepreneur!
This has been my first real adult job. I’ve learnt much more in 12 months than the last 8 years of my career. The sense of ownership, responsibility, passion, love and drive I’ve witnessed here @Grab is unparalleled. Of course, all this does come with a healthy dose of taking calls at random hours, working through your wedding/honeymoon and days of extreme frustration but the fact that you’re changing lives of millions and that your work impacts the institution, makes it all worth it.
My first career reflection was after I spent 5 years @Google. But 12 months in a rocketship startup and working with a stellar team feels more than enough to reflect on this amazing journey. So here we go.
The hunger and passion to win hearts is the first thing that stood out for me at Grab. You work hard yes, but people above you work harder. They’re truly passionate about the mission. The only other place I really got a kick and a true sense of purpose was at Google, where everyone believed in organising the world’s information and making it accessible. It’s similar @Grab. They want to be Asia’s biggest tech company. They want to change the lives of people in the region. They absolutely want to be the super app of SEA and dedicate everything to it.
Something you’ll never get to experience in a big firm and probably the biggest kick I get everyday. I was the 29,800th employee in Google. I left as the 68,800th employee. No one ever knew I was around, no one would have ever known unless I built a time machine. But @Grab, I feel the sense of ownership. If your team does well, you’re rewarded for it, if it does not, you stand up and take the blame. But nonetheless, the work you do actually impacts the institution, not just a small piece in the larger scheme of things. Leading map operations a team of almost 100 now, building products and being responsible for the good, the bad and the ugly has been the most satisfying experience of my life.
Someone once told me “you only attain professional maturity when you know how to manage upwards”. In my previous jobs, I had a manager who had a manager who had a director who had a VP and the list just goes on. The cushion was a bit too comfy. A long way to go for me still, but at least I got whiff of what it is to report to some of the smartest people in the world. You can’t get away with presentations that look like crap, you can’t get away with metrics that don’t make sense and you absolutely can’t get away with not taking responsibility.
May sound cliche and dramatic. But after a long time, I love what I do. Maps and ops. The last 12 months, I’ve lived, loved and breathed maps. I only realised my obsession after my wife gifted me the below note as one of the reasons she loves me. The same day I realised how lucky I am to have someone who actually loves me for loving work.
In my 9 year career, I’ve done 7 roles across 6 cities, 5 countries and 4 companies. As I step into my second innings, the only advice I have for people just starting off is not to be obsessed with money, promotions, titles, degrees throughout your first decade. Just learn. Fail. It’s ok. Try and do things outside your comfort zone as this is the time to do it. You’re either very lucky, very smart or very stupid to know your passion on the first day of your job. I realised sales wasn’t my forte only after selling for a year. So keep experimenting your first decade as the responsibility on your shoulders, both personal and professional are much lesser.
It does take some courage, some craziness, some life changing moments and its still a gamble at the end of it all. In my case, I was just thrown into it. So had to swim out of the deep end (this story for another day). For now, looking forward to another year of moving SEA forward!