5 things I wished someone told me before I started my internship

I have just completed an internship at ShopBack as a Regional CRM intern. For those who don’t know, ShopBack is a company that provides cashback for online shoppers. Interning at ShopBack was an amazing experience and I really learned a lot during my time there.

I ended my summer having learned so much more than what I expected. I hope that this article will be helpful for others interested in internship opportunities at ShopBack or any other fast growing startup in Singapore.

1. Don’t expect anyone to teach you anything

Before you brush this off as common knowledge, you’d be surprised at how many of us may end up unconsciously expecting someone to guide us. As university undergraduates, we often have professors who are there to teach or answer our questions and consequently, most fresh graduates usually expect the same treatment when they join the workforce. However, once you start working, that won’t always be the case. Your bosses and colleagues may not always be there to teach you or answer your questions. After all, there is always a fire to put out (especially at a startup!) so don’t expect people to go out of the way to teach you things. That being said, Google is always your best friend! There are infinite resources out there that can help you. If you can’t find the right answer, find the right person who will have the answers and try to book their time. In this age of information, ignorance is a choice.

2. Own the change you seek

This is straight up from the ShopBack’s core values. Although it sounds cliché, I soon realised the meaning of it. Being an intern, I was afraid to change the status quo. I would often have thoughts such as “I’ve only been here for a short while, I don’t know enough” or “My colleagues would’ve implemented it, if it made sense.” All these thoughts ended up as merely a barrier to suggesting and implementing new ideas.

However, I gradually discovered that a start-up is pretty much an open playground to try new ideas. There are always things that can be improved on and no idea is too small if it fixes an existing pain point. Even as an intern, you could bring in a fresh perspective and potentially help to improve an existing issue. If there is something you are looking to change in any company, rather than keeping quiet, why not take actions to change things?

3. You’re going to take time to learn

You’re not going to learn everything about your job and the company in the first few days of work. It may feel daunting to not have it all together compared to your other colleagues who have been there much longer. Give it some time, learn on the go and you will eventually catch up. I think it is important to mention that you will make mistakes, big or small. It may hit you hard but take the learnings, move on and don’t make the same mistake again.

When I made my first mistake, I was pretty affected, thinking that I’ve screwed up big time and would be fired. That was when a fellow colleague reminded me that everyone makes mistakes and it is more important to learn from them. Moving forward, I came up with a checklist to ensure that I wouldn’t make the same mistake again — and it helped.

4. Meet New People

I cannot emphasise the importance of this. At ShopBack, we had a program where we were paired with someone random from the company every week. Initially, the thought of this scared me! When I first got paired with someone, I was so afraid it would be awkward. Looking back, it was pretty silly of me. I managed to learn so much from my colleagues and got to know many people in the company better. After a while, I started looking forward to meeting new people where I could learn more about them and what they did at ShopBack. In the short 3 months I was there, I got to meet people from the Operations/Engineering/Local teams and even met the CEO himself for breakfast!

By the end of my internship, I mustered the courage to ask people out for coffee/lunch to find out more about them. If you ask, most people will be willing to meet you even if it’s for a short 10 minutes. Of course, shout out to the people at ShopBack for being so kind and willing to meet me, even if they had a tight schedule.

5. Be willing to learn

When I first started my internship, I always reminded myself that I was like a sponge going in to absorb as much as possible in 14 weeks. Even after I had learned what was within my job scope, I kept reminding myself that there was still a lot to learn and kept an inquisitive mind.

If you work hard, people will recognise that and will be willing to share their knowledge with you. I was particularly interested to learn more about user testing although it was beyond my job scope. After casually mentioning it to one of my colleague about it, she was more than willing to share and teach me during her free time! I was even allowed to join in on some meetings for a project I was particularly interested in. I probably mentioned this a few times before but don’t be afraid to ask others to share what they know. You can learn so much just from asking a simple question.

I hope these 5 points managed to shed some light on the experience of working at a startup. Personally, the experience at ShopBack was eye opening and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The culture at ShopBack is truly one of a kind, with amazing people there who are very good at what they do. There is so much more to share about my experience at ShopBack and if you’re interested to find out more, feel free to reach out!