Leaving Grab after 3 years as an Android Engineer: My journey and learnings
In this story, I’ll reflect and provide a retrospective recap on my journey with Grab as an Android Engineer. From my interview until my last day. I’ll also recap my biggest take away and learn from this experience.
My journey with Grab started in 2018 when I was looking for new challenges after almost 3 years as an Android (and iOS) engineer in my company. I looked at several tech companies in Singapore since I was already based here. The big names in Singapore with fast growing mobile (IOS / Android) teams at that time were Shopee and Grab. I directly thought that Grab would be a great place to work given how fast they are growing their tech team in Singapore. So I decided … not to apply (yet).
When you are offered a chance to be interviewed, you definitely don’t want to mess up your chances and come across as unprepared. I sought and found different information about the interview process and what I should focus on in order to maximise my chances at the interview. After 2 months of doing interviews for other companies and learning from their feedback, I decided to apply to Grab even though I didn’t feel fully ready. After 3 rounds, I received an offer and I accepted it.
Although I don’t recommend doing mock interviews since it’s time consuming and you are wasting interviewer time as well. If you want to prepare for an interview at Grab I wrote an article about it.
Onboarding: 1st day at Grab
There we go, Monday 7th May 2018. 10 am, hangover from the weekend, Marina One tower level 23rd at the Grab’s headquarter with 50 new “Grabbers” (The name given to Grab’s employees) onboarding the same day as me. Yup at that time Grab was onboarding new joiners every Monday by batches of not less than 50 new joiners. Fast growing you said ?
The onboarding took the entire day. We got an introduction to the company, the business and different verticals in the morning and a “GrabCar’’ immersion in the afternoon. The onboarding involves all full time Grabbers and is not specific to Software Engineers. In the afternoon we went to the office car park where our assigned Grab driver partners were waiting for us. We got to spend 1 hour in a GrabCar with a driver, picking up customers. This experience is essential to get familiar with our Ride-hailing core business and collecting feedback from customers.
Note: This onboarding was in 2018 and has, since then, been updated to include other core verticals like GrabFood.
During the onboarding, I should have normally got contacted by my “GrabBuddy”. A person from your future team who is helping you to get onboarding in the team). Unfortunately my GrabBuddy was attending a conference on the other side of the world in the US. So I had to meet the team and introduce myself. Fortunately the team was very welcoming and I wasn’t the only person joining this team on that day.
My focus area at Grab
I joined a team called CX (Consumer eXperience) responsible for transforming Grab with multiple services into a “SuperApp”. I stayed in the CX team during my entire journey with Grab, but we had a lot of internal changes and different projects.
Over 3 years I had to work on several projects. From the new home page to the global search functionality. I also worked on different user centric features to help grab in becoming south-east Asia leading SuperApp.
I also worked on Engineering driven projects which include the “App performance project” where we focused on app startup time, memory consumption ,network usage optimization and overall crash rate.
Learnings and Takeaways
- Go bold and learn from your mistakes. Two bold changes I made caused issues and were not caught before release despite all our safeguard and process in place. This led to releasing hotfix 🥴. I wrote and presented a post-mortem with root cause, learning and action items. This helped in closing gaps in our workflow and the same issue will now be caught before landing on production.
- You need to set goals and learn from feedback to grow. At Grab, you will get to work with your manager to set up personal Objective & Key Results (OKRs) which include growth areas. When you start as a Software engineer, you have mostly 2 career choices: Individual contributor (Engineering branch) or Engineering manager (Management branch). I was unsure on which branch I wanted to grow. By not knowing and deciding on which area I want to grow, I missed some opportunities to learn and grow on different aspects of both branches. In my opinion, it’s better to focus and set goals for a branch. For example: if you’re on the Engineering manager side and later realise that it may not be exactly the career path that you want, the takeaway is that you understand the scope better, and then take action. This is better than never deciding and not growing into your desired career route.
- Feedback is the key to grow for yourself and others. Grab has a bi-annual performance review. While critics have found this to be time consuming and unproductive, those milestones offer more opportunities for you to provide and receive feedback. It’s important to keep the feedback specific with examples rather than general and meaningless just for the sake of giving feedback. The feedback I have received helps me to improve on my work and collaboration with my peers. While my hard skills were recognised, I had weaknesses in soft skills like communication. I have focused on this area by attending workshops and collecting more feedback for different situations. I have then improved a lot on this area but it’s always a work in progress.
- Interviewing is harder than being interviewed. I got the opportunity to conduct technical interviews. During my turn at Grab, I made more than 50+ interviews and several candidates received job offers. Assessing candidate technical skills is not something straightforward. I have worked with other interviewers on improving our interview process, simultaneously improving our expectations and having a more fair assessment from an interviewer.
- Learn how to adapt. When you join a company who onboards 50+ persons every week, you can expect a lot of internal reorg. The first 2 years, our team and projects were changing frequently. However, for the past year (2020–2021), things are more stable (At least for our team) with less frequent internal changes. Things are moving fast at Grab, I learnt how to be less impacted by workflow changes and how to adapt to new projects and new teams.
- Focus on what matters. A lot of things are happening at the same time at Grab. However, not everything is equally important. I learn how to focus on what matters to me and where I can make the most impact. You can clearly make a huge impact at Grab! All the managers I worked with are very open and supportive of engineering initiatives. I proposed and drove some initiatives (E.g: Dropping support for Jelly Bean and Kitkat) and closed some gaps in our process.
- Process is everything. Grab has a process for almost everything like making a new release, reacting to production incidents or proposing new ideas through RFC. Those processes are what make the company stable and robust. These processes also provide stability and the ability to go bold. I was never scared of making bold changes because I knew that we have many safeguards in place. And eventually if I’m causing some issues that land in production, this creates more opportunity for us to learn from our mistakes with our process related to production incidents. Over 3 years I have identified some gaps in our process and defined new ones that improve our workflow.
Over the last 3 years I got contacted by many different companies. Lately, one company approached me with an opportunity to work on a fast growing and large scale project. I decided to proceed and I cleared all the interviews. I have then resigned from my position at Grab.
Overall I will keep a positive record from my journey at Grab. I got the opportunity to work on a large scale system with hundreds of other talented developers. I have built strong relationships with some of them and will never forget them. I learned a lot from my peers and was able to make (positive) impact on millions of users and on overall Grab’s process and workflow. I also have a better visibility of my career path and area I have to focus on in order to reach my goal.