Recently I finished my internship with Liven and I have to say it has been one of the highlights of my 2017. I am glad and grateful to have been taken on board at such an early stage — the Sydney office was open only two weeks before I joined — and was offered to stay at the end of my internship!
My journey into the startup and innovation space has been a ride. Starting with Uber I learnt what it was like to work in a fast moving, or shall I say, ever evolving environment. Joining Liven gave me a valuable first hand experience of what it was like growing a business (almost) from scratch.
Anyone who is considering starting your own business, or if you are at university not knowing what to do, you must give yourself a go at a startup. The learnings I had during 4 months with Liven out-taught anything I had learned at uni previously about innovation and entrepreneurship.
Here is why I think you will miss out if you don’t work with a startup at least once in your life!
1. You will wear a dozen of hats
I joined Liven when the Sydney office was just opened! Even though the company has been around for more than a year (HQ Melbourne), I felt like we were building many things from scratch. I joined Liven with no expectation and was given no specific job description. On my first day, my manager (Lucien) said to me — you are here to learn as much as you can about growing a business, and support the team as best as you can. When he asked if there were any areas I particularly wanted to explore, I said no. And so glad I did!
Second day into the internship I was asked to build a chat bot that we could use for merchant support- with no experience in coding whatsoever! And that was just the beginning — I began to get involved in various areas across the business. On one day I will find myself inducting merchants across Sydney. Another day I will run around bribing people crepes to get them to test our app! The next day I will be brainstorming hacks for user acquisition and activation. Two months in I was heading up the physical marketing activations that we conducted across Sydney, including planning, recruiting and training up brand ambassadors!
LESSON #1: In such an early stage startup, you own what you want to do. I learnt to take initiatives anytime anywhere. See how the business can improve and suggest ideas for it. It’s repeated so often- but having ideas aren’t enough. You have to make a case for them. That means- looking into how those ideas can be executed and how they can turn into results for the business- with a proper plan.
2. You will work in a tiny team
I was the second intern Liven Sydney ever had- the fifth person to join the team. Throughout my time at Liven, I worked closely with another 4 people. And it was so much fun — who could just randomly go get ice cream at 3 PM if they worked in a corporate? You ended up learning so much about your colleagues- what they love to eat, what they don’t like doing, even their dating lives. We started off everyday knowing we got each other’s backs. I felt genuine care and support for others from every single person of the team.
LESSON #2: Who you work with in the startup is so important as it can make or break your experience. Whilst working so closely with people (that is 9+ hours a day, 5 days a week!) can bring friction — as I did experience tension at times — but it’s such a great lesson. It’s a lesson on when to compromise, to step up and how to bring a team with diverse personalities together. It’s a constant work in progress that is mentally challenging but highly rewarding.
3. Plans are made to be changed
Whilst at Liven, I was trusted with running marketing activations across our Sydney merchants. Twice, our plans got cancelled last minute as the merchants weren’t ready. The feelings associated with putting time and effort into planning something and then suddenly it couldn’t go ahead — was painful and frustrating. I did experience this whilst at Uber, but still it wasn’t easy!
LESSON #3: I learnt to not take anything personally, and to be ready if things didn’t go according to plans. I learnt to calm in the face of chaos — when people challenge your ideas, you stand ground to it if you believe it is the right thing to do for the business.
I learnt to: fight for the better — that is, to have a conversation with my boss when I wasn’t doing how I could best contribute, to call my founder on the side and say ‘we should change the onboarding process now and not any later, for it can double or triple our activation rate’. I learnt to step my things aside and support other colleagues as the business experienced growth more than we imagined. THIS — I could only learn working in a startup.
Shout out to Lucien- who has brought me in, Nate, Jackie and Oliver who have showed me that anything is possible if you put your heart and mind into it!
P.S. I recently joined Textbook Ventures to lead their expansion on the University of Sydney campus. We will be doing events on what it’s like working in a startup and how young people could gain a fulfilling experience- playing a huge role in a small machine compared to being a grain of sand in a big corporation. Keep an eye out on the website and Facebook page for upcoming events!
Quote from an amazing leader to close off — Sheryl Sandberg:
— ‘If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.’