Time flies – it has been almost 8 months since I first started my internship at Momentum Works. There were moments full of joy, and there were probably equal number of moments where I was close to tears.
Overall, great learnings, actually fantastic learnings. In a perpetually challenging but fun and supportive environment.
Here are the things I learned:
1. What being a team player really means.
I used to say I’m a team player in my cover letter all the time, but it isn’t until recently that I learned what it really means.
It is so much more than being a pleasant person that does what people tell you to do by the deadline people want it, and make constructive comments in a meeting. It’s about being effective as a member of a group.
I used to be a reporter (at Vietnam Investment Review). I used to work only with one editor and one direct boss who relayed to me the general idea of what the editor-in-chief wants in a story.
Here at Momentum Works, each project involves multiple people with different expertise. I work with people from marketing, analytics, product, operations, and we all work directly with the senior management. I am a member in some meetings, I lead some, and I take notes in some.
Besides learning technical knowledge at the job (I admire my coworkers a lot.) I find myself learning even more crucial things– “transferable skills,” like they call it, most importantly explaining things in the most concise and simple way you can, to an audience that are busy with their own work and dealing with pressure even greater than what you’re dealing with. How? Use real numbers and be as logical as you can – anything that lowers communications cost would greatly improve team efficiency and effectiveness.
Also I learned to see things from others’ (and the organisation’s) point of view. I had run into a lot of frustrations. For many times I asked myself, “Why do so and so not get what I say?”, “Why do I not get what they say?”, “Why do they not do what I tell them to do?” But you know what? One day I realised that I didn’t have to ask myself these questions anymore. Improvements were made subtly.
2. Be flexible.
Another cliché, but I have never really learned what it means until recently.
I have taken up different roles in different teams. Besides doing routine marketing work, I do operations in one project, and led another that recently changed course and where I’m now working under a new project lead. I tried my hands in recruitment too.
I move around between projects based on the needs that arise at the moment. Some of the projects or tasks I was not particularly fond of. But I discovered my strengths and weaknesses along the way, and I am grateful for being given such a broad exposure.
But the value of flexibility goes beyond the individual. At Momentum Works I have seen projects change course and evolve as circumstances change – “pivot” as it is called in startup jargon.
I was used to being handed something and doing what I was asked, and then my performance is measured according to how close I am to the requirements. But in many cases, even the people who hand the assignment to me don’t know how the final product is going to look like.
I used to resent every time the requirements change, but that is the reality in an environment that changes so fast as technology. Now I embrace change. In fact, once you understand the reasons why things have to adapt, you do not hate changes anymore, you love and relish these changes.
Another benefit of being young, I guess?
3. How to manage myself
Last month was challenging for me. I was working for five days a week, then left work to go to school from 6.30 to 10 pm for three days a week.
An MBA course is demanding. There’s also reading and group projects. I found myself unable to concentrate for a long stretch of time, and disengaging from both work and school, only going through the motions.
Then the management pulled me aside and asked me to manage my workload.
Reluctantly I agreed. I viewed it as a sign of weakness. My classmates are also interning full time and taking classes in the evening. They’re doing fine.
But to my surprise, as I work four instead of five days a week, I get more work done. I have more energy. And I become a more pleasant coworker and friend in general.
I think it’s important to know your limits, and take a step back once in a while to take stock of what you’re doing and where you want to go.
The last thing you want is burning yourself out while not achieving anything. In any field, it is the results that count. (yes forget all those chicken soup stories which tell you not to care about the results).
And as eventually we will all become leaders (at least I want to), I think the first step to being good at leading other people is to be able to manage yourself.
Some of my classmates complained to me about how they’re not learning anything at their internship or job. I am lucky that it’s the opposite for me.
Of course, the road ahead of me would probably be full of obstacles, challenges and pressure. But I think now I have the right skills, attitude and optimism to fly.
Maybe Momentum Works could offer a mini-MBA course?
Thanks for reading The Low Down, insight and inside knowledge from the team at Momentum Works. If you’d like to get in touch with us about any issues discussed in our blog, please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can help.