What’s It Like At The Most Challenging Startup Internship In Singapore?
NUS students Aqeela and Bennett have been interning at ThunderQuote, a fast growing B2B e-procurement startup, since the start of December. Aqeela is a 4th year economics major while Bennett is a 2nd year industrial and systems engineering student.
Startup internships have been growing in popularity among the highly-educated youth demographic, who value the autonomy, creative freedom, job satisfaction and empowerment they gain from interning at a startup. Startup internship experiences vary greatly by the company, depending on the culture of the startup and the startup internship programme in question.
Today, they share with us their experiences thus far and give us some insights on what it’s like to be juggling the roles of student and intern at a top startup.
Firstly, thank you for taking the time for this interview.
Why intern at a startup? It’s not the most common choice amongst undergraduates, who usually prefer the large MNCs.
Aqeela: ThunderQuote is the second startup I’ve interned at, and I suppose I have always been attracted to the autonomy and non-traditional structure that a startup offers. Teams are usually smaller so you are more likely to get very hands on work. Also, dress codes are super relaxed. Jeans all day! That’s the best.
Bennett: I joined ThunderQuote as a way to gain more exposure and learn more about startup culture. Being in such a small and tight knit team, I felt this internship would allow me to experience the most in a short period of time. Also, startups tend to have less bureaucracy which allows me to implement projects fast. It is great when your ideas don’t have to pass through many layers of approvals before you can start working on it.
So what are your roles at ThunderQuote?
Bennett: I’m a process automation intern. This entails working hand in hand with many others in the company to identify processes that can be made more efficient. This includes finding out ways to automate menial tasks such as marketing so that everyone at ThunderQuote can focus on the more exciting and important tasks! Besides finding ways to automate these tasks using computers, I also work on developing workflow improvements for customers on ThunderQuote. Also, the interns work together as a cell to complete daily tasks and projects handed to us. I head the cell as a leader, so that entails me distributing the work and making sure everyone is able to keep up with the work.
Aqeela: I’m a business development intern, so I work a lot with Kevin, the managing director of ThunderQuote and the head of business development. Sometimes I join Kevin on his meetings with investors or partner companies, or attend networking events with him. I also work pretty closely with the marketing department to plan and carry out growth hacking campaigns on social media, or with ops to help with customer service.
Could you share with us what it’s like working at ThunderQuote as interns?
Aqeela: [laughs] I don’t think intern is the right word. To be honest, we are given so much autonomy and responsibility in ThunderQuote that it feels like I’m full time business development executive! It’s definitely challenging because most of the time I’m executing things that I’ve never done before, and I’m just trying my best to stay afloat. But in all seriousness, you would definitely not get this magnitude of experience anywhere else. So in short for me, working at ThunderQuote has been full of learning and you’ll never have a boring day.
Bennett: ThunderQuote has definitely been challenging. The work is fast paced and most of the tasks given are in areas that are entirely new to me. While being one of the hardest internships, it has also been one of the most enriching. I’ve been able to use some of the skills that I’ve been learning in school and seeing how they can be used in a real life business context. Besides this, I also learnt a lot more about how to collect data, something which isn’t taught in school. This has made me more confident in providing value when I start my career.
And what’s a typical day at the office?
Aqeela: We start off the day having a team huddle with the other interns. We briefly share with one another about how we spent the day before, and then jump into discussing work stuff. We let each other know what we need to clear for the day, giving us the chance to offer help to anyone who seems to be especially busy.
Bennett: I’m the leader of the intern cell, so I facilitate the daily huddles and make sure work is distributed evenly amongst the team. Also I handle most of the linking up between individuals as well as brainstorming and implementing projects that can improve Thunderquote’s B2B platform. For example, we’ve been working on a chat bot that can automate our customer service on our platform which we used to do by hand.
Aqeela: And sometimes if we’re tired, we head over to the ping pong table and destress with a friendly game of ping pong!
What has been the best learning experience so far?
Aqeela: Best learning experience for me would definitely be understanding how a business works and how to develop and grow a business. Working in a young startup means that you’re heavily involved in building the company’s foundations and weeding out any inefficiencies. For example, one of the projects my team worked on was to improve and automate our customer service processes to ensure that it is scalable in the future. I love that one day, when ThunderQuote becomes huge, I can look back and say proudly that I had a hand in improving something. Which is pretty cool for someone who was just an intern.
Bennett: I feel like this internship has allowed me to realize how data can help and empower businesses. There are many systems in place that can collect this data and I’m constantly amazed at the ways that we can collect information from it. Learning how to use this data has also been very enriching and I feel that it really takes most of the guesswork out of business decisions.
Wow, thanks for sharing. Any last words for other students looking to intern at a startup?
Aqeela: If you’re looking for a challenge and looking for an internship where you don’t sit around photocopying stacks of paper, then consider doing one at a startup.
Bennett: Do your internship at ThunderQuote! You’ll definitely have a challenge here.
ThunderQuote is the most comprehensive business services portal in Singapore, Australia, and ASEAN, where hundreds of thousands of dollars of procurement contracts are sourced every month by major companies like Singapore Press Holdings, National Trade Union Congress and more.