At Grab, our interns are always welcomed to participate in events, as we believe that these experiences can help bring about learning opportunities that can enrich their internship journey with us. A handful of brave interns took the chance to participate in Grabathon 9.0, and we asked them to share about their experience in this blog article!
ICYMI, here’s the recap article of Grabathon 9.0, our annual hackathon for Grabbers, by Grabbers: https://grab.careers/grabathon-9-0-recap/.
‘My Grabathon Experience’
Intern, Data Science
Nowadays, hackathons are a common name to hear if you are from a university and especially an engineering major. However, not many have the chance to experience the thrill of hackathons. I had a misconception that hackathons involved coding day and night but in reality, they are more focused on problem-solving. For Grabathon, it all started from a weekly deep discussion meeting where one of my senior team members presented his idea for the Grabathon and I was so inspired by the idea that instantly after the meeting I messaged him if I could join his team. The first question he asked was which area I could contribute to. In excitement, I replied “Any field as long as I know it…” and from there, my Grabathon journey started. Huge thanks to my Hackathon team lead Suriya Venkatesan for the wonderful idea and also for bringing the whole team together.
For Grabathon, our team “Hermes” chose the “customer candy” track where the main aim was to create a delightful experience for the customer. My experience as a first-timer was very thrilling. Working in a fast-paced environment was a new experience for me. Brainstorming the ideas on the whiteboard while understanding the customer needs and implementing them within the given time span was the toughest challenge for us. I would say I was working with a wonderful team where they all were understanding, open to ideas and were very polite even if I messed up somewhere. I found myself in a continuous learning process where I experienced a full-fledged process of introducing a feature to the stakeholders. The learning curve was high as I experienced the hurdles and also the limitations we overcame as a team.
I feel energetic and thankful to have joined Grab as an intern and had the opportunity to experience the thrill. Thanks Grabathon Team for keeping us entertained with wonderful engagement sessions. Lastly, a huge thanks to Suriya Venkatesan, Yaohui Li, Yash Kothari, Palash Goyal, Shirley Yang, Shashank, Tung Tran, Vibhuti Vadgama for having me on the team.
Intern, Engineering, Product, and Data Analytics (GCAP)
Doing an internship during your undergraduate studies is one of the best experiences. Gaining work experience would essentially boost your employability, especially for an engineering position. Thrilled with the program held by Grab Campus Apprenticeship (GCAP) affiliated with Kampus Merdeka posted on LinkedIn, I applied for an Engineering, Product, and Data Analytics position.
I was really fortunate to be asked to participate in Grabathon by my manager, Bayu Yanuargi, and without doubt, I stepped up to the opportunity. This is my first time participating in a hackathon and I had no idea what I was going to do in the beginning but I was not the only one feeling the jitters.
I did not expect the event to be extremely exciting, especially for an intern.
Grabathon is an annual Grab’s version of hackathon that opens for all Grabbers in all regions (how cool is that!). This year’s Grabathon 9.0 was a three-day event. There were 5 themes that we could choose from, in which every theme has its own different purpose, but the main goal of this event is to enhance the Grab Superapp. Our team chose Customer Candy or Engagement, to build solutions that can attract users to our app.
My team members are mostly from the MapOps – ID team, where they are knowledgeable about collecting features in the map. We were so fortunate to have a mentor (Chee Ming) during the entire Grabathon event where he gave us various advice to explore our problem statement and ensured that we included any relevant data.
After some brainstorming sessions, it was time to implement the solution! Only two of us coded the implementation, my partner Iqbal and I. Our improvement mainly revolves around the GrabFood feature, and “hacking” current Grab apps is our first move so that we can know exactly where our solution is. The development process ended about a day before the presentation. Did we work overtime? Well, no. Some parts of our Grabathon’s project have intersected with our main development, so it killed two birds with one stone.
Evaluation day! I believe this was one of the most nerve-wrecking days as we had to pitch our solution to the judges. As I was responsible for both the backend and frontend sides, my role was to explain the technical side and the overall system.
Unfortunately, we did not move forward to the next stage which was the final presentation to all Grabbers, but we are truly honored to have been a part of Grabathon 9.0 and grateful that we clinched the runner-up spot out of the 70 teams that joined the challenge, which is very close to being finalists. Since this was our first time joining a hackathon, we did not set high expectations. Again, this is a truly remarkable experience for me, especially since I recently joined Grab about a month ago prior to Grabathon.
From my experience, these are some of the points I’d like to highlight:
- Hackathon is not just about implementation. Implementation is key but the idea is worth much more. Remember that our goal is to solve the problem. Our solution came from the point of views of both ourselves and the current customers in our existing feature.
- Ideas can derive from anywhere. Everyone can innovate, including interns!
- Do research customers’ needs, create a customer-centric strategy and always be hungry in every improvement that you implement.
Cheers to all interns around the world!
Intern, Product Design – Grab SuperApp/Consumer Experience
It was by pure serendipity that I got to participate because my summer internship actually ended before the hackathon.
In August, Andrew (my mentor during the internship) invited me to join the hackathon — I was really excited at the thought of joining Grab’s hackathon as it would really be a once-in-a-lifetime experience (as an intern), however knowing that my internship would end before the hackathon, I thought it wouldn’t be possible. However, later on, I happened to be given the opportunity to extend my internship to follow through with my other projects on hand, and once that was confirmed, I was immediately added to our team’s slack channel by Andrew.
In fact, one of the projects/ideas I was working on was really similar to what we were solving in the hackathon, so I was quite familiar with the problem space and had some solutions and premature designs that I could capitalize on. As the only two designers on the team, I worked with Andrew to iron out and shortlist the ideas that our team had brainstormed about and then made a list of design tasks to work on for the different parts of the solution. In the 48 hours for the hackathon, we met online close to 10 times and worked day and night on the designs, prototypes and slides, with Andrew being the MVP taking charge of all the animations that we included in our actual MVP that we presented.
I was really impressed by everyone in the team, Gaman/Thu/Siddharth/Gurjyot/Abhishek for implementing the designs within such a short time, Josh for making everything/everyone come together and Matt, for pitching so convincingly during the presentation. Finally, after 2.5 intense days of hacking and 3 rounds of presentation to different judges, our team emerged 3rd place out of 70 teams! It was a very surreal experience with hardly any sleep but it’s one I wouldn’t trade anything for!
P.S. I took a shot at photoshopping our team into cute onesies for our team photo too — in line with our proposed solution GrabPets!
Si Ying Tan
Intern, Product Marketing, Merchants
48 hours. 9 members. 1 problem statement. Go.
In September, Grab held its 9th annual hackathon (“Grabathon”). It’s basically an intensive time-fenced product development event, where people come together to collaboratively create innovative solutions around a problem or idea, and then deliver an actual working product to a panel of judges.
I’ve not joined a hackathon before, nor do I have much coding experience. I went into this with whatever knowledge I had and built an in-app feature using an eye-detection system that helps drivers be aware when fatigue kicks in, to enhance theirs and the passengers’ safety.
I must say doing crazy things under a time crunch produces an unmatched adrenaline rush that has helped build my confidence. Here’s my experience.
People participate in Grabathon for various reasons. For me, it was about bouncing on every opportunity I can to have fun, exploring a place out of my comfort zone, and growing myself in an area that I’m enthused about. I moved beyond my self-doubt and pushed myself to experience what Grabathon is all about after witnessing the excitement last year. From seeing people building a product to realizing it, I was convinced that this year’s Grabathon will be huge. Working on ideas collaboratively and creating something impactful out of it will be a great feeling. And yes, there are a lot of different things that go into making a product — beyond just the code itself.
You know what that means: Find a team, meet people (virtually), load up lots of coffee, hack away all day and night.
Joining a diverse team is a fun and rewarding experience
T-10: By the time I registered as an individual, most people had already formed their teams. I scoured the Grabathon Slack channel looking for a team and managed to find a product manager that was also looking for someone to help craft the story of the team’s idea. I knew I was able to offer a customer-centric point of view that can be injected into our product feature. That said, our team of 9 was born, comprising of members from various teams possessing different skillsets, and were able to share opinions from multiple perspectives to bring the product to life.
As with most hackathons, Grabathon requires participants to submit problem statements that they are going to solve, before hacking on it. One of our team members suggested tackling a challenge that has been a pain point in the Driver’s space, and we were all convinced by the impact it could bring.
Don’t bite more than you can chew. Scale down and work on what’s manageable for everyone
T-7: Since we were targeting a product space that all of us had little context in, I did some research of my own in the days leading up to Grabathon, reached out to the Driver’s team, gathered learnings from an existing solution they have created, and shared it with the team. As we brainstormed solutions for various scenarios, it all lies on a spectrum of feasibility and development effort required within 48 hours — ranging from “yes, we can have something fully made” to “nope, impossible”. That said, we had to re-evaluate our project scope and allocate ‘good to haves’ as future iterations. Thankfully I’ve also managed to consult some past Grabathon participants to bounce off ideas and better prep myself for game day.
T-0: Although this year’s Grabathon was held virtually, I definitely felt the excitement build up the moment when the event kicked off. The continuous chatter in the official Slack channel, along with my team’s enthusiasm is really contagious in setting the mood of the event. Now that everyone is amped up, it’s time to start hacking!
Pursue parallel paths
Organisation was key, especially when most of us come from different teams, countries, and this was the first time we worked together. Right away, we knocked off core designs and entry points to our feature to unblock our front-end and back-end engineers. While they structured the API, the rest of us worked on the user flow, storytelling — identified customer pain points and value propositions, deep-dived into gathering insights from past research, and prioritised the solutions accordingly.
One of the earlier pieces of advice I received was “don’t break the team”. I only managed to understand what that meant when faced with a tight timeline to keep the team in sync, build trust, and resolve dependencies and any conflict. The importance of communication cannot be overstated here. All of us were clear about being open to all sorts of ideas, and voted wherever possible to make sure every team member was on board with decisions to avoid us from adopting a “my way or the highway” or agree to disagree approach.
Trust your team will create amazing things
T+1: Some people perceive hackathons to involve typing really fast on their keyboards, lack of sleep, and people drinking loads of caffeine. Although that’s true to a certain extent, it’s also important to take breaks and catch up with the team to keep everyone in sync. Besides, the organisers did a great job in getting us engaged with mini-challenges in the Slack channel!
I still remember on the night during our call before the pitch, everyone was quite confused with the development and uncertain if we were able to complete it due to a misalignment we had with the engineers. That said, don’t panic, attempt to tease out blockers by asking for a progress update, and think of ways to neutralise them.
“Whatever can happen will happen” — Run through your pitch and have backups ready
T+2: Before our pitch, our mobile engineer told us that backend wasn’t able to process the eye-detection feature in the app. I knew I had to stay fluid and adapt to changes readily, as I suggested workarounds for it. Luckily, he saved the day, got the entire feature up and working and we could do a live demo with it!
During our first product demo, 8 minutes felt like 8 seconds. We faced technical issues and weren’t able to communicate the main points properly — time and points were lost there. Before our second pitch, we reflected on our learnings, ran through our product demo again to ensure that everything is working well, communicated our points succinctly, and nailed our timings.
Celebrate your wins
Although we didn’t win, it was really awesome to see everyone’s enthusiasm and commitment. We’ve got a great deal of work done and had good fun doing it. Really glad that everything came together so well in the end, especially when I saw the working prototype — it was so beautiful! The experience was already a win in itself.
Besides, joining Grabathon has changed the way I looked at hackathons — I used to think that it was meant for experienced developers. Even if you have little to no experience, don’t be deterred from joining one! If not for sleep deprivation, I would probably do this often.
For me, it’s about maximising my time and learning while in Grab. This has been one of the humbling experiences I’ve had throughout my internship — I’ve got to meet, work with, and learn from new people, be as creative I want, and go beyond my limits. I am thankful for my Grabathon group members that I was fortunate enough to work with; my manager, colleagues, and the product marketing team for their continuous support and encouragement.
Intern, GrabAds Strategy & Partnerships
I have always been interested in entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship in particular, thus I was immediately drawn to the Grab for Good theme. Moreover, I have been wanting to join a hackathon after seeing my friends post about them but never got around to doing it as I knew I had no technical skills in developing a working prototype, the very key to any hackathon. About 2-3 weeks into my internship here, my associate was the one who nudged me to check Grabathon out, knowing that I had some experience in case consulting back in school. I shared my concerns of not being able to find a team to execute my idea, and that was when she introduced me to Grabathon tinder, and hence I had no excuses but to go for it. Still, I delayed it for a long while till the final day of submission of team ideas 23:30 and developed the idea in a short span of 10-15 mins before submitting it.
Coincidentally, I have a few of my juniors from the same SMU CCA as me at Grab, so I reached out to them to join the team, and with that we had the first 3 members. Thereafter, we frantically started reaching out to engineers on the tinder slack group and to our surprise many of them said yes haha.
While we were not able to get a product manager/ designer on board, lucky for our team, Megan, my fellow intern, had some experience with photoshop and was able to make the beautiful mockups you see in our deck.
Our team ended up with a team of 3 interns and 5 engineers, till date I am still very grateful for the faith that these senior colleagues had in us and our idea (as you can see in the screenshot with An, our very first engineer).
Prior to the event, our team met up 2 times just to run through the idea and split the workstream. Initially, I was a little worried leading the team but everyone was pretty supportive and the engineers coordinated amongst themselves to work out the details. It was nice to see that my team was genuinely invested in the idea, and learning about all the good that Grab has been trying to do under the Grab for Good initiative.
The journey was definitely not a smooth sailing one, with hiccups here and there due to some miscommunication and members having other commitments, but the team made it through, with our MVP Bang staying up till 530am on the actual day of the presentation.
Looking back, the experience of joining Grabathon was definitely a memorable one especially with all the hype and enthusiasm surrounding the event. But more than that, it inspired me to see how enthusiastic my fellow grabbers were in enhancing what Grab has to offer (whether it was a simple feature of including vaccination certs, to bill-splitting features). And those few days got me thinking about what makes Grab so unique from other companies – it truly is the 4H (Hunger, Heart, Humility and Honour) which drives every single one of us here to be better and do better for the passengers, consumers and merchants that we serve.
Our 2022 summer internship program is currently open for applications, visit https://grab.careers/teams/campus/ to check out our full list of roles!
P/S: Applications will be closing in end December 2021.