6 years at Grab: Daniel’s journey from Intern to Head of Product

Internships are commonly seen as an experience that allows students/graduates to take a glimpse into life behind a company. Since our campus program revamp, we have seen an average of 500 interns completing their campus internships with us across the globe.

While others have taken their experience being green to other companies and paved their own career routes, a handful of grab interns eventually join us as full-time employees. However, we have never met a unicorn as unique as Daniel Chen. Starting in 2014 as an intern, he grew alongside us and into his own, and is currently the Head of Product for the Payments platform of Grab Financial Group (GFG)!

We had a quick chat with him to find out what made him want to deepen his roots in Grab, and why he made the pivot from a Business Analyst to a Product Specialist. Check out what he has to say below!

Hey Daniel! Thanks for taking time to have a chat with us. We’d love to know more on your beginnings prior to joining Grab.  

Formal education is something that many of us would have invested a good amount of our time (and money) into, and I am no exception. Yet the journey I have taken is anything but according to plan. I studied Biomedical Sciences at Republic Polytechnic. Not my preferred choice of school, but in hindsight, I am so grateful. I proudly graduated with a distinction, thanks to its Problem-Based Learning curriculum. Fast-forward, I have completed my Bachelor’s degree from SUSS (then SIM), and Master’s degree from SMU, both in Business and IT. Yeah, I had enough of lab work and wanted to have my sleeves rolled up instead of a labcoat donned on.

That’s real different from where you are now! So, how did your journey at Grab start?

Like all incredible journeys do, I too started with… a chat. My friend and I were casually texting each other one day and she happened to know Kell Jay, Head of Grab Singapore back then, who was looking for a Data Intern. One thing led to another. Little did I know, I have stepped onboard a sampan (a small boat), rowing towards an adventure of a lifetime. A week ago this time, I was still wondering why anyone would need an app to get a taxi. Reminiscing this always makes me feel silly.

How was it like being an Intern at Grab 6 years ago? Looking at the interns that your team has, what has changed in terms of responsibilities or scope of work? 

Oh boy. 6 years ago was so different. I mean, I could see all the departments, less Marketing, from when I step out from the office’s toilet. The scope of responsibilities were also very different. I did anything that needed doing, from Tech Support to running Marketing campaigns (also because it was fun). The tech team was based in KL and there wasn’t anyone hired in Singapore for IT-ish work. So, I got to roll up my sleeves – yay!

Today, Grab has grown into a much much more structured organisation, and so have roles. In my team, interns are also highly autonomous. They might not get to randomly head outdoors to give out Grab-branded tissue packs, but they certainly can work closely with teammates from other teams in the same project. Problem spaces are also much more varied, each more defined.

What challenges were you facing as an Intern and what motivated you to solve them? 

In every challenge, lies an opportunity. Perspective is really important and I always focus on looking at the opportunities and what I have control over. What drove me, and continues on today, is the mission of Grab and the purpose of my work. Of course there are many factors beyond that, like having an encouraging boss and good relations with teammates. But the purpose was a strong one, and that was my “why”.

What did you find the most rewarding about your Internship?

Getting a full-time job at Grab of course! But working together with a group of people with a shared purpose, meeting and learning from talented teammates, making a difference to consumers and drivers. I think this is as rewarding an experience as any intern can get.

How would you describe Grab’s culture? Are there any aspects of Grab’s culture that were surprising to you? 

Kell Jay’s leadership style was the reason I joined Grab fulltime. His important emphasis on culture was what convinced me to begin my career here. What was surprising was how far we have come, and continues our strong growth till date. Touch wood!

From an Intern to a Head of Product, how would you explain your experience at Grab thus far?

Wow. Just wow. It has been a humbling yet mindblowing experience, to be able to be on this journey. From it’s infancy, to being one of the biggest tech companies in SEA. Imagine that!

What was the reason for your switch from a Business Analyst to being in the Product department?

I’ve always been passionate about Science and Technology. I wanted to take on a more regional role so that I could extend my impact beyond Singapore. I overheard Aaron, Head of Product back then, saying we need a PM for Product X. I was like, how hard can that be? And then, came the role, together with a big learning curve. This further strengthened my view of the company’s culture, one that believes in its people.

Do you have any tips or advice for students/fresh graduates interested in applying for an Internship at Grab?

Opportunities are ours to lose, but stay adaptable and resilient. If you see something you like, give it a try. You can always course-correct along the way.


New year, new opportunities! We’re currently hiring for our Summer 2021 internship. Registration closes 31 Jan 2021 – click here.