Meet the Intern who came out on top in the Grab Widgethon


Elston Sam is a Strategy & Operations Analyst in Grab’s Growth team, who converted into a full-time position since his internship tenure, and working on the News Feed on the Grab app’s home screen. We cut through the noise and sat down with him to get the scoop on the hows, whats and whys of his Grab journey.

“I spent a year working in China.”

Elston: “I am a Regional Strategy & Operations Analyst in Grab’s Growth team. I just graduated from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University a few months back, with a major in Business Analytics.

Technically speaking, I’ve been at Grab for around half a year. I started my internship at Grab under the same team last summer, and continued my time here as a trainee through the former half of my following school semester. And now after my graduation, I’m back as a full-time Grabber.

During my studies, I actually spent a year in China for my semestral exchange at Peking University, and had internships at Airbnb and Jumei (Chinese E-Commerce). From there, I started to get interested in tech. So, when the opportunity to join Grab came along, I went for it.”

Elston Sam: Regional Strategy & Operations Analyst in Grab’s Growth team

“The Growth team is basically an in-house startup within Grab.”

E: “Under the Growth team, I sit in a sub-team called Strategy & Operations. The Growth team is a one-of-a-kind team across the region, which operates like a startup – basically the launch pad for new ideas within Grab.

We come up with new business verticals, new product features, and build up Minimum Viable Products (MVPs). From there, we test them, reiterate and build up a bigger version of these features to be passed on to another team to hold and develop. The cycle then starts again.

Our most recent product was the News Feed, which has now moved on to the Grab app’s main screen. As of right now, I’ve been tasked with building the News Feed feature for our Driver Partners’ app. So we’ll be reiterating all the use-cases that you currently see in the passengers’ app to fit the Drivers’ app instead.

During my internship, I had the chance to work on a project that was passenger-facing, and now that I’m officially working full-time at Grab, I’m getting the chance to work on something that’s driver-facing. Many drivers use Grab as the primary source of income to provide for their families — that’s what makes my work so much more purposeful and that’s why I enjoy working at Grab.”

Grab Growth’s Regional & Strategy Operations team – From Left to right: Kylie Ng, Elston Sam, Chermaine Leong, Lim Jia Ying, Clarisse Peralta, Lovebbi Suryanto, (missing Joyce Gaspersz)

“We built the Grab Quiz beta widget over the course of 48 hours.”

E: “The widget that my team and I built was called Grab Quiz. In China, there was a lot of similar game quizzes where you could win rewards by answering all the quiz questions correctly. It was really exciting seeing all my colleagues back in China cling on to their phones, just waiting for the quiz to start! I was inspired by the success of those apps, and I wanted to create the same thing as a widget within the Grab app.

We actually developed the widget as part of Grab’s in-house Widgethon. The moment my team and I agreed on the idea, the designers and engineers spent the next two days developing the beta to be presented for the Widgethon. To our surprise, the idea was really well received and we ended up placing in the top 5, among more than 70 submissions.

After demonstrating the widget to a few of the leadership teams, we decided to soft-launch it on the main app.”

“A Chicken & Egg Situation”

E: “Even though we had much initial success, we still ran into a couple of obstacles after the soft launch. Precisely because we didn’t create any buzz, or push out any rewards, we ended up with a lot less traction than what we had initially hoped for. So, we pulled the Quiz back to recalibrate, and see how we could work with our Marketing team to get more engagement.

One of the concerns we also had was whether this was the kind of traffic Grab wanted to sustain. For example, if every time we wanted to hype up traction, we’d have to get more budget for rewards. But that also led us to a ‘Chicken & Egg’ situation, where if we don’t have enough users, there won’t be enough buy-in to get rewards, and subsequently not enough attraction to bring in more users.

So, it’s really about trying to balance the two, and translate the success that I saw back in China to a Southeast Asian context.”

Elston’s Widgethon team: Alfred Crosby, Chen Chen, Elston Sam, Yong Song Zhang (Missing Gita Anggraini)

“I loved working with the people here.”

E: “I think school can never fully prepare you for the working world. So, I really recommend that if you’re looking for more experience, to take up multiple internships. Interning at Grab has been really helpful in ramping me up to speed on the processes and tools used in the industry, especially with the support of my team. That’s actually one of the main reasons I wanted to come back after graduation — I loved working with the people here.

One piece of advice I’d give to my peers who are currently interning is to take initiative. You should definitely try to maximise your time at the company so you can also maximise your learning. During my internship, the moment I was done with a project, I’d actively ask for another. This made my time at Grab truly fruitful, not just for myself, but for the company and my teammates.”


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