Are you a software engineer who’s based in Indonesia? Have you ever wondered how it’s like to work in the biggest startup company in Southeast Asia?
My name is Johanes Cristanto, I’m an Indonesian and I’m a full-stack software engineer at Grab. I am going to share my experience working in Southeast Asia’s most valuable tech unicorn, which is Grab!
Why I chose Grab
I was a fresh graduate back then, having finished school in August 2017 from a university in Bandung called Institut Teknologi Harapan Bangsa, and was looking for a job. As a fresh graduate, I had a huge ambition to change the world (at least be part of this positive change). As Indonesians, we all know that transportation and traffic are but some of the worst things in Indonesia. Traffic jams everywhere that take us hundreds of hours being on the road are painful. And there is no good public transportation, considering the high crime rates, lack of comfort (not cozy, hot) to name but a few reasons for concern.
In 2017, everyone was talking about new ride-hailing companies which are using the Internet instead of traditional ways of getting a driver, which proved to be way faster, safer, and easier. These ride-hailing companies disrupted all the current taxi companies, even the biggest ones. Every media outlet was talking about it, thousands of people quit their job just to be one of the driver-partners, hoping they can get much higher income. And yes, many would agree that they can earn more money from it compared to their previous jobs. I started to see that there’s hope in solving the transportation problem in Indonesia, which would help so many Indonesians get a better job and achieve a better quality of life.
At that point in time, I had to choose which company I should join and be part of this revolutionary change. From the experience standpoint, I feel that Grab has the most experience making a real difference to society compared to any other company – it was there in every city in Southeast Asia earlier and proved that it can operate smoothly for several years. From the technology used, I can also tell that Grab has the best engineers around the world to help it build great products, with a lot of them having had the experience working in the Silicon Valleys of the world, which is great experience I can draw on for my career.
Working as Grab’s first team of Indonesian Engineers
Three of my friends and I are the very first batch of Grab Indonesia’s software engineers working out of Jakarta (Lippo Kuningan to be exact). We joined Grab in early 2018 as a Growth Team. On our first day, we had an onboarding session which is probably similar to what others will go through in any other company. We got our building access cards, went through short training sessions to get us set up, etc. But something interesting happened when our teammates issued us our laptops. My first reaction was, “It’s a Mac!”. Yes, although we are not iOS developers but full-stack software engineers, we got a Mac. It’s not an old Mac. It’s a new MacBook Pro in Space Grey colour (the most expensive one). And I got to know that every engineer here has gotten a MacBook Pro. Now, that’s amazing!
We were going for our lunch and were told that 3 engineers from Singapore would come to visit us and onboard us from a technical viewpoint. And they would stay in Jakarta for a week! Not only that, they told us that in the next week, we would fly to Singapore and stay there to work and learn from our Singapore-based counterparts for TWO WEEKS!
Work Trip to Global Headquarters in Singapore
My visit to Grab Singapore was culturally insightful. As an Indonesian, we address senior employees (in terms of roles and age) by adding a prefix such as pak, bu, mbak, etc before their name. Over in Singapore, however, there is no such custom – Singapore Grabbers simply call everyone by their first names. Another noticeable thing for me is that Grabbers there will not ask personal questions such as your age, in spite of your appearance. More interestingly, our Singapore-based Grabbers are open to working with each other in a collaborative way, where they treat each other as equals and challenge one another to do better in their respective areas.
We have a really great cultural principle which is “Your Problem is My Problem”, or YPIMP to be short. Everyone is willing to help you if you have any trouble or if you have any question to ask. Regardless of your position or level, everyone is willing to help! Even if we ask for help from other tech families, they are willing to help right away.
We also have regular internal hackathons (called Grabathons), where everyone is encouraged to be as creative as possible, building out their idea in one day from scratch. As we would usually need to stay awake for the whole 36 hours to work on our idea, Grab provides free food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) to power us through this period. This allows us to just focus on building our idea and make it happen. The winner from this event will also get a prize.
The above picture is from our team which consists of 3 Engineers, 1 Product Manager, and 1 Designer (we are all Indonesian). We won 1st place in the hyper-local category! And the prize is a Fitbit Charge 2 for each of us. Not bad, right?
Working in the Growth Team
Growth hacking is getting popular nowadays – big companies like Facebook, Google, and Uber have built teams around this function. The main responsibility of this team is to grow the company tremendously fast. We need to work as fast as possible.
How do we do this? By studying the market, finding the 10X idea (an idea that can scale a certain aspect of the company exponentially), execute and launch it as fast as possible into the market to see its impact. Building something that can relate to the market is a tough job. Because every country and city is unique, we have to create hyper-localized experiences for our customers.
As a Growth team, we need to work not only across functional teams but also across tech families. We work closely with the Driver team, Passenger team, Food team and Payments team. I believe that is what makes this job interesting. Working as a Growth team has never been easy. We are facing uncertainties every single day, we don’t own any tech stack per se and we don’t necessarily know what to expect we would need to focus on the next day. Additionally, we brainstorm for ideas almost every day. The exciting thing is, there are no boundaries for us, the only boundaries are ourselves. We can build anything that we think will be the next big thing. We are pushing the company’s boundaries by executing fast, measuring impact, gathering feedback, and iterate. Every day is a challenging day, every day is a tough day, but every day is a new and exciting day!
One of the examples of what we do in action is in the Grab app itself. If you open your Grab app, the first thing you will see is a list of services that Grab provides, followed by the Grab Feed. We have games, news, tools, interesting promotions, and so much more. The Growth team is the pioneer of that feed. We are the ones who made it happen. We built the infrastructure, developed the feed, did research on the market, and then executed so many crazy ideas within it. Yes, what we are doing is on the homescreen, in front of millions of users! Moreover, this is just one example of the many things that we are working on. Feeling excited?
The great news is, we are hiring! We are looking for the best engineers out there in Indonesia. As we grow our operations in Indonesia, we are looking for more Indonesian engineers to work in our Jakarta office! If you are looking at something that is really challenging; if you want your work to contribute to changing our world, and if you are passionate about technology and want to learn lots of new things, this is the right place for you to be in!
If you have any questions regarding this opportunity, feel free to contact me through my LinkedIn account: