Falling in Love with The Interns

I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking about the intern as magical since the early days of my career. I think it all started when I was working at a multinational agency. We had these 3 bright interns with amusing confidence, bringing a positive vibe to the stress-reeking full-time employees.

That’s why at eFishery, when I think I have enough headspace, I’ll hire an intern or two. Especially on my days as a product manager.

I remember the first intern. She was raised by an academic family. She’s bright, smart, coming up with peculiar ideas here and there. Then the next one, she’s more of a cool personality. She could quickly understand a new concept and had a strong commitment to execution.

But the real intern I worked with was the product management interns. My first batch of interns consisted of two amazing people.

Rara (kinda not her real name) was graduated from ITB and had been working in product management before she needed to accompany her husband to study in UK. She’s utterly smart and mature. While she already had prior knowledge of product management, she gladly (I think yeah, gladly) accepted new concepts that I want to do experiment with. And she executed it with flaws — because she made it better.

And the next one is Sadul (kinda his real name). This poor being was a rare mix of business student, semi-activist rooted in religious movement, and tier 2 city prodigy. Even I described it sarcastically, that mix was actually a very powerful mix. He’s as visionary and missionary as any founder could hope. Fu*cking extra-mile, growth-oriented, and somehow has this mature and composed personality (much better than mine).

Rara, I don’t know where she is right now. But Sadul stays, we’re lucky. Now he brings this deep knowledge of our business, users, and industry and pushing the vision of fair trade for farmers.

The Second Batch

A year after that, we brought the second batch. It’s my early days managing the managers and we’re on the first stage of building the organization.

The decision of hiring interns as our early rooster of PMs was quite controversial. Realizing it or not, I just filled the limited slot of PMs with inexperienced talent. We’re still building our product process, culture, and business. It can be very harmful both ways. To the company and to the future of the talent.

It’s just back in 2020 so the end result is still in progress. From this batch, we birthed 3 APMs working on three different groups under 3 different senior PMs. A really interesting social experiment indeed. Subjectively, I think they’re still on a certain right track. Ish. Who knows.

But from the company's perspective, I can think more objectively. Are they harmful? Definitely not.

Their immense influence is on the culture. They’re as bright as a burning sun. Looking at them, I feel like an empty cup. Thirsty for water called knowledge. It’s a very defining trait of our team, the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Try, die, try again. Without them, while having a hard time recruiting senior PMs, we will be just ordinary PM trying to pave our way through the jungle of product management with much less passion.

Last year, we’re still in the very early stage of the business. Full of uncertainty and flooding backlogs. Twice as hard to prioritize, thrice at being productive. I think few ordinary PMs would want to venture through that and not our everyday PMs will understand how to learn the rope.

This year it seemed finally came to fruition. These children have been diving deep enough and brought a deep vision with them. And along with that vision, they brought better tools to crack problems and execute stuff too.

Our development certainty and productivity has been doubling. Easier now to find projects executed with accountability. More experiments and more concepts being tested and adapted. They absorb new knowledge like a sponge and grow fast like a weed. More impact felt throughout the company and our users.

I think it’s because they were an intern. They have this empty cup that being upgraded with the heavy stuff. And because they survived, now they only need to pour themselves with more and more water.

If we’re talking in a sense of short-term pragmatic career, things such as getting 2 digits in a year or becoming senior manager on 25, maybe it’s not the straightest path. But think about something further and more sustainable. The vast generalist knowledge that they achieved, the unique understanding they’re building. It’s just like the passage from The Upstarts here:

Simply said, I think they are bigger than us and our dream. Nurturing them is nurturing the whole ecosystem, making sure there are future seeds that will bloom into one of the execs in the tech industry or beyond. Taking an intern and growing up with them is not just a contribution to your company, but also a contribution to the nation’s future.

Can’t wait to see them thrives. Today, next month, and years ahead.

Typical startup enthusiast. Working in product management. Indonesia. https://www.linkedin.com/in/ivan-nashara-bbaa8a2b/