Stop worrying and start hustling
5000 cold emails, 100 calls and over S$50,000 (US$37,313) in revenue generated. 3 intensive months, 3 key takeaways and so many beautiful memories. My e27 journey can be summed up in one word: amazing. For the past 3 months, I have been incredibly privileged to have been a part of this company.
As the curtains close on my e27 journey, I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of this company. Over these 3 months, I had my share of triumphs and defeats. I met some incredibly passionate, driven and highly capable people. Together, we organised Echelon Asia Summit 2016 – one of the largest tech events in South East Asia. And, most importantly, at the end of the day, I matured.
Back in February, I was just an ignorant young boy freshly discharged from national service. Armed with nothing but a passion for technopreneurship and a hunger to put in the hours, I applied for internships with several startups in Singapore and fortunately, fate brought me and e27 together.
My first Day, my first doubt
Imagine this. Your first day of work. You step into a company where half of the team has just been retrenched. Empty cubicles, a quiet office, stationary left on unused desks. Morale in the company was evidently low. This was definitely not the welcome I was expecting.
In fact, over the next few weeks, colleagues with whom I was starting to get chummy with resigned one after another. When a colleague who mentored me when I was new left the company, it made me reflect on my future in this internship. Am I going to learn anything meaningful here? Would my time here be fruitful? Should I risk staying on? The next 3 months could potentially mean lost time that I could never get back. I was in a dilemma.
I gave it a long and serious thought. I knew if I were to call it quits today, quitting would become a habit in future. Winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win. I aim to be a winner, not a whiner.
With that in mind, I decided to persevere and bravely embrace the challenges ahead.
From zero to one: my first deal
Being part of a small startup, I was well-aware that I would be required to shoulder several responsibilities. One major responsibility I had was to lead exhibition sales for our flagship event – Echelon Asia Summit 2016.
Hmmm sales, that shouldn’t be too difficult, right? Excited, I started embarking on generating leads and cold emailing. I remembered that on average, I was sourcing around 30 new leads, sending 30 cold emails and making several calls a day.
A month passed and I worked hard each day. Yet, my sales record stood at zero. The event was imminent and I still had no exhibitors. A tech conference without exhibitors? That would be disgraceful. I started to feel discouraged, useless and anxious.
This was a huge setback for me but I knew I had to respond. I had no time to start feeling sorry for myself. I had to bounce back. Immediately.
To improve, I reflected on what I had and had not done. I started to consult my colleagues and sought their feedback. I knew that as a junior in the industry, there was so much ground to cover and so many things to learn. I devoured books on persuasion and sales technique by world-class salesmen like Og Mandino and Zig Ziglar. I analysed my sales funnel and started optimising areas that were lacking. I refined my pitches and did my due diligence before each sales call. Whatever it was, I was ready and determined to do it as long as it helped me close the deals.
My hard work finally paid off. When I closed my first deal, I remember the strong grip on my palm and it fueled the fire in my heart. I had grown from zero to one.
Ultimately, I managed to successfully bring in more exhibitors for our Echelon event and oversaw a 20 per cent year-on-year increase in exhibition revenue for the company.
My lowest point: Losing S$40,000
One of the worst things that happened to me during my internship was losing a S$40,000 (US$30,000) sponsorship deal. Losing the deal hurt deeply because I had been so confident of securing it. In the weeks before, communication between both parties had been positive and the other party seemed genuinely interested in what had been offered. Yet, in an unexpected turn, I lost the deal.
Imagine working for months on one of the largest deals for the event, knowing that you had it in your hands, and seeing all of it vanish in one single moment. I had been given one of the most expensive lessons in my life. I reflected on why I had lost it and what I would have done differently. I learnt from it. I had to.
The milk was spilt. There was no use crying over it. The only thing I could do was to clean up the mess and pour myself another glass.
I tried to resuscitate the initial deal but to no avail. Nevertheless, they did ultimately join us at Echelon albeit on a much smaller deal.
Beyond the comfort zone: networking
Networking had never been my forte given my nature. I was not experienced in initiating small talk with people.
One evening after a client’s meeting, my colleague brought me along to a mini-networking event for startups at Raffles Place. I thought to myself, “Wow! There’s free drinks and food, I am just going to relax and chill at one corner.” Yet, a colleague of mine sent me one text that spoiled my entire plan: “Get me 10 name cards”.
It felt uncomfortable at first, trying to find random topics to start a conversation with strangers. Nevertheless, that evening, I completed my mission. With ten … no fifteen name cards in my hand, it felt great. But it felt even better to have gone beyond my comfort zone that evening. After this learning experience, I was more comfortable at subsequent networking sessions and continued to grow from strength to strength.
3 months ago, as my teammates left one by one, I reflected on the future of my internship. Today, after several highs and lows, I reflect on the incredible experience of my internship. My time at e27 has definitely been a roller coaster ride. Nonetheless, if you were to ask me to do it all over again, I would gladly comply. The experience has definitely been a rare and amazing one.
With that, I leave behind my top 3 tips to having a fulfilling internship at e27 (or any other startup):
1) Don’t settle for anything
When asked “What would you like to do at our company?”, many interviewees would answer, “Anything (as long as I secure the internship)!”
My advice: Do not say that unless you are comfortable with being a coffee boy or a photocopying girl. Take the responsibility to learn about your strengths and how they could align with the values and needs of the company.
Before the interview, ask yourself honestly. What do you want to achieve during your internship? How would you like your resume to look like at the end of your internship? What kind of projects do you want to be involved?
During the interview, sound out your requests. Make it clear to the company that you want the experience to be mutually beneficial. Let them know what you would like to achieve and how you would like to be involved. Make it a point to know their needs as well. Goodwill should flow both ways.
Before the internship, have a clear goal and vision in mind.
During the internship, work hard to achieve those goals. Note that along the way, circumstances might change, so adapt your goals accordingly.
At the end of the internship, conduct a post-mortem. Look back and analyse the targets you have set and how you can improve for your next internship.
2) What you give is what you get
Follow this rule: When you give 100 per cent in your work, you will gain 100 per cent knowledge and experience in return. Simple as that.
Hence, if you want the best learning experience, you have to give your best in your work.
3) Don’t treat yourself as an intern
One day, you will grow up and you will no longer be an intern. Your objective is not to be an intern. It is to become a better person. Start challenging yourself by assuming responsibilities of a full-time staff now.
When you encounter problems, find a way to solve it. When you encounter setbacks, pick yourself up and move forward. Grow to assume the responsibility given to you. Hustle to overcome the challenges thrown at you. You are not an intern, you are the captain of your own journey.
Yu Hao Ong was a former intern at e27.
The views expressed here are of the author’s, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them. e27invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested in sharing your point of view, submit your post here .
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