Life At A Fintech Startup: 5 Interns Share Their Lessons Learned

At Funding Societies this summer, we welcomed a diverse group of interns from various universities in Singapore. To conclude their internship journey at Funding Societies, we had organized a HTHT session consisting of Kelvin Teo, co-founder & CEO and the summer interns of 2017:

  • Sherman Lim, BSc (Economics) and 2nd major in Strategic Management, Singapore Management University (SMU)
  • Clarissa Poedjiono, BSc (Information Systems), SMU
  • Eugene Ng, BBM (Finance), SMU
  • Victor Tan, BSc (Economics & Finance), Singapore Institute of Management – University of London (SIM-UOL)
  • Martin Indrawata, BA (Political Science), National University of Singapore (NUS)

Why intern at a FinTech Startup?

Victor: Like many of my peers, I work at a large company during summer break. However, after reading about Singapore’s startup culture and how the economy is primed for a startup ecosystem, I was certain that I wanted to work for a startup. As a finance student and someone who would use Fintech such as cashless transactions, virtual wallets and crowdfunding, I knew I wanted to learn all about what goes on behind the scenes in a FinTech startup.

Clarissa: As a major in Information Systems, I wanted to join a tech firm. After reading about the FinTech disruption in the banking sector, I realised that perhaps the best learning ground for me would be to join a tech start-up.

Sherman: Having interned at a traditional corporate set-up before, I thought it will be interesting to find out what it will be like to intern at a startup. Of course, I have heard many stories and read case studies in classes that working in a startup will be really hectic and challenging. I also thought this will be a good chance to explore what I wanted to pursue as a career. As to why FinTech, this is the latest trend in the financial sector and is sure to disrupt the business models of traditional financial institutions. I figured, why not join a FinTech startup to learn more about it.

Read More: My Greatest Takeaways From The 12-week Internship At Funding Societies

What was the job seeking and interview process like?

Clarissa: I found out about FS through SMU’s career portal. I found the background of the company and the job description attractive. I went through 2 rounds of Skype interview and 1 assignment submission.

Martin: I met Ishan (Head of Data Science) during a talk at NUS and he shared about the opportunity. The interview process was great as I got to learn more about the team dynamics and leadership of the company (as positively reflected by Xin Ying and Vikas, Head of Business Development and Marketing respectively). What I was heartened about was that my interviewers asked me on things non-related to the job, which I feel was a positive valuation of me as a potential contributor to the company.

Eugene: I got to learn about Funding Societies through a friend of mine who was going to work at Oliver Wyman, who was in turn told how one of the seniors at Oliver Wyman had left the company to join Funding Societies, a startup. The 2 co-founders are also from Harvard and consulting background. It goes to show the caliber of people who run the company, they hail from some of the best institutions around.

Oddest question during interview?

Sherman: Right at the start of the interview – “Do you have any questions for me?”

Victor: “How would your family describe you?”

Martin: “Why do you think Trump won the elections?”

Eugene: “Don’t you want to spend your holidays travelling instead?” (I did, but I definitely didn’t wanna travel for 4 months straight)

What were your most memorable moments during your internship?

Sherman: Definitely the karaoke session during the company retreat! I had a really enjoyable time with the entire company (including our Malaysian colleagues) unwinding and playing hard after an extended period of crazy and intense work. It was also funny seeing our bosses (Not Kelvin) doing the Macarena & Gangnam Style dance.

Victor: I recall all the nights the team spent together watching Game of Thrones which the company airs weekly. It’s really cool that the team stays back after work for dinner and watch TV together. Fun fact: The company even has a Slack channel dedicated to the discussion of our favorite TV show.

Eugene: The most memorable moments for me were all the small chats and hangouts with the colleagues in the office. They went pretty deep into personal viewpoints and philosophies, and I got a really good feel of the diversity in the office from these chats.

What have you learnt that you can apply in school or life?

Clarissa: As an Information Systems student, I’ve always strived to improve my technical skills and this internship has given me insights on how IT projects  solve real business problems. I got to run a flagship project with Sherman and was given freedom to explore the possibilities of executing the project. I was inspired by the leadership skills of the leaders in FS who were gifted yet very kind and helpful.

Victor: I think my biggest takeaway is the need to start broadening my scope and venture into skills beyond my own field. Especially in a startup, you have to make sure that you have multidisciplinary skills as you might be called upon to do a task that would require a skill set that is different from what you learn in school. For instance, I’ve witnessed how some basic coding skills can really help to accomplish certain tasks more efficiently as well. In a company sharing session, I remember Kelvin sharing about the need to learn as much as possible but also ensuring that you have a unique specialization to set yourself apart from others.

Eugene: Technically I’m already a graduate, so I’d say adaptability. The dynamism and pace in the workplace far exceeds that of school life, especially so in a startup like Funding Societies. It’s great to get used to being able to operate and thrive in such a charged up environment.

Has this internship met your expectations?

Sherman: Honestly this internship has exceeded my expectations. We were given full autonomy to initiate and drive projects in the company with the full support of our mentors and the teams. I even commenced my investment journey here by investing into loans on the platform. I have seen how detailed the SME assessment is and that gives me the confidence to earn handsome returns.

Clarissa: It has exceeded my expectations in every way. I’m thankful for the people I got to work with and the skills that I got from this internship.

Victor: Definitely. I didn’t expect to learn from so many brilliant individuals. (The team consists of alumni from various local universities and from different disciplines, including NUS, SMU and SIM as well as alumni from Ivy-league universities including Harvard, Stanford and LSE. I had the opportunity to learn vastly different skill sets from the best and the brightest people.

Martin: Exceeded expectations. The amount of smart and driven people crowded into a 15m by 10m room (old office at Raffles Place), plus my wonderful mentor (Xin Ying) made my 7 weeks there an amazing one.

Kelvin: Yes, FS would be a full step slower, if not for our interns. It’s amazing what one can achieve, if you put a little faith in them. All our interns in the previous batch has joined us full-time. We’d be delighted to have our star interns onboard too before or after their graduation, including Eugene even if he’s joined the ‘dark side’.

Read More: This New App Can Help You Kick Start Your Investment Journey

Weirdest thing you’ve done in FS?

Sherman: Doing the Macarena & Gangnam Style dance with the bosses. It was weird but still fun.

Victor: I literally designed the toilet signs. The Game of Thrones fans in office (probably half the office) was upset that we couldn’t name the meeting room after the locations in Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, so as consolation we named the toilets Hodor for ladies and Mordor for men.

Martin: I used Kelvin’s nerf gun (Sorry Kelvin) and had a nerf battle with some of the team members after work!

Advice for future interns?

Sherman: Be a sponge and absorb as much as you can during your internship. Always be ready to learn and accept challenges even if you think you do not have the skills required. The FS team is always ready to guide and support you along the way.

Martin: Come in with an open mind. Be prepared to accelerate your learning, because the learning curve will be steep. Talk to everyone, especially someone from a function you don’t know much about. Ask, ask, ask; but also ask the right questions – questions you cannot find the answers for in Google. If your reaction to topics like UI/UX or Software Engineering is “eeeh, so difficult”, then FS is not the place.

Eugene: Don’t be choosy about what you do, there’s no place for picking and choosing in a startup. Nobody can silo themselves off as just “Business Development” or “Tech”, everybody has to synergize with each other in order for the company to thrive. If this means doing something outside of your own job scope or your initial expectations, just embrace it! It’s another chance to learn.

Kelvin: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the others in speech, in conduct, in values, in faith and in conscience.”

This article was first posted on the blog of Funding Societies (Singapore). Click here for the original article.

Funding Societies is a DollarsAndSense Brand Connect partner. If you are interested to know them better, you can find out more on what they do on our DollarsAndSense Brand Connect Page.

My Greatest Takeaways From the 12-week Internship at Funding Societies

Everyone dreams of finding a job they love. Like many other undergraduates, I spent several summer breaks in various internships, letting each experience guide me in discovery of my passion. This phase of gaining work experience helped me develop particular interests in two areas – Enterprise development and Financial Services. That was why I was exhilarated when I came across Funding Societies’ internship advertisement through NUS career centre newsletter. It was described as aFinTech platform which aims to help SMEs grow through Peer-to-Peer (P2P) crowdlending.

At that moment, I had no idea what P2P meant, or what exactly ‘FinTech’ was all about. However, I was intrigued enough to want to delve deeper.

My encounter with Funding Societies has been extraordinary from the very beginning. The interviewer and I had an equal share of time to introduce ourselves. Unlike other interviews where candidates are selected by the hiring manager unilaterally, the balanced two-way communication gave me opportunities to discern whether we would be great fit for each other.

I learned that I was being offered to join Funding Societies as the first ever intern! The past 3 months with Funding Societies have been full of magical moments and learning experiences. Here are some of my greatest takeaways

  1. All initiatives are encouraged, even the crazy ones

At Funding Societies, I am given as much autonomy as everyone else in the company although I am ‘just’ an intern. I am constantly encouraged to input my opinions, feedback and suggestions. While discussing about improving productivity, someone casually proposed moving our weekly sharing sessions from Monday morning to Friday just because – Monday Blues, and it actually happened! Such open culture allows me to become more and more comfortable in speaking up. I find this an enjoyable process because even the most ridiculous-sounding ideas are taken seriously and discussed thoroughly before deciding whether to be implemented (Stay tuned to learn more as we roll these out!). Having the power of choosing what I want to work on also means work is never boring!

  1. Challenge yourself constantly

I got to be part of the competitive and fast-paced start-up scene. New competition emerges every other day and the only way to thrive is to move faster than anyone else. Allocating the limited resources with most efficiency is critical. Freedom and autonomy come with a strong dose of responsibility, and this period has been a test of my discipline in time management. I am constantly challenged to reach my maximum potential. I have always believed that a fulfilling career isn’t a destination but a journey. Hence, it’s important to grow together with the company, and Funding Societies is giving me this remarkable experience.

  1. Your work matters – a lot

At Funding Societies, any work done on each day serves an immediate purpose. I was involved in meaningful projects that are crucial to the company and saw it through from planning to implementation. No words can describe the sense of pride and achievement of seeing my work published on the website for the first time. I enjoy interacting with our clients through our chat feature on the website because I know our conversations have a direct impact on their actions, and often results in Funding Societies gaining new borrowers or investors. I am inspired to take ownership of my work and continuously strive towards providing the best experience to all Funding Societies’ clients.

  1. Supportive team makes all the difference between good and great

Being surrounded by people who share the same goal and passion really brings about an amplified effect in productivity. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that all my colleagues, including the founders, would be willing to find time to respond to my queries no matter how busy they were. I was able to receive quick advice and feedback from managers with ample experiences and they have been of great help to me in getting my job done. If I am ever asked what I love most about Funding Societies, I will not hesitate in answering – ‘complete absence of office politics!’ I appreciate having the well-bonded team where difference of opinion can be resolved through a healthy discussion because I have seen in my previous workplaces how detrimental office politics are to work productivity and motivation. Here at FS, we are aligned in many ways to achieve progress and help one another grow.

  1. Earn solid returns on my investment

‘Skin-in-the-game’ philosophy is widely practiced at Funding Societies. This resonates with my personal beliefs the most. I know what I am working on has a positive impact on society and I am proud to be part of the solution. As such, I have started investing in our platform alongside other investors. I have been enjoying good returns so far and an exciting experience because I know that it means the funded SME is growing well enough to repay as well as investors’ money is deployed into efforts that not only result in stable returns, but make a difference in Singapore’s economy as well.

All in all, interning at Funding Societies for the past 12 weeks has been stimulating and satisfying, and the steep learning curve has enabled me to grow significantly as a motivated individual.

Shin Yiseul
NUS Year 4
Economics Major