Haya Aldawood | Operations Internship Experience

March 20, 2021

8 minutes read
8 minutes read

March 20, 2021

Hey! we’ve heard that you recently finished an operations internship with Sabbar. Can we ask you a few questions about your journey? 🌵

Do you mean Sabbar the plant? Or the startup?

Duh, the startup! Why did you join Sabbar in the first place? 🤔

I started my Journey with Sabbar in September, 2020 in Operations as a Supply Generation Intern. After reading about Sabbar, I felt deeply conceded to the mission and it seemed like something I can contribute to. Hence, I was super eager to get the opportunity and oh boy was I excited for my first day!

However, I was nervous about fitting in with my peers. I wasn’t your typical internee. I’m a master’s student which means that I’ll probably be the oldest internee. That turned out to be true!

The fact that I was the oldest internee did not change how I interacted with the team. In fact, it was a perk! Having previous experiences in multiple areas made my colleagues trust my opinions and value my input. 😎

Hmmm, interesting what was it you’re studying again? 👀

Oh excuse my manners, I did not introduce myself. My name is Haya Aldawood and I study Decision Science at King Saud University. My major is multidisciplinary; it’s between statistics, operational research and computer science.

Neat! So what was your goal from taking an internship in Operations?

My main goal for pursuing operations internship is to get a first-hand exposure of the fuzziness of real operational problems. I always saw academia present a well-polished image of the world. Information is always given, and problems are always clearly defined, which is not the case for what you would encounter in reality.

Along the way I was introduced to different methodologies and processes to solve operational problems. The word operation by itself means any process or input which can contribute to the delivery of the final product. 🚀

Oh ok so how did your understanding of operation have evolved after joining Sabbar?

Well good question! When operation was first introduced as a function, it was mainly used in factories. So why do we have an Operations Department in a tech startup?

Nowadays after this function evolved you can find it in almost every institute. In tech, the operations function is responsible for a successful delivery of value, and under this statement falls a lot of responsibility. When you are in operation you are going to work with everyone in the company, whether it’s tech, customer service, finance, marketing…etc.

For example, operations and tech usually work hand in hand to deliver the most viable product given the knowledge, expertise and capabilities. Operations ideates and tech builds, operation pokes holes and tech fixes them. Because operations got the best understanding of the end user, their inputs are crucial to build a product which the end user can use.

In a nutshell, you are supposed to be aware of how the system under delivers, and by system, I mean the whole process your company undertakes to deliver the promised value for the end user.

To reflect on my experience with Sabbar, I used to view operations as exclusive for a specific field with a limited responsibility, now I see operations as a vital part in any company’s survival.

Interesting! Since working in such a function is so demanding, what was the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?

Half way through my internship there has been some restructuring of the team, which left the customer happiness function as an unfilled vacancy. Since I had experience in customer service and I understand how to excel as one, I stepped in to handle the customer happiness department.

Juggling the tasks of two functions (customer happiness and supply generation) has been challenging, but it gave me exposure to what kind of problems our customers are facing. It also gave me an understanding of different issues generated from different functions including mine!

This helped me understand the fallacies of our onboarding process, the common areas users face issues with and more valuable knowledge I wouldn’t have gained if I did not step in.

Ok so you have worked in supply generation and in customer happiness, can you share your learnings out of both?

Sure, as a customer happiness hero, I’ve worked as a customer service agent before, so I understand how to excel as one. However, getting used to the language and brand tone was tricky. In my previous experience, everything was according to a playbook, and I used to follow a script so the space of confusion was minimized to the least. In Sabbar, we are trying to reach people in the language they are using in their day-to-day life. We are not imposing an automatic language which can sometimes make the recipient more frustrated than relieved. It’s like being lost in a forigen country and the one person who stops to help you is speaking your mother tongue.

As for supply generation, beside the main task of reviewing applications for new applicants, I’ve conducted a few experiments to solve some of the problems we had.

For example, we had a shortage in the number of female applicants with health cards, which is the main requirement to work in the food and beverages sector (F&B). So I hired one of our top-performing workers to cold call in a warm manner to motivate some applicants to issue one. Although the experiment did not yield a significant outcome, it validated and rejected our hypotheses about the problem.

We also used to deliver an on-borading workshop for new applicants on a weekly basis. I was handling the aftermath of every session. It was satisfying to see your late night labour blooms into new applicants being able to book shifts and get to taste the fruit of their own labour.

Awesome! Now after we have gained a good understanding of your job, let’s switch gears to the life inside Sabbar. We heard a rumor that you and the team are always fighting. Is that true?

No not at all! However, the operation team is known to be the loudest in Sabbar but we are definitely not fighting.

Being a part of the operation team has given me the opportunity to work with the amazing Operations Director Eng. Ahmad Abuazza. I have learned a lot working with him including how to scale a business, how to empathize with people’s needs, and how to lead with purpose. He kept an open door and an open mind and I’m glad that I got the opportunity to work with him.

I have also worked with the fantastic Operations queen, Joud. Joud was involved since the early days of Sabbar so she taught me alot about the history of Sabbar. She is so generous with her knowledge and I’m truly thankful for her.

Good thing that the rumor is not true! So we’ve heard ANOTHER rumor which is that lunch time is your favorite time, why is that?

That’s absolutely true! It’s the time to get together with other team members and listen to the challenges they are currently facing and discuss different solutions. It’s interesting to me as an Operations Officer to hear from the tech team about the functions they are testing and how they are tackling problems with different solutions. Not only that, it’s also a space to talk about weird dreams and unconventional opinions about food 🥭

What is one advice you would give to potential interns?

If you are interning soon at Sabbar here are my lessons to you:

  • If you are stuck, communicate 🗣🗣

Always express the challenges you face in completing a task. Sharing your challenges will give your colleagues the chance to help you and you could even figure it out on your own while speaking! Sometimes, problems are hard to tackle because they are not clearly defined or understood. Communicating with others will also help you detect the gaps in your understanding.

  • Be proactive and I always ask: how can I contribute? 😄

Being proactive will give you the chance to work on new projects and gain new knowledge and expertise you wouldn’t have gained otherwise.

  • Do a gig 🦹

After taking my first gig or work opportunity, a lot of things have crystallized. I understood the whole journey, areas of possible frustrations and more. So if you are joining Sabbar soon make sure you get to walk in the customer’s shoes ASAP!

If you look back, how do you describe your experience at Sabbar?

I have observed first hand how marketplace business operates. I’ve become aware of different conflicts that can emerge from serving both sides of the market, and the challenges to deliver a delightful scalable experience, and I could never learn about these things from a textbook. I’m glad that I was exposed to such leadership style which allowed me to have ownership over the work that I do and gave me a space to thrive as an individual.

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