Field Study Experience
Our university arranged a one-month field study program for its fourth-year students, i.e. assigning students to companies to learn the work environment. I was assigned to a company called Food2u. The company accepted four students for the program, two students from software engineering major, and two from BIS major.
At first, the company was only a small lunchbox delivery service company. When its founder who worked at InnoLab saw the opportunity and wanted to give better services, Food2u was born. (InnoLab is an IT company that accepts outsourcing from foreign countries.) Food2u was started with six guys in February 2015 and it was just a small branch under InnoLab. It grows bigger each year thus it left InnoLab and started as a company. Food2u is now a medium-sized company with more than 120 employees: 40 working in the office and the rest are bicycle riders who deliver food.
Our first day at Food2u was normal. We met new people and introduced each other. There are two graduated seniors from our university working at Food2u(one from the first batch and another from the second batch). Our first batch senior came with us, showed us the Food2u website, and explained the system. We talked a lot and asked a lot of questions.
The next day, I was assigned to the digital marketing team. Another BIS student to QC(quality control) team and two SE students to the IT team. At the digital marketing team, team members welcomed me and explained things like what their tasks are, what they do, what they gonna do, etc. The company launched Food2u android application this September so the current main task of the digital marketing team is to get many downloads from users. Their next four months target is to get one million downloads. They are planning for promotion campaigns right now. As for me, I had to go to meetings together with them. When they went to restaurants for negotiating, I tagged along with them, too. I was a listener and a note-taker.
The room where the marketing team assigned is too freezing. So, I stayed with my friends where the IT team was. At the IT team, we could speak more smoothly (using technical terms didn’t cause any communication problems). And also, CTO is caring, warm, and very nice. CTO came and talked with us a lot. If he was busy, there was a senior who came and shared his IT knowledge with us. Asking a lot of questions and talking to them was very fun and gained knowledge.
The founder rented a two-story house and all teams are operating in it. When both CTO and senior were busy, we went upstairs and downstairs to visit other teams and asked questions like what their daily tasks are, what their missions are, etc. Within a few days, we became familiar with all people there. Since we can see and interact with all people in the house every day, although the company has its hierarchy, it was more like a family. Although it was a short one month, we learned a lot: the company structure, teams and their responsibilities, business processes and how they are being operated, etc. We got a chance to see what a medium-sized company looked like.
I asked a lot of questions to the CTO. Food2u website is developed using C# language, .NET framework using MVC pattern. It used services from Amazon Servers. CTO said, “At first, the servers weren’t from Amazon services. A few years ago, when we received more transactions, the servers slowed down (the website is loading too long) then we started to use Amazon services. We use three cache servers to have faster processing.” A friend from SE asked, “Why did you develop a website and an app just for food delivery service? You can use the outsourcing method, right?” I also asked, “Yeah, after a website and an app is finished developing, is the IT team still needed for the company?” CTO replied, “Look at Alibaba, after they became a very successful business, they still have IT departments. Why? Finished developing a system doesn’t mean the system is perfect. The IT team is still needed for research and development purposes and brings out innovative technology as the business grows. As for outsourcing, we want complete control over our system in this dynamically changing environment. If you develop yourself, you are familiar with code flow, modules, system structures, etc and it is easier to make changes. You should use outsourcing only when your system has stable requirements.”
We also talked about ethics. He said, “When you have to choose between smart character and good character, choose the good character. Skills can be trained but attitude is difficult to change. But, a good character should also have some talents and a smart character shouldn’t have a bad personality. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Balance! Work with balance.” We had to give suggestions about the current technical problems to find solutions for customers’ satisfaction. I suggested something that will fulfill customers’ needs but unrealistic for the company. CTO told me, “When you think of business development, you also need to think about the operation because if the operation can not follow what the business demands, your business will fail.”
We also got a chance to talk with the product team manager. He explained, “We create Menu. We analyze customers’ behavior. Not only that, but we also analyze employees’ performance. I watch their KPI (Key Performance Indicator) and have to make changes. When leading, some people need to be told what their tasks are, how to do it, etc. It is directing. Some people know what their tasks and how to do it so you just need to tell what direction they need to go. It is coaching. Some people know what they are doing and where they are going and they only need some supports. It is supporting. And some people who know what they are doing and going, and also don’t need supports from you anymore, you can delegate responsibilities to them. It is delegating. When you ask someone to do some work, you should give reasons. And if you lead by giving orders around, you are more likely to fail. Since employees have to spend most of their time here, we need to create a happy work environment for them. Because they are happy means the company is healthy.”
We met CEO three times which means we had conversations with him thrice. When we met him for the first time, he explained the history of programming languages and the importance of algorithms by comparing Grab and Uber. He said, “Grab and Uber are the same type of business and yet why do Grab has competitive advantages over Uber? It’s the search algorithms they used.” Then I asked why did he decide to use the C# language instead of open source languages like J2EE and PHP for the website. He replied, “Because of resources! In this country, there are many Java developers. But as for the java language, most developers stop at the J2SE level. It is rare to see a developer able to code in J2EE and can integrate well. And also think what the government will choose whether open source or Microsoft when they implement IT technology. Microsoft is widely used. You know it.”
“I heard the company is trying to meet ISO standards. The company is doing well and why does it need third-party assessment?” I asked. “When you look at the mirror, you see yourself beautiful or you are only seeing your beautiful parts. As for another person, he sees you as a whole and he can point out your weaknesses. We need an experienced third-party assessment to see whether the company is going in the right direction or not. We need to learn our company’s existing situations, look at its vision, and then make a gap analysis so that the company can grow better. When managing, traceability and transparencies are very important, and using IT can provide that. When outsiders look at your company, they may think you are doing nothing but actually, there are many things happening behind. This is the art of managing using IT.” he replied excitingly.
Although it was only a short one month, we learned a lot. We had great moments and created great memories together. Thank you everyone for everything they had done for us.