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Opal Founder Associate #1 - Joanna Tasmin

December 7, 2021

As Opal hit the mark of ten employees, Kenneth Schlenker, Opal's founder and CEO, created a special internship position: the Founder Associate (inspired by Opal's angel investor Jean-Charles Samuelian, founder of Alan). Founder Associates are exceptional juniors who can help explore different strategic topics, own decisions, and move projects from start to finish. Usually gap-year or end-of-studies internships, Founder Associates join Opal for 6-9 months with the purpose of learning and delivering impactful projects. Learn more in this article about the job of Opal's first Founder Associate, Joanna Tasmin, and how she contributed to the growth of the company.

1. Hello Joanna, what is your background and how did you get into the data & product intern position at Opal?

Sure! I’m currently a third-year student at Brown University studying Applied Mathematics and Computer Science-Economics and I’m from Indonesia and Singapore.

I Worked as a research assistant with a professor in the Economics department studying mechanism design (studying economic incentives and human behaviour toward desired objectives, in strategic settings).

I also have a background/coursework in theoretical statistics and I wanted to gain an understanding of its practical applications, particularly through designing and running A/B tests.

I was looking for internships in Fall 2020 as I was originally intending to take time off from school, and from my previous internship at a venture capital firm I knew I wanted to work hands-on at a high-growth startup. I came across Opal through newsletters and people in the startup/VC space and was quite intrigued by the product and the core problem of digital wellbeing. I remember applying to a general interest form and wrote (very vaguely) that I wanted to work at the intersection of product, growth, and analytics and did not think I would get any response!

Fortunately had a chat with Kenneth and we settled on a position that seemed like it would fit well: I would be able to work with Amrith and Bernard on the growth side to figure out the best path for Opal’s launch and work with Kenneth and the Engineering team to run A/B tests and build data dashboards that would help Opal make data-driven product decisions.

2. Do you have a typical day? How do you organize your day?

Every day is largely different — and that’s what’s so fun about being at Opal! Since I mostly work remotely from the East Coast of the US, I’m a couple of hours behind teammates in Europe, so my first point of action is always to look for messages and see what everyone else has been up to while I was asleep. After checking Slack, I usually go and update our Weekly To-Dos Notion page to keep everyone else updated on my tasks and goals for the day and the remainder of the week. There are some recurring tasks, like updating the Distribution dashboard, monitoring daily growth spend performance, and looking at data rolling in for running A/B tests, that usually takes up most of my morning so it’s quite structured.

In the afternoon it’s usually more flexible and quieter, particularly since it’s the evening for those in Europe. I use this time to work on projects I don’t need quick answers from the team for (those are reserved for the mornings!), such as answering strategic and product questions through data, writing analysis documents, and try to log off at a healthy hour before logging back on later in the night to respond to messages (if there are any).

The Opal Team

3. How would you describe your job at Opal?

It’s hard to label my job since there are so many different sides to it, but the easiest way I can encapsulate it is a ‘wearer of many hats’: I get to work on growth strategies through an analytical lens, while also asking broad product-related questions and validate these hypotheses through designing, running, and concluding A/B tests.

A lot of the projects I work on are tangible and if an experiment is successful, I’ll be able to see its impact directly on the app quite soon after — so I’d describe my job as quite rewarding in that sense, and with a broad enough job scope that you get to see all sides of a startup!

Basically, the position allows you to learn how to be an early-stage founder of a mobile startup and acquire specific skills, for me it was growth marketing and product.

Fun fact is although this was a full remote internership, I went to work to Paris! The company hosts quarterly in person team meetups and I got a chance to come work with the team from Paris this summer which was great!

4. What are the biggest lessons you learned?

The skill I improved the most is definitely my ability to be okay with ambiguity. As with most early-stage startups, everyone tries to be scrappy and iterate very quickly. This was a big learning curve for me initially, but I think I embraced the fast-paced environment because I got to learn so much and had the help of everyone else on the team! Another ‘lesson’ I learned is to accept that you’ll make mistakes — I definitely made my fair share and that only helped me learn much quicker!

Other skills I gained are the ability to understand growth metrics (especially online advertising), product metrics to assess product-market fit. I also got some good practice presenting my work asynchronously through Notion documents and recording Looms, which are key for remote work.

I was really blessed to be given this kind of responsibility so early in my career!

5. Now a question for Kenneth: why did you create this position? What does it bring to the company?

Kenneth: When I was studying in college, this is the internship I would have wanted (instead I joined Google which at the time was great too). I think very smart, ambitious and driven young people can learn extremely fast if they are giving a mission worth pursuing and access to a talented team. Students also tend to be very flexible and can work on many different things, which are traits required to be a successful founder and a successful founder associate. As everything we do in the company, I tested it first with one intern (Joanna) and realized that the more I asked her to help on several subjects (from growth to product), the more ownership I could eventually give her. My hope is that founder associates can go on to do great things, become leaders and entrepreneurs, hopefully with Opal. We are already seeing this with our two first founder associates who are continuing incredible careers.


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