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Opal Founder Associate #2 - Malak Yacoubi

January 17, 2022
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Following the success of our first Founder Associate, Joanna, we couldn't wait to welcome Founder Associate #2. We created this position for exceptional juniors to help Opal's CEO explore different topics, own decisions, and go the extra mile. Typically within gap-year or end-of-studies internships, Founder Associates join Opal for ~6+ months with the purpose of learning and delivering impactful projects. In this article, we're thrilled to discuss the experience we had working with Opal's second Founder Associate, Malak Yacoubi-Soussane, and how she contributed to the growth of the company at a pivotal moment. Since then Malak has started a new Visiting Associate intern position at BCG. But maybe, we'll work together again?

This interview was led by Christine, Opal's very own People Associate. Oh, by the way, we're are hiring Founder Associate #3 and you can apply here.

1. Hello Malak, what is your background and how did you get into the Founder’s Associate intern position at Opal?

Malak: Hi Chris! I’m currently a master’s student at HEC Paris. It’s quite common to take internships in between the two years of this program. I really wanted to work in tech and discover what it’s like to be part of the founding team of a startup. When I heard about this amazing opportunity in June 2021, I immediately applied! Three months later, after a few interviews with Kenneth and Bernard, I was getting started in Paris.

I was lucky enough to join Opal right before the September off-site retreat [we host retreats in person every quarter with our entire team], when all the team gathered for a week to take stock of the work that’s been done, update the roadmap for the following months, hack the main engineering challenges in no time… and of course enjoy Paris’ sights and nightlife!

I immediately felt part of the team, I could share my views on the projects that were on the table and I was very naturally drawn to my first project, exploring a potential B2B market for Opal. That direction changed over the course of my internship here but it set the tone for my time here: reaching out, asking questions, testing ideas.

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

I worked with the team in Paris, but also from Berlin, London, Marrakech… remote work is an amazing opportunity to change your work environment whenever you need or feel like it.

No matter where I am, the day usually starts with growth reporting and analytics. I have learned a lot on this topic with Bernard and this daily peek into our numbers is an amazing way to understand the effect that a new creative ad or a new partnership could have on our downloads and subscriptions.

Then I typically work on my topic: partnerships. This involves a lot of research to find the good targets, and then it’s all about contacting potential partners and telling them about the amazing app that we’re building. I’m mainly working on my own but of course Kenneth is always here to help if I’m stuck somewhere or on important calls.

Quite often, I participate in Gem interviews (that’s how we call our users, isn’t it the cutest?) with Anton, our lead designer. These are amazing as I get to grasp how life changing our app has been for a lot of people who just can’t deal anymore with their phone addiction. It’s also totally new for me to get to see how an app design is optimized, and how changing the size, shape or color of a button can completely change the way someone is using it.

3. How would you describe your job at Opal?

First it’s very exciting and thrilling to contribute to building an app that really makes a change in people’s lives. The Gem interviews, but also Haugen’s revelations in September, made it obvious that social media addiction is a real issue… and we at Opal are here to help!

My work is also challenging as I have to take initiatives myself and drive my projects from idea to execution. In such a small team, you’re never really an intern, but you can and are expected to take part in how key decisions are made. In the team meetings for example, everyone is encouraged to ask questions and expose their views. This makes the job very challenging but also extremely empowering.

It’s also a lot of fun: even if the whole team is remote, the retreats are an amazing way to get to know each other. So you’ll always hear an inside joke during the meetings (probably something involving Tesla), and laugh really hard on Friday happy hours ;)

4. What are the biggest lessons you learned?

Building an app is tough, but you can make it easy with the right approach. What’s amazing at Opal is that the whole team is set on an iteration process that makes us move forward slowly but surely.

You have an idea? Great! Let’s put it in practice, define the right KPIs, give it some time and see if it works. Is the test a success? That’s amazing, let's adopt! It’s not going as well as you thought? No problem at all: we’ll just change one of the parameters and try it again. There’s really no such thing as failure, it’s all about learning.

This sounds like a cheesy motivational Tumblr quote, but at Opal this is true and it is put in practice everyday. That’s what has driven the team until now, and that’s what will take us to reach new summits.

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

Kenneth: First, I want to say how happy we've been so far to have worked with Joanna and Malak, our first two Founder Associates. They made a big difference. They make me very enthusiastic about the potential of this generation - with the right attitude, willingness to learn, energy and autonomy you can do great things, from anywhere in the world, very early in your career.

I always thought that very smart, ambitious and driven young people can learn extremely fast if they are given both 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 to strategy), the more ownership I could eventually give her. We also had Bernard, our growth manager, step in and work closely with Malak on the latest growth analysis and trends, and since this worked well he will now take on more responsibility with future Founder Associates.

My hope is that our Founder Associates can go on to do great things, become leaders and entrepreneurs, hopefully with Opal (or with me or with others in the Opal team involved in some capacity!). We are already seeing this with our two first founder associates who are pursuing incredible careers. It's just the beginning!

Want to join us?

If you enjoyed this blogpost, and can't wait for your next challenge, then Opal should be your next adventure:

  • 📝🖥️ Find more practical details in the job description and apply on Welcome To The Jungle
  • Don't hesitate to reach out to current or former Founder Associates on LinkedIn if you need more details: Joanna Tasmin (Joanna has since started a new Incoming Data Scientist intern position at Facebook) and Malak Yacoubi-Soussane
  • Check out with whom Joanna and Malak work closely! Our Growth Associate Bernard Bontemps and our CEO Kenneth Schlenker
  • Last but not least, this is the Opal team!
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