As Opal hit the mark of ten employees, Kenneth Schlenker, Opal's founder and CEO, created a special internship position: the Founder Associate. Founder Associates are exceptional juniors who can help him explore different topics, own decisions, and go the extra mile. Within gap-year or end-of-studies internships, Founder Associates join Opal for ~6+ months with the purpose of learning and delivering impactful projects. Learn more in this article about the job of Opal's fifth Founder Associate, Ramy Zhang, and how she contributed to the growth of the company. Since then Ramy has returned to the University of Toronto and will be leading a project for her school’s Blueprint club !
1. Hello Ramy, what is your background and how did you get into the intern position at Opal?
Hello! 😄 I’m a computer science and cognitive science student at the University of Toronto, entering my 3rd year this fall! I’m particularly interested in building and realizing things that make people happy, and that was exactly the opportunity I received through Opal.
It truly taught me what it’s really like to work at a fast-paced startup, creating a net positive impact for other humans
I first heard of the company through Twitter before its launch. About 2 years later, my friend Amrith, an Opal alumni, let me know about this position opening up, and I jumped on it. I like wearing many hats - honestly, all the hats - and this role totally fulfilled that greed! It truly taught me what it’s really like to work at a fast-paced startup, creating a net positive impact for other humans.
Since starting this internship, I’ve worked on things ranging from 24/7 streams and building our new community board, to organic content creation! I’m the face you’ve been seeing in our Instagram reels 😛
2. Do you have a typical day? How do you organize your day?
I like to carve out a couple of hours around morning and noon doing admin, recurring tasks, and communications, and then log on again at night for a longer 5-6hr sprint of deep focus time on bigger projects. I try to get all my questions from the night before answered early in the day when everyone on the other side of the ocean is still working.
Having that flexibility to work my best hours in this remote role was amazing
I’m a bit of a night owl, so having that flexibility to work my best hours in this remote role was amazing. Having a break in the day also allowed me to get outside a bit and enjoy the summer weather before coming back in, refreshed, to tackle harder tasks. (Pro tip: schedule all your questions and messages on Slack for 9 am the next day! I write them and schedule them immediately so I won’t forget to send them, and the other person also receives them at a more reasonable hour - win-win!)
My favorite schedule, though, was definitely during our onboarding weeks in Paris, when I was able to go to the office with everyone at 10 am and grab lunch and coffee together! Having a set amount of time for work and getting off for the day was refreshing in its own way, and you definitely can’t beat an after-work stroll along the Seine.
3. How would you describe your job at Opal?
A lot of fun - challenging, fast-paced, and instructive! I learned so much while working here. You get a wild amount of agency over your projects as an intern, and I felt like I truly owned what I was working on. Despite this, I was constantly given the support I needed and felt so welcomed to seek mentorship and aid from other team members. I learned a lot about prioritization, hacking your way to a solution, and stepping back to look at other options when I got blocked (which happened often 🙃). So many times I’d been working away at something for a few days and was able to get a new direction by consulting another team member for 5 minutes. You really get to work with an absolutely incredible team.
You really get to work with an absolutely incredible team.
The sheer diversity in the projects I got to work on was also so delightful - I got to write, learn about design from Anton (our resident product designer), program, work with virtual machines, edit videos, look at data, learn about SEO, and so much more. It was truly a privilege to be able to work in such a flexible position.
A few examples of the projects I worked on:
- Opal’s community forum: Deployed using Discourse & AWS
- YouTube 24/7 Pomodoro stream and 24/7 Lofi Radio stream
- Designed and hosted flow sessions
- SEO: Wrote a blog, ported Opal’s Media Library from Notion to Opal’s domain, Learned strategies to improve our domain authority using Moz & AHREF reports
- Instagram: Designed and wrote several carousels, Wrote and edited several reels
4. What are the biggest lessons you learned?
- Always make sure your tasks are aligned with your greater priorities. This was an exercise I was encouraged to do often.
- Overcommunicate, and work in public (as much as you can).
- Document everything! I learned this from many team members, and particularly Greta (also Founder’s Associate) who is the most detail-oriented documenter I’ve met. It’s helpful not just for others, but also for yourself, as you get to see a clear history and progression of what you’ve worked on.
- Celebrate others. Kenneth, the founder of Opal, often shouts out team members for the work they’ve done! Not only is it heartwarming (and feels great when you’re on the receiving end 😆) - but it’s also just cool to see the awesome work other people have been doing.
5. Now a question for Kenneth: why did you create this position? What does it bring to the company?
Kenneth: I witnessed the role in other companies (at Revolut or Alan for instance), and I found it super interesting to have super smart young people given the opportunity to learn really fast. That is proof that a student with potential can do lots of things and have a tremendous impact on a company.
We now have had the chance of having 4 Founder Associates join us (Joanna, Malak, Ramy, and Greta), and the program has been a great success in that we were able to build so much and teach valuable skills to associates who went on to do incredible things.
Want to join us?
If you enjoyed this blog post, cannot wait for your next challenge and feel like Opal should be your next adventure:
- 📝🖥️ Find more practical details in the job description and apply here
- Do not hesitate to reach out to current or former Founder Associates on LinkedIn if you need more details: Joanna Tasmin, Malak Yacoubi-Soussane , Greta Brablec, Ramy Zhang
- Check out with whom Joanna, Malak, Greta and Ramy work closely! Our Lead designer Anton Balitskyi and our CEO Kenneth Schlenker
- Last but not least, this is us!
We cannot wait to hear from you!