Author: payallal

Weekly Update 6: Work, Blind Theatre and Jerusalem

This week, I mostly hung out with friends, travelled and ofcourse the usual work!

Work was quite interesting this week-we tried brainstorming new ideas for marketing. We also got some help from our users in coming up with new ideas-which was amazing. They come up with way better ideas than we do! We came up with some good ideas too though that we’re going to start implementing this week and next week. It’s so fun to brainstorm and try to think of things that people haven’t tried before. I hate doing tried and tested things because they’re usually the things that everyone is doing (which makes them less effective especially in marketing).

I met with friends for dinner a few times this week and Skyped with Yale-NUS friends, which is always great. Also, I went for a meetup at Google Campus. This one was a live stream of the Lean Startup Conference that happened in San Francisco last Tuesday and Wednesday. I just watched two or three talks on the live stream (which were pretty good) and spoke to a few other people who were hanging out at Google Campus for various events (which was even better!).

Vegan food with Caroline! Never eaten this much vegan food in my life. 
Live stream of the Lean Startup Conference
Dinner with Sharon!

//www.youtube.com/get_player

On the weekend, I took a day trip to Jerusalem with Aileen. We just explored the old city, which is where a lot of the churches and historical places of importance are. We went on a walking tour of the old city in which they showed us the 4 different quarters of the city-each of which are occupied by Christians, Arabs, Armenians and Jews. Learning how the city was historically built was quite interesting-there were so many different people and rulers passing through Jerusalem, that the city kept seeing new kinds of structures built with every group of people that passed. I also met some nice people on the walking tour!

Jerusalem!

On Sunday, I went for a blind theatre performance. This was a theatre performance at the same place where I went for the dinner in darkness last week. It was basically a theatre performance by people who were either blind, deaf or mute. Many were blind AND deaf or deaf AND mute. It was really interesting to see their performance. The way the actors would communicate with each other during the performance using sign language and other cues was especially amazing.

At the theatre performance

Also, I’ve been reading a lot more these days. I’ve been less energetic and jumpy (probably because of the weather), and that helps me read.

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Weekly Update 5: Dinner in the dark, got a tattoo

It was mostly a chill week with a good balance of work and other stuff. I actually got to do some pretty fun stuff this week!

First off, my friends and I went for something called Blackout, which was a dining experience in a pitch dark room. The idea was to simulate the kind of experience the visually impaired would have while doing simple things like eating a meal. We were led inside the restaurant by a waiter who was blind. She told us where to walk so that we didn’t bump into other tables. We sat down and she told us where our forks and napkins were. She told us where the jug of water was and insisted on us pouring water for ourselves for the sake of the experience. The whole thing was really interesting. For one, we had to feel all the cutlery, the plates, the glasses before we could use them. Secondly, we found ourselves focussing much more on each others’ voices than we usually do. So we were better listeners in general. For the first few minutes, our eyes kept trying to adjust to the darkness, since that’s what we’re used to when we enter a dark room. But it never happened! The room was pitch dark throughout. The food itself was pretty good. They had the option of ordering a surprise main or a surprise dessert. So you wouldn’t know what you’d be ordering and could only use the sense of taste to guess what it was when you got it. I ordered a surprise dessert-it was good, but I still don’t know what exactly it was!

My friends and I with our waitress Ruth after the dinner (once we were back out in the light)

The other exciting thing I did this week is that I got a tattoo! I’d been thinking of getting a tattoo for a while, and now just felt like a good time to do it. So I got the word ‘maya’ tattooed near my ankle in hebrew. Maya means dream in Sanskrit, truth or reason in Japanese, generosity in Persian, princess or honourable matriarch in Arabic and love in Nepali. I like that it has so many meanings-a lot of which I relate to (especially the Sanskrit and Japanese meaning).

Aileen had a couchsurfer over this week! He was our tallest couchsurfer by far, and he travels a LOT! 

I also made good progress on the startup project I’ve been working on-got to speak with interesting people in the edtech space who gave me some great advice on things I could do to create a better product! But I don’t want to talk too much about that publicly, so will leave it at that!

Last weekend, I felt the urge to read fiction so I spent Friday afternoon at a cafe reading Metamorphosis by Kafka. It was really fun to read and it was a really quick read (took 2 hours to finish the whole thing)! I downloaded a few more books on my Kindle to read this week/weekend. Do you have any favourite books that you’d recommend? I’ve been asking friends for suggestions so if you have any tell me about it!

I was a bit sick for a day or two last week-the weather is changing and I’d forgotten how easy it can be to catch a flu when that happens. It’s getting colder-which for some reason makes feel tired more quickly and get headaches more often. But nothing that can’t be handled!

Weekly update 4: Bumping into fun events

This week was a relatively easy week. I spent most of my week working as always (which was great-made progress), so won’t talk much more about that. But here are some other things I did!

I hosted 3 couchsurfers this week who were all studying at Utrecht university in Netherlands. They were really interesting people-they were doing a masters in gender studies, a topic that I really like to learn about. I enjoyed having them over-they were all from different places (England, Ireland and Taiwan), so I also learnt something about each of those countries!

Hosting some incredible couchsurfers from Ireland, Taiwan and England! 
We had presentations for our entrepreneurship class so some time during the week was spent brainstorming the ideas we’d been working on in groups of 4. I spent a few hours working on that. I learnt a lot from the presentations, because our instructor was really good at picking out issues that she saw with the ideas when we were presenting. She would point out things like font size, spacing, etc in presentations in addition to issues she saw with the implementation of the idea. So it was really good practice for preparing investor pitches and slide decks. 
After the presentations, I went out with some friends. We ate at a really popular hummus and shawarma place called Dabush in Tel Aviv. It was SO good! Afterwards, we were walking along the street when we bumped into a building with quite a few people outside it. When we asked around, we learnt that there were free artistic performances happening inside the building. Apparently in Tel Aviv, some government buildings are transformed for one night a year into artistic installations or a place of performances. Inside the building, there were theatrical performances, photo exhibitions and music performances. We went inside to check out some of it and it was amazing. The best things in life are free! 

One of the musical performances at the Tel Aviv city council
Photo credits: Aileen

My friends and I at the same performance after final presentations!
Photo credits: Kevan 
Another beautiful art installation on the same night

On Friday (which is the weekend here), Aileen and I went to this cute little cafe and bookstore called the Little Prince. It’s really cozy and we’d been wanting to go chill there for some time.

The Little Prince Cafe. Doesn’t it look great? Can’t wait to go back! 

Orange hummus, one of the signature dishes of the Little Prince. I personally didn’t love it, but I think it just didn’t match my taste. It seemed well prepared though. 
We also bumped into this huge bubble party for kids that was happening near Habima Square in Tel Aviv. Apparently, it happens on the first friday of every month. Aileen and I happened to know the guy who was making the huge ass bubbles. We’d seen him at a social gathering a few weeks earlier and Aileen recognised him! He let us play with the bubbles for a while! 

A photo I took from Tel Aviv port after my yoga class. The sea always looks so beautiful on Saturday mornings when I go to Tel Aviv port for yoga classes. 
Came back home on Friday to find my flat mate and friend Kevan making beer at home! He loves making alcohol at home! This isn’t the first time I’ve walked into something like this. 
Our office dog sitting on my desk at work. 

I think a lot of things I did this week were serendipitous-like walking into the bubble party and the artistic performances. I feel like that’s really one of the best ways to enjoy Israel-by being open to new experiences and not trying to plan things too much. 

Weekly update 3: Amazing people, work and Bill Clinton

This week was mostly work, one networking event, dinner with one of my uncles who was visiting from San Francisco, two yoga classes and two chill nights at home with friends.

I went to an event at Google Campus Tel Aviv on Monday. Met some really interesting and friendly people there. Since this was an event meant for networking, people were willing to leverage their network to strangers and make introductions if they knew someone who could help. So after meeting these amazing people at the event, I got introduced to another round of amazing people through them!

On Tuesday, I met my uncle who was visiting from San Francisco and his colleague from Delhi. It was really nice hanging out with them. My uncle is really smart and cool! He runs a company based in SF, which produces something that apparently no one else in the world has the capability to understand or create. It’s that complex. So proud to have such amazing family! 

On Wednesday and Saturday, I went for yoga classes. These were easier than the ones I went to last week, so I was less sore the next day. Also, my yoga class on Wednesday was interrupted by a fire on the roof of the studio. But the whole thing got handled pretty quickly, so after 20 minutes of standing outside, we went back in and continued class.

On Thursday night I just chilled at home with one of my flat mates! We watched artistic music videos. Apparently Justin Bieber didn’t write his latest songs himself. He only sung them. They were composed by other people, and so were the music videos. I especially like this music video. The artistic style is beautiful and so creative.

Aileen and I bumped into one of our former couch surfers Nadege at a cafe! She was passing through Tel Aviv on her way to the airport. She’s from France and was just on her way out of Israel. It was so good seeing her again and hearing about her experiences in Israel. She only stayed with us for one night at the beginning of her trip two weeks ago and she’s really cool, so I’m glad we got a little bit more time with her at the cafe. 

Aileen and I went to an Italian restaurant for lunch on Friday! 

We had some friends over this weekend who stayed over on Friday night. We started to watch a Bollywood movie on Friday night, but it was so terrible that I left it halfway and my two friends forwarded their way to the end.

This week, I also had to submit a report about my experience in Israel so far to NUS Enterprise, the institute which organises this program. I love writing, so this was fun even though it took up all my Saturday afternoon!

I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time working on my project this week, so that was unfortunate. I would have liked to speak with more users. But I had some phone calls with people in the edtech space, and it was really fun chatting with them!

Aileen hates writing reports. They drive her crazy.

On Saturday, Bill Clinton was speaking at Rabin Square, a place in Tel Aviv that is named after Yitzhak Rabin, a former prime minister of Israel. It’s been 20 years since Rabin was assassinated and Bill Clinton was one of the supporters of Rabin. Rabin was killed much like Gandhi, by a fellow country man for wanting to make peace with the state’s supposed enemy. One of the things Bill Clinton said in his speech was that Apart from hearing Bill Clinton talk, it was an interesting experience to go to a public and political event here. The security was quite strict and the atmosphere felt different than any other political gathering I’ve been to. There were speeches and music performances before Bill Clinton spoke also. I couldn’t understand much of the speeches since they were in hebrew (some people around were nice enough to translate though!). The performances were all musical performances of patriotic music, some of which were apparently composed in memory of Rabin’s assassination 20 years ago.

Bill Clinton at Rabin Square

Crowds with banners, balloons and signs at Rabin Square to hear Bill Clinton
Photo Credits: Aileen 

Today at work (Sunday is a working day here), I spent time working on Search Engine Optimisation for eRated’s blog and website. It’s really fun to try and find better keywords that we can use for our target audience so that we can attract audiences that will lead to higher conversion rates. I felt a state of flow while doing it. It’s also fun to discover the new tools out there that help you optimise websites. The coolest one I discovered today is this one which gives you ideas for blog posts based on keywords you type in. Try typing in some words into this tool and see it produce a graph of ideas for blog posts based on those keywords.

I’m trying a new thing this week where I spend less time on my phone. I often caught myself browsing social media on my phone for no specific reason, so last night, I deleted the FB and Snapchat app from my phone just to see if that would result in me spending less time on my phone. I’ll probably install it back after a week, but this week I just want to try and de-addict. I actually found myself looking for my FB app on my phone a few times today instinctively (I did it twice while writing this blog post), until I remembered that I’d deleted it. Isn’t that crazy?

Weekly update 2: A tiny glimpse of work-learning-friends balance

My week was really long (which is why I’m late publishing this post), but it was quite fruitful and diverse in all that I did. 
First off, in my attempt to do things that make me uncomfortable, I went for two difficult yoga classes where I knew I would be worse off than everyone else. I wanted something more challenging, so I decided to go for some advanced classes. I was one of the worst in the class, but actually, it felt REALLY good to be in that position. I love being bad at things that are low stake and that I know I can get better at. It gives me something to work towards. It was a good kind of uncomfortable.
At my internship, I tried to ideate less and execute more. My natural inclination is to come up with 10s of ideas and then try to do all of them at once. But that doesn’t always get good results, so last week, I just worked with 2 or 3 ideas. Doing that was super effective! By the end of the week, I started seeing more results than I’d seen over the past few months!

One of our tweets this week! 

Work is even more fun when you have amazing colleagues and you get to go for a sushi lunch with them! 

For my startup project, I chatted with a few users of my app. They’re all SO amazing. I love how supportive they are and at the same time, they give some great suggestions on tweaks we can make to the app features. They’re also really inspirational in all the stuff they’re doing outside of the course. Some run their own businesses, others are trying to figure out what direction to take, while some are just constant learners who have an incredible drive to learn. I learn so much from talking to them, and I LOVE seeing them talk to each other. The conversations some of them have are incredible. They support each other in what each of them are doing, and the extent to which they’re willing to help each other is unbelievable. I’m beginning to treat this more and more like a project than a startup these days-at this point, I care way more about building a great product for my users than I do about things like competitive advantage, fundraising, incorporation, etc, even though I know those things are important.
I attended a Zell workshop and class this week. Zell is the entrepreneurship program (the ‘study’ part of my program) that I’m on. It was really nice to sit in a classroom and just absorb information. My Zell class was on networking and pitching, and the workshop was by a veteran entrepreneur who talked about his experiences as an entrepreneur. While I prefer to learn while working, I like having occasional classes like this where I can just listen and learn. It complements my on the job learning.

Zell entrepreneurship workshop by Shlomo Dovrat. He said some pretty insightful things. My favourite ones were-
1) Make a product that is addictive-something that users want to use 30 times a day. (He also mentioned that cell phones have been found to be more addictive than narcotics based on research, which I thought was pretty interesting). 
2) “I never invest in anyone who comes with a market research report. The fact that they have a market report probably means that they’re too late to enter the market”
3) 3 Ps of entrepreneurship-passion, people, professionalism
Zell class! 

We had some great couch surfers over this week again! It was really fun to hang out with them and learn more about their experiences. 
Jonathan from Switzerland got us Swiss wine! I had great conversations about art and economics with him! 
Arnold from Poland! He got us flavoured Vodka from Poland. Arnold is a serial couch surfer and hitchhiker. He inspired me to hitchhike the next time I take a trip! 
I also wrote and published this blog post about some amazing work habits that I noticed in my employers who I worked with in various startups. Its called 7 inspiring habits of my best startup employers! If you want to work for some amazing startup founders in India, Singapore or Israel, consider pinging these guys! I promise you won’t be disappointed. 
I had quite a chilled out weekend. I worked for a few hours on both days, but I kept it under control, partly because I was tired from the week and partly because I was able to be more efficient and get things done quickly. 

Chilling on Friday night 
Randomest mix of people and cultures, which made it even better! 

Something I tried to do this week is talk less about my work to people. I love my work, so I end up talking a lot about it with my friends, but I don’t want my personality to be just about work or startups. So I tried talking about other things. 
It felt strange to have this balance of creativity, execution, in class learning and non work conversations. I’m used to being on extreme ends where I have work intense periods, learning intense periods, travel intense periods, etc. This balance feels strange to me. But I think its better in the long run? I did feel less stressed last week, so I think I should make more of an effort to keep that balance. 

Weekly update 1: Couchsurfing, meetups, trying to be more organized

It feels like a month has passed by since last Monday. Its been exciting, tiring, amazing.

Earlier this week, Sharon and Prof Teo, directors of the program I’m on, came to Tel Aviv to check on us. We had a few meetings in which everyone presented on all that they’ve been learning on their internships. I learnt a lot from listening to the others talk about their internship experiences. One of my friends talked about his role as a community manager in the startup he’s working at, which really got me thinking about ways I can enhance the community element among eRated’s (the company I’m interning at in Israel) users. I still haven’t found a perfect answer yet so if anyone has suggestions ping me (payal@erated.co). Another thing that came up was how important it is to do something that makes you uncomfortable everyday. While this is something I try to live by, I think I needed a reminder. So I signed up for a few meetups on meetup.com. While I like meeting new people a lot, it does make me a bit uncomfortable still.

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I went to two meetups this week. One was something on content marketing. In the first three months of my internship, a large part of my role was producing content (like blog posts) that engaged our users and helped us get new ones. So I thought it might be interesting to learn ways to do it better. My two takeaways from that meetup were documenting content strategy (I hate documenting-I rarely do it) and thinking through the purpose of the post more clearly before writing and publishing it. Is it to create awareness? or to get customers to buy your product? All of that really affects the tone of your content and I realised I should be more conscious about it. The other meetup I went to was something called She Codes. It’s a weekly event organized at the Google Campus in Tel Aviv, where women go and learn to code or work on your own projects. I’d been wanting to play around with the user data my startup project’s app has been getting, so I went there to work on that. It was SO nice to be surrounded by women who were learning to code. I usually don’t like to go for gender specific events, but this one was really great. When I go to hackathons, I’m one of the few girls there and I feel judged for not being a genius coder. Here, I felt ok knowing however much I did and the mentality of people was more towards the growth mindset.

She Codes at Google Campus Tel Aviv

I hosted one couchsurfer this week. She’s a student from China starting her masters at Tel Aviv University soon. She was super cool and so independent. We didn’t get to hang out much, but I loved whatever little time I got with her. I spent the weekend couchsurfing with my flat mate and friend Aileen in a nearby city called Rehovot. Carmel, who we met through couchsurfing invited us over to her parent’s house in Rehovot for the weekend and we got to spend time with her siblings, parents, grandparents and aunts! It was really amazing to meet so many warm people at once and spend Shabbat (Jewish weekends) with them.

Our host Carmel with Aileen and me at the end of an amazing weekend

I tried to be more organized and in the moment this week. I’ve been told I’m quite messy and unstructured by a lot of people. Also, I tend to get distracted easily. My Singaporean friends here are the opposite, so I figured that it’s a good opportunity to learn from them. So I tried documenting more stuff, like meeting agendas, conversations with users for my own startup project (this one:smoocer.com), to do lists, strategies I was using to reach out to my startup project’s users. My brain still feels quite messy as it did before. I often come up with new ideas and then get distracted by them. So I have to force myself to not get distracted and just keep doing what I’m doing. Doing one thing at a time has been really great though. It’s much easier and less tiring than getting excited by 5 different things and trying to do them simultaneously. It’s also nice when I manage to force myself to really listen to my friends when they are talking. Sometimes, when they talk too long or about things I’m not interested in, I zone out and then the conversation pretty much ends. But that’s a terrible habit to have, so I forced myself to listen to everything people said to me this week, even if it was boring. It was quite nice actually. I had better conversations with people.

Weekly updates from Israel

When I first got to Israel, I hoped to keep family and friends updated about all that was going on through regular blog posts, just like I had in Japan. But after writing about my first month, I never got to writing again! It’s too bad, because there’s been so much going on and I feel myself changing everyday. So starting this week, I’m going to write weekly highlights, which are going to touch on all the interesting things I do every week. Unlike my previous posts, this is not going to involve a day by day account of what I ate, places I saw et al. It’s just going to be some very quick updates and photos. If you want to get notified about these posts, just subscribe to my blog and you’ll get an email everytime there’s a new post here!

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