How I landed an internship at a Y Combinator-backed company as a sophomore in college + insights on what I learned

Rachel Chung
September 13, 2021

“When I first met Rachel in March of this year, our team was swamped and looking for an extra set of hands to help with operations and customer experience. I was immediately impressed by her poise, intellect, and go-getter attitude –– she was even willing to start her internship on the Monday of her Spring Break week (can’t say I would’ve done the same :)). 

She quickly exceeded our expectations. From triaging mail requests to answering customer support emails, it wasn’t long before she was running parts of the business autonomously (and doing a great job at it). I could trust her with anything and each time she would rise to the occasion to not only make sure that it got done, but go the extra mile for our customers and the team.

This is a glimpse of how she hustled her way to get the internship and what she learned in the last 6 months. I can’t wait to see where she takes her skills next in her career –– I know she’s going to move mountains. ”

- Sarah Ahmad, CEO + Co-Founder of Stable

How I got the internship:

I started out my sophomore year of college feeling incredibly lost and unmotivated. I didn’t know what I wanted to do professionally or what options were even open to me. The only thing that I had were expectations: from my parents, my peers, and myself. It seemed that everyone had a summer internship, and for lost ones like me, the frantic hunt for a summer opportunity had amped up by winter quarter. 

As soon as you go to college, everyone’s drilling the importance of networking –– networking helps you make connections, networking will get you your next job, networking will get you further in the world. At that point, networking was entirely new and foreign to me, and it definitely didn’t come naturally. 

But I actually landed my first internship through networking. After seeing a message in my club’s Slack channel that Stable was looking to hire people, I decided to reach out and see what opportunities were available. I knew from the job listings that they were looking for full-time business operations hires, but I mentioned that I was interested in the Customer Service and Operations role. 

I hopped on a call with Collin –– co-founder and CTO of Stable –– in January to discuss the startup space, internship possibilities, and careers in general. He asked me a couple of questions about what I wanted to do and what I was interested in, and I remember my heart sinking. Those were the two questions that I always tried to avoid, but were unavoidable at that point in my college career. I gave a vague answer about being interested in business and consulting –– my discomfort probably painfully obvious.

Collin reassured me that when he was a sophomore, he went through the exact same uncertainty and confusion about his future. And even after he graduated, he started working as an engineer until he and Sarah could think through a startup idea that would actually work. It actually became a super enlightening conversation where I was able to learn more about how startups work –– but by the end of the call, I was sure that my lack of conviction on what I wanted to do had left a bad impression. 

So imagine my surprise when Collin reached out to me again in February that Stable was looking for a part-time operations / customer service role, but thought that an intern position could work just as well. It felt like this opportunity had just unexpectedly fallen into my lap, and I wasn’t sure that I was qualified enough to receive it. But I was introduced to Sarah, had an interview, and was hired for a part-time internship position during spring quarter –– all within a couple of weeks. 

The lessons that I learned through that process weren’t that you need to network yourself to death to land an internship or that you even need an internship. I don’t think you need a formal internship in order to learn more about your interests or build any necessary skills, and I certainly don’t believe you should be living just to build up your resume. Taking summer classes, working a summer job, or just enjoying your summer are all valid choices. And finding a summer internship to help you explore your interests is also a good idea –– but don’t think that one summer is going to be the ultimate deciding factor for your success.

Instead, I learned the importance of being open to new opportunities and chances that come your way. Before that call with Collin, I never really considered working at a startup, I didn’t know what purpose a business address served, and I didn’t have the faintest clue what “business operations” meant. 

As much as Stable was taking a chance on me, a 19-year-old college student with little work experience, I was also taking a chance on Stable and what it would teach me. And for the first time in months, I felt myself find that sense of direction again.

The internship:


The beginning:

My first week at Stable was definitely a learning curve in a multitude of ways: working over Zoom, learning the ins and outs of business mail, and adjusting to the different tools Stable used –– Hubspot, Retool, Airtable. I quickly learned the most steadfast rule about startups: there’s always something to do.

I started off writing a couple of customer service emails, learning how to manually submit mail action requests, and catching up on the ins and outs of all things mail. That same week, I got up to speed on how to create and share our change of address checklists, when and why we need a USPS 1583 form, and how to control different features on the backside of our Dashboard. From there, my responsibilities gradually grew to encompass different areas of customer experience, operations, and design.

My first project: NPS Score!


The first project that I fully took control of was finding Stable’s NPS score. I did some initial research getting up to speed on what an NPS score is, why it’s used, and how it’s calculated. After that, I worked with Sarah on determining the pool of customers we would reach out to, what questions we would include on the survey, and how to format everything –– from the survey to the emails to the data we got. It was definitely a collaborative effort and I received a lot of guidance, but Sarah also gave me freedom in decision-making and making adjustments after each round of emails. 

The first round emails we sent to our earliest customers

What our survey looked like in Typeform

I was in Hubspot, Typeform, and Google Drive for the different steps of the project, learning how to use these tools but also learning how to best reach out and get responses. As much as the project was about data analysis and the final score, it was also about establishing a relationship with our customers and gaining valuable feedback. 

It was a great first project –– one that allowed me to read and hear about why customers love Stable and recommend us to friends. After reaching out to three rounds of customers, we reached an NPS score of 79, which is pretty dang good. An NPS score above a 50 shows that you prioritize customer experience, and most of your customers are enthusiastically recommending your product. In comparison, a lot of bigger companies like Apple or Amazon will have NPS scores of around 50. 

The NPS project gave me a good glimpse into how we were doing as a company, and which ways we could look to improve. But looking back, this project taught me a lesson that I would remember time and time again throughout my internship: to take ownership and responsibility for everything that you do. 

What I learned: 


Working for an early-stage startup with a small team means that everyone relies on each other and each person’s contributions more. I definitely felt that the stakes were higher than any past school or club projects I’ve worked on, but I found that motivating and inspiring. While I couldn’t tell you how everyone on the team spent each hour, I could tell you what they add to the team and what I admire the most about them. Noticing everyone’s value also made me more aware of my own value and how my efforts affected the team and company. 

Most of my work at Stable was me quickly taking in, adapting to, and learning new information. I gained a lot of technical skills like Excel or Retool, and I got to practice interacting with a variety of people from team members to mail partners to customers. I’ve become comfortable with communicating and expressing my ideas and opinions.

However, my greatest takeaway from my entire internship was how it’s made me more confident in my own value and strengths. For these past seven months, I got to work with an incredible team, running a business that is solving a real problem for hundreds of companies, and be in charge of many different steps of the operations process. I’ve taken ownership of a lot of responsibilities, and each challenge that I’ve dealt with has made me more confident in what I’m capable of. 


1. I’m confident in my ability to communicate and empathize with customers. 

As a company, we deal with a lot of time-sensitive and important mail that’s integral to our customers’ business operations. As soon as I realized I was talking to real-life operations managers, founders, and people, it became easier for me to express empathy, be friendly, and work on providing great customer service.

A large part of my customer interaction is being flexible and accommodating different requests. Customers will reach out to me after requesting a forward on a piece of mail, but it turns out that the mail needs to be delivered by that next day –– the mail could be a check that needs to be immediately deposited or some computer equipment that a team member needs to work. 

I’m able to communicate with our mail partners and ensure that the mail gets sent out that day, with expedited forwarding. By that next morning, the mail will be delivered and our customers’ teams can continue their work without a hitch. 


2. I’m confident in my attention to detail and resourcefulness and how I apply those two skills to problem solving. 

I’ve worked on solving problems like tracking down forwards that were delayed by USPS or expediting important document scans. These problems usually require some initial investigating by checking our dashboards, looking up tracking information, or communicating with our mail partners. But these troubleshooting experiences have made me confident that I can puzzle through all sorts of problems, borrowing context from previous cases and offering tailored solutions for a specific situation. 

3. I’m confident in my ability to adapt and work through any task. 

My entire Stable experience has been learning and growing with the company. I would never have expected to work on potential partnerships or design dashboards in Retool, yet I’ve been able to get up to speed and deliver a final result. I didn’t expect to be working so closely on the customer service side that I’d form relationships with our customers and mail partners. And I certainly didn’t expect for my opinion to be heard on larger organizational issues like growth strategies or streamlining our operations process. 


My internship with Stable is definitely the longest job I’ve ever had, and I leave it feeling the most confident that I’ve ever been. I started out my sophomore year being unsure of what I could do or offer, and I now enter my junior year unsure of where my career will go but more than sure of what I offer.

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