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Reflecting On My First Year At Sri Lanka's Hottest Startup - PickMe

Man, that sure was fast. Just over a year ago, I began my stint at PickMe, Sri Lanka's #1 ride hailin
Living My Legend
Reflecting On My First Year At Sri Lanka's Hottest Startup - PickMe
By Nico Atienza • Issue #13 • View online
Man, that sure was fast. Just over a year ago, I began my stint at PickMe, Sri Lanka’s #1 ride hailing app. It has been an up and down year to say the least..

A year ago, things fell into place when I got my first job after being on sabbatical for a year and nine months. I had just moved to Sri Lanka in search of opportunities and PickMe was the first and only company I interviewed with.
I like to think that this was a great match because I love ride hailing apps. I used to drive for Uber part time when I lived in Texas and I will probably end up using PickMe day in and day out living in Colombo since I had no plans of owning a vehicle.
I also knew that my sabbatical had to end at some point so I was quite excited that my first at-bat after being out of the game for a while was with a really exciting company.
My "First Day At My New Job" picture 😂
My "First Day At My New Job" picture 😂
I have something to confess. My first week on the job was the biggest charade of my life. It had been a while since I’ve been in an office and coupled with the fact that I was brought in to do a role I’ve never done before made for very intense Googling sessions on what exactly someone in my position was supposed to it. It was a masterful performance and I lived the ‘fake it till you make it’ mantra to the absolute fullest. Thankfully, I have a better handle of my day to day responsibilities now (I hope).
When I came in, PickMe had just begun year 3 after two explosive years of success and growth. The only other competition was Uber so the sky was the limit for the company.
While Uber’s mindshare catered to the urban elite, PickMe did a wonderful job of capturing the minds and hearts of everyone else, more specifically, the people who ride and commute in Tuk Tuks everyday, three wheeled vehicles that make up over 1 million taxis in Sri Lanka.
We quickly outgrew this office at Asoka Gardens
We quickly outgrew this office at Asoka Gardens
My new colleagues at PickMe Engineering were very cordial and welcoming during my first few weeks. All of them were really focused on their work and keeping up with the company’s break neck speed of operations and development.
As far as I know, I was the company’s first foreigner who didn’t speak any of the local languages fluently. This proved to be quite a hurdle because the lack of communication creates icebergs and stalemates even amongst well intentioned individuals. Heck, it still has an impact to this very day, but it is getting better.
Our shiny new space on High Level Road
Our shiny new space on High Level Road
Things moved very, very quickly at PickMe. New faces showed up almost every week and by around month 3, I could barely keep up with so many new names. Around this time, we also packed up and moved to the company’s third and biggest office yet on High Level Road which was a relief because we were bursting at the seams. I even remember the days at the old office when the air conditioning stop working and all of us groaned in the hot box. Those were the days..
While it is very exciting to be a part of a company that is growing so quickly, the growing pains that came with it was rather unbearable at times. My development team grew quickly with fresh faces who were beginning their careers at PickMe. When we got down to brass tax, it was becoming very apparent to me that the management style I had back in the US didn’t really work in some situations and people here. To be frank, I’m still working on building a better rapport with some of my colleagues because of this culture clash.
As organizations grow larger, the need for policies and procedures become more important. Nobody wants policies but it is a vital directive for large groups of people to function well together. Alas, the ‘break fast and loose’ culture from the company’s bootstrapping days still pervades through the department, being a constant threat to organization and structure.
Meetings hardly ever start on time at PickMe 🤨
Meetings hardly ever start on time at PickMe 🤨
Another first for my career was the fact I was part of an organization that was very public facing and mission critical to Colombo and the surrounding areas. I haven’t met a person in Colombo yet who hasn’t heard of us. Seriously!
Our app provided convenient transportation solutions for people and we were also in the business of changing lives as our driver partners made great money and fed their families. Our work mattered and made a difference with so many lives dependent on what we do. That responsibility is both endearing and horribly frightening at the same time.
To cut this story short, it has been a very challenging (both good and bad) year for me at PickMe. High expectations, culture clashes, real ah-ha moments, horrible decisions that have backfired of all shapes and sizes have really kept me on my feet.
Who knows what the future has in store for us as we work hard to redefine logistics and on demand services for Sri Lanka.
To my cake loving colleagues, thanks for keeping things interesting. Here’s to another solid year and many more after that!
We really, really, really like cake
We really, really, really like cake
If you live or are visiting Sri Lanka, give us a try would ya? I would really appreciate it! PickMe is available for iOS and Android.

Again next week?
Nico
Before You Go..

  • 🖥 MIND BLOWN - I’ve been in tech for almost 20 years but this TED Talk by David Pogue from 2013 on time saving tech tips had stuff that I never knew about. I bet you will too!

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Nico Atienza

A third culture kid discussing expat life in Sri Lanka, technology, travel, and food.

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