By Oscar O’Brien, Maths and Computer Science student at Durham University
In September this year, I spent three weeks as a data science intern at DPL. To tell the truth, I had no idea what to expect. I was scared that I might be working nine to five in a dark and lonely office cubicle, or staring cluelessly at pages of equations, or even worse, just doing the coffee run. When I walked in on my first day, I was very relieved to find myself doing none of these things!. The team is based in a relaxed open office in the WeWork building near Mansion House, with ping pong tables, sofas, desk spaces and artworks littered around the building. When they showed me the free coffee available on each floor I was sold, and my worries were quickly put to rest.
Chris was a fantastic mentor right from the start, and lined up lots of interesting work for me to get stuck into. One project I completed for Chris was a program that used government survey data to give a reasonable estimate of a person’s income based on their geographic location in the UK. A challenge with creating this program was efficiency, since I had to search through an extremely large lookup table in the conversion. After spending a day or so writing a crafty tree/linear hybrid searching algorithm to make the lookup process faster and wrapping up my work in a Python library, I presented it to Chris. At this point, he delicately explained to me that there was a way to perform my searching algorithm in around three lines of code using an inbuilt dictionary method, which would give around a sixty thousand times improvement in efficiency. At that moment I realised why Chris was the Chief Tech Officer and that I have a lot to learn.
While my internship was technically for data science, I discovered early on that the whole team was extremely welcoming, and that they were happy to sacrifice their time by letting me shadow them. I was able to sit in on some sales pitches with real clients with Jake, which was something I’d never done before (and was way less scary than I thought it would be). I spent time helping Ashleigh on the marketing side of things and wrote an article for her on human vs robotic job replacement, and whenever there was a major team meeting I was invited along and my input was welcome. I was even brought to the Re-Work tech conference and got to meet with and listen to some really fascinating data science and AI talks from the likes of Barclays, Oxford Robotics and H&M.
At the end of it all, I’ve picked up some really useful skills in data science, as well as sales and marketing. Although, I think what I appreciate the most is that I was a meaningful part of the team at DPL. Everybody on the team took the time to get to know me and listened to what I had to say, and I now really know what it’s like to work in a closely-knit, talented and driven tech startup team. I really admire how everybody at DPL constantly looks to adapt and innovate, whether it’s how they implement or improve their own product or how they handle different clients or how they can help each other across different departments in the company. I’m sad to be leaving, but thankful that I’ve left with an experience I can really grow from in my university career!