Las Vegas…a place for software development engineer interns?!

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Pin-Hoa “Bill”Chen
Data Science Masters Candidate, Columbia University
Software Engineering Intern

When I told my friends I was going to Las Vegas for an internship, everyone laughed at me suspiciously. I understand why they laughed at me – they probably thought I would be spending every day at a hotel pool soaking up the warm sun or gambling away all my money at the casinos. However, Owned Outcomes (O2) kept me very busy and gave me an amazing summer of learning. Brief introduction about me: I am an international student from Taiwan and a data science masters candidate at Columbia University.

As a Software Development Engineer (SDE) intern for O2, I was told I would focus on the Machine Learning (ML) Platform for Bigsense, a cognitive database foundation for enterprise development. However, on the first day, I remembered my project leaders, Rohan and Rohan (yes, two Rohans) told me that I would need to focus first on learning back-end software development first to truly understand and work on ML. This surprised me at first, but everything became more clear as the project went on. The process of learning the smaller parts of ML helped me to understand the bigger picture and I am now implementing ML models and utilities.

During my internship, O2 gave me a lot of trust and freedom. I was empowered to schedule my own meetings with other interns to discuss our project. Normally, we would meet every other week to figure out the project workflow and answer questions. Together, we always found the right people and resources to help us approach our problems. To learn how to tackle challenges, the Rohans never gave me an answer directly, but always shared numerous python libraries to help inspire me to find solutions on my own. Also, two of the BigSense Front-End Engineers, Lucas and Chandan, were always willing to offer us tutorials about Graphene-Django (GraphQL) and database schema design.

One time, I had an issue storing a trained ML model for a future process. Rohan introduced me to Pickle, HDF5, and PyTable. After learning these 3 different data storage solutions, I went to Lucas and Chandan to understand reliable database design. According to their experience, they taught me various practical examples and guilds that I have never learned in school. Finally, I ended up with a well-designed field that contained all the advantages of the above libraries. The solution enabled us to decrease system complexity by about 20%.

Last but not least, Ryan, a QA Test Engineer, taught me a trustworthy way to test my code. This opened up a whole new world for me to explore. Although I have worked as a developer before, I have never had the chance to deploy a valid test. Having this experience to test my code gave me the complete picture of the job of a full-stack engineer.

Even though Vegas is definitely a place to have fun and gamble, I now have an entirely unique memory of Vegas. I not only enjoyed all of the experience that I earned at O2 during the weekday but I also got to have a little “Vegas” fun during the weekend. The O2 internship was a great opportunity for me to deploy the old saying “work hard, play harder!”

Anita Pramoda
Truth catcher - not important that I am right, important that I find the right answer. Focus as a noun? Obsess with my customer's needs as waking thought and resting reflection. Focus as a verb? Enough to intensely iterate, but not to produce motion sickness instead of momentum.
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