Internship spotlight: Learning Soft Skills

Tell me about your internship! What are your responsibilities? What projects are you working on over the summer?

My responsibilities relate to two different projects. The first one is building a continuous integration and continuous development pipeline that allows us to test and integrate model changes, so correct and successful are deployed to production or presented to stakeholders. This includes integrating different tools and frameworks into that environment to allow us to do more testing of the model changes, and deploy the models to different tools and in different environments so more stakeholders can access it in different ways. I’m in charge of doing that completely, which means reaching out to the engineers and conducting any meetings that might have to relate to that, working with the engineers in charge of the current pipeline system in place, and teaching others how to use the new tools.

For my second project, in silico experiments (in computer) experiments, I am simulating clinical trials for medical equipment without having to do the trials with real people. I work on medical devices for diabetic patients so in this simulated environment, I am looking for how different pump attributes affect the closed-loop algorithm for patients. My responsibilities in this project are to analyze actual pump data from clinical trials. From that data, I can figure out how to accurately represent certain pump attributes in a simulated environment and then perform experiments. This project also involves working with a software team that has set up these simulated environments to make sure that the attributes are introduced correctly and test if the results are significant or not.

What is the most important thing you have learned thus far?

The most important thing I learned is the importance of soft skills. One skill is to take very complex and detailed things and explain them in a digestible format. I’ve learned that it’s super important across the spectrum, even just on my team trying to explain to someone who isn't under my manager. I have to try and explain to them in detail, so they can understand and help me out. It’s just a really important skill to have in general, especially in my position because I’m working with so many people.

How did your school work prepare you for this role?

I would say the biggest thing that prepared me for this role was learning to use MATLAB, as well as learning different tools and how repositories work within different computer science classes. My statistics classes also helped, because I had to analyze data to create functions in my internship. My other computer science courses helped me because although I had to code in languages that I didn't learn from these classes, I was introduced to those languages and files so I knew what I was walking into. It doesn't help solving the entire project, but at least I don’t have to learn something entirely new and ask for so many explanations from full-time workers.

How did you become interested in computer science and your specific areas of interest?

I was interested in computer science because I talked to a few people who were working as software engineers and cyber security engineers and enjoyed the area. Before I started college, I talked to them about software engineering and their jobs, and I also talked to many other types of engineers. I liked engineering and building things, but I wasn't sure what type of engineering I wanted to get into. When I talked to software and cyber security engineers, I learned that I really liked having something at my fingertips that I could build in front of me and see come to life. I thought it was cool to be able to put all these puzzle pieces together without having to necessarily use my own hands. I also did a fun, basic project on the side with one of the engineers to test and ensure I liked coding as a concept.

What are your future career goals? How has this position impacted your goals?

My future career goal is to work in the tech industry as a whole, but I haven't chosen a focus area yet. The main reason why this internship is helping me is that I work in systems engineering, which means we work with a lot of different areas that possibly have people with a background in computer science. Therefore, I can see different jobs and what people are working on so I can figure out what I want to work on in the future. I also really like that I work in a medical device company because they are helping people at the end of the day. I also want to help people and support people in the tech industry so this internship aligns well with my goals.

What advice would you give to someone pursuing a similar internship in the future?

The biggest thing I would recommend would be to reach out to people that you're not working with and talk to them about their jobs and hear their stories. This has helped me a lot because it helps practice soft skills and you often have to reach out to new people in the real job industry and for your future career. I recommend reaching out to people that you’ve never met before and hearing their stories. That will show you resources and things you didn't know about the position. You can learn a lot and be connected with a lot of different people that way. That's how I ended up in this internship because I learned about what systems engineers do through a past internship and I decided that I wanted to get an internship in that area. I let my initial interview know that, and that led me the right way. So, in all, you’ll never know where these meetings and interviews will take you in the future.