The Intern Report: Rene Miller

February 26, 2014 11:36 am PST | Data Rockstars
Renee Miller

By Rene Miller

 

Rene Miller recently completed a month-long internship with Socrata. In this blog post, he details his experience and how he hopes his time at Socrata contributes to his ultimate career goals.

Hello, fellow open data enthusiasts! My name is Rene and I am currently a junior at MIT, majoring in systems engineering. The majority of my work experience so far has been spent in a business environment at companies including Oracle, OpenView Venture Partners, and Bain & Company. My time at Socrata placed me in a high-impact position at a company that is altruistic at its very core. That combination made the internship an exceptionally rare and valuable experience for someone my age.

Why Socrata?

My primary goal in working for Socrata was to see what it is like being at a company dedicated to directly improving the lives of everyday citizens. Many companies make lofty promises of how they are going to “make the world better” or “have an impact” in their recruiting pitches. Socrata is different, because they truly fulfill that promise. Nearly every day saw examples of a dramatic improvement in citizens’ lives or critical enhancement in a government organization’s ability to serve their constituents due to Socrata’s work. Day in and day out, the ‘greater good’ focus of the company was palpable.

In addition to a strong core mission, the direction and style of work is very much driven by the company’s core values. Across every level and department of the organization, individuals treat each other with an exceptional level of respect and consideration. Even as an intern who was part of the company for only a few weeks, my opinions were given equal consideration of those who had been at the company for years. The strength of values at Socrata was augmented by the diversity of individuals who work here. My coworkers included people who have previously done cancer research, statisticians, and PhD holders. I feel lucky to be surrounded by this diverse community.

My Project

One thing that stood out most during my time at Socrata is the company’s appreciation and attention for their customers, an attitude that drove my internship project, which was to determine how to use internal data to monitor and evaluate customer health. Overall, I was thrilled with how much ownership I was allowed over the direction and content of this project. The biggest breakthrough for me came in using system dynamics tools to qualitatively understand the primary drivers of customer success. These were tools that I gained during a class in the previous fall semester. Following that, I was able to identify internal data that could serve as performance indicators of the previously defined qualitative drivers. The project culminated in a presentation of these findings and recommendations on how to best use the data available. Not only was the work itself challenging and engaging, but the results of my work will provide benefits for Socrata’s customers in the future.

Another substantial portion of my work was exploratory data analysis to validate the selection of key performance metrics to speak to the qualitative components of my customer success model. This was a style of work that was entirely new to me. Previous projects I had done in other internships were essentially puzzles: there was a clear outcome I was trying to achieve and the challenge was in determining how to get there. Exploratory data analysis is entirely different. The real challenge was figuring out how to portray the data in a variety of ways, ensuring the validity of the data, and understanding the insight it contained.

Time Well Spent

At the end of the day, I concluded I love this type of work. Rather than strictly an answer to a pre-defined question, exploratory data analysis concludes with consistently surprising insight on the reality of a situation. And the best part of the work was that the analysis always ended with more questions on what is the next level of dynamics of a particular relationship.

All in all, I could not have asked for a better way to spend January. Surrounded and supported by an impressive and diverse group of individuals, I was able to perform an entirely different type of work while contributing to an absolutely incredible company and mission. I am so grateful to Socrata and all of the individuals there who facilitated such a phenomenal experience.

Go Hawks!


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