My 2018 DataLA Summer Academy Experience!

This past summer I had the privilege of working for the Los Angeles Office of Finance through the 2018 DataLA Summer Academy. As a GeoDesign major at the University of Southern California with a minor in Applied Analytics, my passion lies in analyzing Big Data and studying the ways of modern Business Intelligence. Career-wise I want to use my skills in Geospatial technology to help businesses with their location analytics, strategy and operations in the data science realm. When I received the offer to be placed in the Office of Finance I was thrilled. I knew it would be the perfect platform for me to advance my skills in GIS and data science tech as well as help the LA Office of Finance (OOF) with their geospatial needs.

My first couple of weeks in the office were incredibly important. I was introduced to some of the city’s most experienced financial officers, learning how to manage a 40 hour a week job and creating an extensive outline of my next 8 weeks. My boss and supervisor, Ray Uyremura, couldn’t have made me feel more at home. During my first week I was already sitting in and taking notes on product demonstrations and office meetings. Zack Bouz, a senior analyst in the Systems Department, mentored me throughout my time in the office. I remember being so grateful that he took the time to sit down with me during my first week and run through helpful Excel tutorials.

After settling in, it was time to get started on my project. I was tasked with a project via the Discovery Unit whose primary purpose is to discover unregistered businesses in Los Angeles. They had asked me to create a temporal heat map to track and analyze businesses they had discovered, mailed to and who subsequently registered as tax compliant businesses with the city. My first step was to obtain this dataset. Zack downloaded this dataset in excel format from the Los Angeles Tax Division which contained multiple attributes including latitude and longitude, street address, NAICs code, zip code and more. After the data was cleaned and geocoded, I had a 100,000 row excel sheet to work with. I imported this dataset into ArcGIS Pro and began to analyze the data. Using the software’s symbology features, I created a heatmap with the dataset showing the densely populated regions in orange and the less dense areas in blue. I overlayed the Council Districts on top of the heatmap so the Discovery Unit could easily see which district contained the highest percentages of compliant businesses. My next order of business was to add a time feature. ArcGIS Pro has a neat feature that allows you to add a time slider to time-sensitive datasets. I used this time slider to make my map interactive. The time range was 2008–2018. As you can imagine, this was especially interesting in the years right after the economic downturn of 2009. After my map was completed I presented my map to different members of the office who all gave their input. It was an incredibly fulfilling experience to get to use the software I’ve been studying at USC on a real-time project.

Some important things I gained from this experience were learning how to produce deliverable work in a timely manner while working with messy data, being pro-active about helping my supervisor and mentor with projects they were also working on independently of my own and learning how to troubleshoot problems with new software. This internship gave me so much insight into how the city’s financial sphere works while allowing me to improve my technical skills in GIS. I truly feel as though it was the perfect fit for me. I’d like to send a huge shoutout to Izzy, Ray and Zack for mentoring me for the past 8 weeks. My summer wouldn’t have been the same without you all!