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Intern Perspectives: How Volunteering Shapes Careers

In addition to providing certification programs, webinars, and deep dive courses, RMDS Lab is also committed to providing relevant work experience through internships and volunteer opportunities. We welcomed input from several of our volunteers and interns to learn more about their involvement at RMDS Lab and their thoughts about how their experiences will help with future career development.

Like many individuals, Yen-Chen Chou’s (YC) career plans were put on hold due to the outbreak of Covid-19. While experiencing a delayed start date for a full-time job, YC joined RMDS Lab as a volunteer to build experience in preparation for joining the workforce. Throughout this volunteer work, Chou “was helping the product recommendation system development and COVID-19 risk score map development. During the time, my team and I expanded and optimized the COVID-19 risk score ETL pipeline with point of interest (POI) data, footprint data, and LA County health data. I also worked on designing and building a maintainable system for the project recommendation system, which includes features, such as data preprocessing pipeline for collaborative filtering, model evaluation platform, and trained the models.” YC’s hard work is evidenced through his positive reviews from coworkers and his award. Alicia Wei, a Data Science Manager at RMDS Lab, stated that “YC is accountable with good communication skills and has a keen eye for both detail and design. He also demonstrates commitment, curiosity, independence, and attention to details. For the above Yen-Chen has been awarded the Project Impact Spot Award and I want say that he is a great asset to the team and to RMDS in general.”

Similarly, looking back at her work on the COVID-19 risk score map, Shravani Kasralikar was better able to understand “how data is manipulated, analyzed, and directed within a pipeline towards creating a viable product (in this case, an interactive risk level map) which benefits the public.” Not only did this experience help Shravani to use this data, it also helped to develop project management skills. “From the campus ambassadorship, I concurrently started working with the data science team as a junior data scientist and learned so much about how a startup operates, how automated data pipelines and workflows operate, and how to manage and work with an equally talented team of data scientists and analysts!”

Although Wanying Shao, a RMDS Lab volunteer, was able to supplement knowledge gained in college courses with “the online lectures at RMDS, which is a great help for me to improve my data science knowledge”, Victor Qiu, a junior at USC, noted that his experience as a data analyst helped him to see that “there are many unexpected situations (…) and they never show up in the projects at school. Solving these problems with my teammates helped me to know what I am confident with and what I should improve more. These real-world applications of data science in RMDS prepare me with more experiences, but also lead me to some new areas for future exploration.”

Not only did these tasks allow our volunteers to have hands-on experience, but also to build E2E projects from inception to delivery. Shanshan Li, who joined RMDS Lab after earning a master’s degree in Data Science from USC, noted that “it was my first time to join a complete data science project from preprocessing raw data to creating interactive data visualizations. The most challeng(ing) part was to understand the original solution and tune the parameters to fit our updated datasets. So our teams did lots of (research) on machine learning model and tried various methods to run the model. From working at RMDS Lab, I got a better understanding of data science project lifecycle. I believe this industrial experience will boost my portfolio and help me land a data science job.”

These experiences have brought a lot of insights and takeaways from our volunteers and interns. Victor Qiu noted that it’s “an endless learning process for me when working at RMDS, and I really enjoy it. For people interested in data science, it is the same journey. Always to be curious about data since working with data means learning about data. It is never enough for learning, especially in data science,” a notion echoed by YC, whose main takeaway was the understanding that those undertaking work in data science should “think like a businessman, act as an engineer.”

RMDS Lab encourages those looking to further their work experience to consider becoming project impactors. Within this role, individuals will have the opportunity to work closely with an expert team and serve as data scientists, data analysts, research analysts, according to their particular skill sets.

If you are interested in gaining project-based experience with our data science or engineering teams, feel free to visit us at https://grmds.org/careers/pi-program. If you are interested in becoming a campus ambassador for RMDS, you may visit https://www.rmdslab.com/campus-ambassadors/.



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