Interns at UIP work to solve real-world challenges
Urban Infrastructure Partner (UIP) is more than just another tech startup. The fast-growing, Oslo-based company is an operator of bike share systems, meaning that in addition to software development, there are a lot of (very literal) moving parts in the company’s day-to-day operations. From developing UIP’s custom-built Urban Sharing platform, to analyzing data on the usage of city bikes, to creating a world-class customer experience, the dynamic young company needs a team that’s nimble, open-minded, and always one step ahead of developments in technology. To recruit the brightest minds, UIP offers many opportunities for paid internships and part-time jobs that can often lead to positions at this exciting Oslo startup.
Over the past year, UIP has been recruiting students and recent graduates from different schools and educational backgrounds to work closely on Oslo City Bike, as well as the larger scope of UIP’s research and development. Marianne Reine, an Industrial Economics student at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), worked as an intern (and continues to work part time) on analysis and optimization of the the city bike system, including the rebalancing of bikes between stations — an important challenge in the realm of bike sharing.
“The internship gave me experience with a real-life optimization problem, which was very different from how we approach similar problems at the university,” says Reine. “It’s learning by doing, where you’re free to come up with your own ideas and try them out yourself. What was unique about this internship was that the results and conclusions we reached were applied and implemented in the daily operation. The speed at which this happened was high, and made our work feel meaningful.”
Liisa Andersson, the company’s COO, says that this is one aspect of UIP’s internship program that she’s most proud of. “We are a company that’s always working to perfect our ability to deliver solid products. In that sense it is important for us to share our thoughts and strategies with new people. It might come as a shock to some of our interns that we actually have used and still use a lot of their ideas and output, which is often valuable to our daily operations.”
Stig Johan Beggren, who studies Informatics: Language Technology at the University of Oslo and worked on data analysis, visualization and machine learning at UIP, also felt that there is great value in the fact that contributions by UIP interns can be seen in a real and tangible way.
“The problem-space of bike sharing is very interesting because it impacts daily life in the city. I could look out the window and see directly how the data corresponded to daily life in Oslo,” says Beggren.
“In a complex environment like a city, there are just so many aspects to consider, and no end to the different connections you can explore,” adds Edvard Conrad, a Computer Science student at the University of Oslo who worked as an intern on potential applications of machine learning to the bike sharing domain. Like Reine, both Beggren and Conrad were summer interns who continue to work part time at UIP during the school year. Yuting Situ, a former UIP intern who studied Building and Environmental Engineering at NTNU, and now works as an engineer at Stener Sørensen, says that his UIP internship gave him the opportunity to gain real-world experience.
“I had done something similar while I studied at NTNU, where I had a project that evaluated and proposed some potential improvements that can encourage people to use bike more often.” At UIP, he worked on finding ways to a estimate and predict the demand of city bikes. “After this project, I made a tool in Excel that evaluates the morning operation of rebalancing the bikes between stations.”
“The internship provides skills which are beyond those that can be taught in school,” adds Conrad. “Trying to solve imperfect problems of the real world, where questions don’t necessarily have simple answers.”
But the opportunities at UIP aren’t just tech related; one of the cornerstone principles that makes UIP’s bike share system so successful is the company’s innovative approaches to customer service. Julie Søreng was working toward her bachelor’s degree in Management and Service Strategy at Høyskolen Christiania in Oslo when she applied for part-time work at UIP with the Oslo City Bike customer service team. As an intern, her tasks included engaging in daily communication with members, sending out targeted information about the service, working with marketing, and tracking and solving problems encountered by users or the system. Now, she’s employed full-time as a Customer Experience Specialist.
“The city bikes are known and loved by many in Oslo, so getting on the inside of the customer experience sphere of a service with so many engaged customers, getting the opportunity to tweak and explore the customer journey is what I’ve found the most interesting,” says Søreng.
Harald Bryge Ødegården, who studied Art Direction at Westerdals in Oslo, started at UIP during his last year of studies, and says it was his first pick for an internship opportunity. As an intern, he was also part of the customer experience team, as well as planning ideas for campaigns, visualizations, and service designs.
“I think what is great with an internship like this is that it allowed me to work with many different tasks,” says Ødegården. “As an intern, my role wasn’t strictly defined for specific tasks, making it possible for me to work with what I found most interesting.”
Adds Søreng, “Here you get practical and hands-on experience from an organization that’s established, but also still a start-up. It’s something very different from reading theories and writing exams. Here you get the opportunity to test out those theories and assumptions, if you take the initiative to do so.”
Hans Martin Espegren, a Data Analyst & Business Developer at UIP, originally started with the company as when he was master’s student doing research on the optimization of repositioning bikes in bike share systems. Now a core member of the UIP team, he agrees that the ideas and perspectives provided by interns are an important aspect of the young company’s growth and development. “We have a multicultural working environment, and it is inspiring to meet people with new perspectives and the ability to see our organization from the outside. It is therefore important to include and encourage interns to participate in discussions and brainstorming.”
UIP offers several different types of learning-by-doing opportunities. It is possible for students to write their master’s thesis on a relevant topic with a supervisor from UIP. For students, summer internships and part-time jobs are a good option. Additionally, as UIP expands to new cities next year, the company will be establishing a local presence in places other than Oslo and will therefore be in need of local talent to work as project coordinators working to solve practical tasks.
Espegren also believes that having interns is a great way to get to know talented students as potential coworkers. He says that an internship can serve as a kind of test period, where the company has the opportunity to shape the students’ areas of expertise, making them ideal candidates for roles within UIP.
“We are a company in rapid growth, and having students work with us can be an effective way of recruiting,” he says. “We also have the possibility of cooperating with with interns at later occasions, not necessarily as coworkers at UIP, but, for example, as consultants or project partners.”
Adds Andersson, “It’s always valuable to have people coming in with different perspectives to shake up and broaden our world view. It’s also important for us to get students involved in real-world work that has an impact on people’s every day lives.”