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Corrie Schroeder

Sr Project Manager

Student Stories: What does a virtual internship look like? 

Student Stories: What does a virtual internship look like? 

Internships are a valuable way for students to gain first-hand knowledge of a chosen profession, but they also offer a competitive advantage for students in resume building and job interviews. Typically, the hands-on experience of working with a team and learning both technical and soft skills offers students a “leg up” as they head back to their studies or prepare to enter the working world. But what does a virtual internship look like? Can students still get the same experience during a global pandemic where physical contact is discouraged? 

The Core Data and Analytics department at Northwestern Mutual hosted several interns, from both high school and college, in a fully virtual internship program over the summer. The Northwestern Mutual Data Science Institute launched an Internship Experience Support Program designed to offer these students additional resources for networking, career mentorship, and best practices for an all-virtual work environment. Check out what our interns had to say about their experience! 

Interns: 

Alexis Craft, UW-Whitewater, Intern – Data Engineering – Platform Operations Team 
Lauren BradleyVirginia Tech, Intern  Accelerated Underwriting and Data Literacy Teams 
Rucheng Pan, Brookfield East High School, Intern – Enterprise Data – Core Data Integration Team 
Angela Gorton, Ronald Reagan High School, Intern – CX/FX Data – Core Data Integration Team 

 

Q: First, why did you want to pursue an internship? 

AC: I wanted to pursue an internship to gain real-world experience that would enhance my working knowledge from my education and that will help me in a future career. I think a formal education can only teach you so much and real work experience is just as valuable. 

RP: I wanted to explore what a corporate technology career looked like and learn how to apply my skills outside of the classroom.  

 

Q: What types of projects did you get to work on during your internship and what skills did you develop? 

LB: I developed several prediction models in R and Python to determine variables of importance when considering an applicant’s life insurance class. I learned the full process data scientists go through when developing a model including quality analysis, variable selection, data engineering, and modeling. There were several different functions, methods, regressions, and models I was able to research and try out for myself. 

AG: Throughout my internship, I worked on projects that involved Java, Kafka, MySQL, and other data science related programming languages. I learned about the work cycle and flow of agile teams. I attended daily standups, grooming sessionsand retrospectives and was able to experience the life span of different projects.  

 

Q: What is one thing you’re most proud of accomplishing during your internship and why? 

RP: I’m pretty proud of being able to add a Kafka column because I had no idea what Kafka was three weeks ago! 

LB: I am most proud of building my first model. In school, we haven’t built any models yet, so I’m glad I was able to learn how to do it since that is one of the main goals of data science.  

 

Q: How did you overcome the virtual setting of this internship program? 

AG: At the start of the internship, I struggled with meeting everyone from the department. At first, meeting around 40 new people virtually seemed overwhelming. However, after going through a couple introductions, I got into the swing of things and enjoyed getting to know everyone. 

LB: I struggled with focusing in a remote setting. As an intern, I had to research about underwriting, life insurance and modeling before I could practice coding. What I did to focus was put my phone in a different room while I still had my Apple Watch on. That way, I still got important messages, but it reduced the temptation to go on my phone longer than just checking a message. I did my work more efficiently this way and retained information better.  

 

Q: What advice would you give other students looking to pursue an internship? 

AC: To put it simply, just go for it! Start looking early (even as a 1st or 2nd year student and early in the Fall/Spring until you get one). Apply even if you don’t meet all the requirements, be willing and eager to learn, and help with anything and everything throughout the entire internship. 

AG: Don’t be afraid to network! Networking is one of the best things that you can do. It allows you to meet new and interesting people who can give you insight on possible career paths while also opening future opportunities. Many people are more than willing to have a virtual lunch or coffee with you and it’s only an email away.  

 

The NMDSI Internship program is currently closed for the Fall semester but applications for the Spring semester will be announced soon. Please visit http://www.nmdsi.org/ and sign up for our distribution list to stay connected! 

 

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