Interns get a taste of problem solving for Stellar client

Summer is a great time for holidays, but also a great time to be in the office – especially if you’re lucky enough to have some clever interns joining your team for a couple of months.

Stellar this year welcomed two 20-year-old students in our Auckland office. Jordan Kim and Flynn Oberdries have just completed their second year at uni – Jordan studying Data Science at University of Auckland and Flynn majoring in Information Science at University of Otago.

The two Auckland natives worked with Alan Radford, Lead Consultant – Data Science, on a proof-of-concept integrated customer data offering.

  • Pictured above, L-R: Jordan, Alan and Flynn

With data from one of Stellar’s biggest clients, the team created a set of metrics and visualisations to give the client’s account managers a single view of customer data. The data included such things as each customer’s enquiry history, orders, back orders and deliveries.

“With their current system, they could not see all of the information they needed while visiting a customer. They would have to go away and get a Power BI report,” Jordan explains. “So, we were asked to try and convey all the important data on one iPad screen.”

Handling more than a million rows of data was a new experience for Jordan, and a big change from his mostly theoretical studies. Fortunately, he loves coding, and his skills in Python got lots of use on this project.

Real world feedback

After weeks of coding, data manipulation, configuration and testing, the big moment came: the team presented its proposal to the client.

“That’s one of the things I enjoyed most,” says Flynn. “It’s the sort of thing you don’t do in university – presenting a real proposal to a real customer worth millions of dollars.”

Jordan agrees that the presentation was a highlight of his Stellar experience: “I’m always nervous before a presentation, but feel much better once I get started,” he says. “Then, afterwards, I feel nervous again!”

In this case, those post-presentation nerves may be due to the fact the client asked for a follow-up presentation to let more of their managers see the proposal. So, it was straight back to work for the interns, tweaking and polishing their work for the next round.

As well, they’re building a generic single view of customer data process that Stellar will be able to adapt and use for other clients.

Shane Kavanagh, Flynn Oberdries, Jordan Kim, Alan Radford

Reviewing progress: Stellar GM-Consulting Shane Kavanagh (left) with Flynn, Jordan and Alan

Both interns are passionate about learning, says Alan, and they quickly adapted to the work environment.

“Our client was pleased with the work we presented, and it was a pleasure for us to provide work experience for Jordan and Flynn.”

Flynn says he’s enjoyed the opportunity to solve problems during his internship – sometimes with limited documentation. So how do you do that?

“Research, experimentation and working as a team,” he replies, “whether that’s Jordan doing some more data manipulation to see whether the problem is with the data, or talking with software vendors to explore issues with the very new software.”

Flynn also says he’s found it useful to learn about life in an IT company.

“A lot of that is building relationships with people, sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone to make those relationships.”

So, what’s next for the interns?

Jordan is keen on machine learning and coding. He’s also looking forward to working as soon as he graduates.

“I’ll probably look for a job related to Machine Learning engineering. I think it’s what suits me. I’ve done one paper in it and really enjoyed it.”

Flynn loves data analysis: “I like the idea of looking forward and trying to predict the future.”

After graduation, he hopes to travel in Europe, but is also clear that he wants to proceed to a Masters degree in the near future.

“In today’s world, I think a graduate degree is necessary. The knowledge you gain in a Masters programme is completely different to what you do in an undergraduate degree.”

Wherever they go, we wish Jordan and Flynn heaps of success, and hope they’ll remember their time at Stellar as fondly as we will.

How to become a Stellar intern

Jordan and Flynn took different approaches to land their internships.

Jordan: “I participated in an extra-curricular activity at uni called Microsoft Student Accelerator. We went through two assessments, and then at the end of the year we got to meet with companies and decide where we would like to work.”

Flynn: “I was looking for internships and decided to reach out to data analytics companies. Shane Kavanagh (GM-Consulting at Stellar) got back to me nice and quick and told me about the project and asked if I would be interested. I said ‘absolutely.’ I knew a bit about Stellar. My dad works in IT and said that working at Stellar would be a great opportunity.”


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