The NISS Graduate Student Network and the NISS Academic Affiliates co-hosted a special 2-hour event that focused on internship opportunities for graduate students. Panelists were brought together from a variety of companies that have a history of implementing statistics and/or data science internship programs. Speakers were able to not only describe the internship opportunities their company currently offers but were also to share more generally with the 150+ attendees about the preparation, requirements and qualifications for these types of opportunities.
The panelists involved in this session included Jonathan Legare (Fidelity), Rob Baker and Qing Ji (Procter & Gamble), John Palcza (Merck), Sneha Chatterjee and Jan Vlachy (Google) and BriAnna Walker, (RTI InternationalI).
All of the speakers of the event began by providing a quick overview of their company and the roles that statisticians and data scientists play within the company’s overall mission. It was fascinating to see the wide array of available internship opportunities that have been woven into the activities of the companies represented at the webinar. These opportunities are based on wide array of end products or services which included technology support platforms, consumer and pharmaceutical products, internet mapping or video delivery or health and education research.
“Fidelity invests a lot into its internship program. Every year Fidelity hires roughly 1,000 summer interns. The primary goal for us at Fidelity, with all of these interns, is to convert them into full-time employees.”
Jonathan Legare (Fidelity)
In addition, each of the speakers spent time talking about the nature of the working environment at their companies. Speakers used words such as transparency, diverse, team-oriented, innovative and inclusive to describe their working atmosphere. In fact, several of the speakers began as interns in their company!
“As a hiring manager, I look for what internships they have done. If they haven’t done any that is a concern for me. If I see a number of internship experiences on a CV I would be super excited about the candidate. ”
Rob Baker (Procter & Gamble)
Next, each of the speakers spent time providing an in-depth review of the types of internships that are available at each of these companies. This included a sampling of the types of problems that interns would encounter and the statistical approaches that are implemented. The application areas were so diverse. The speakers made it easy see where the need for data analysis would be applied whether this was implementing clinical trials to assess claims, product development through design and analysis of experiments, optimal production processes, machine learning or biomarker development. In addition, some mentioned salary and other benefits associated with these positions.
“Many of you may be thinking about a career in the pharmaceutical industry and what better way to get an idea as at what a day in the life of an industry statistician is like than to have three month's worth of experience and to really understand what industry statisticians do. ”
John Palcza (Merck)
It was also interesting that each of the speakers spent time discussing soft and non-technical skills that are valuable and the opportunities interns will have in gaining experience in these areas by participating in research teams, presenting findings or helping to develop foundational research. Presentations included advice regarding the interview process itself and how to apply.
“If you are asked a technical question about how to solve a particular problem, instead of jumping into a specific methodology, talk through an example. … Don’t just drop a bunch of names of R or Python packages. Expand on why that particular package or method is applicable to the problem you are trying to solve. If you speak through the pros and cons it gives the interviewer a good idea as to whether that person really knows about this method and can execute and apply it to a real-world problem.”
Sneha Chatterjee (Google)
Moderator Esra Kurum (UC Riverside) was very busy during Q&A forwarding many questions for the speakers to address, such as, “Are there any constraints for international students applying for these careers?”, “What kind of training an incoming intern can expect to receive in your program?” and “What type of programming languages are typically used in your company? R, Python, etc?” Loads of good questions and perhaps the most active Question and Answer session yet!
“I think that students should approach interviews like a conversation. If your university hosts any mock interview workshops, participate in those. This is a great way to get first hand feedback about how you are interviewing. Do some research to know a good amount about the company you are interviewing for. Talk about your achievements, both research oriented and extra-curricular to show how you solve problems.”
BriAnna Walker (RTI International)
Keep an eye open for the next virtual career fair! NISS career fairs highlight opportunities for statisticians working in all types of different sectors in academia, industry and throughout government. These online sessions are free! Plus, you get to hear from experienced professionals who can give you an inside look into an area you may be interested in! Be sure to register early!
Websites referred to by the Speakers
Jonathan Legare, (Fidelity)
Rob Baker and Qing Ji, (Procter & Gamble)
John Palcza, (Merck)
Sneha Chatterjee and Jan Vlachy (Google)
BriAnna Walker, (RTI International)