I came across Featurespace at Hack Cambridge in January and then again at the University careers, I was really interested in the summer internship, so I attended the informal interview evening held at the Cambridge office.
When we were networking I met Milena, Senior Customer Support Engineer, and she told me all about support and what sort of function they provide for the business. I realised that was the sort of placement I was looking for. I wanted something technical but also be able to gain some exposure to clients, so it seemed ideal and I ended up being interviewed by Milena! I was successful in getting the internship and expressed my interest in customer support.
I expected to be troubleshooting queries and helping out with tickets but right from the beginning, we agreed that I shouldn't be siloed in doing one role throughout my placement. We set out a plan where I was able to help out with lots of projects for process management and putting systems in place to make the team's work more efficient. My biggest project has been implementing a new ticketing system and ensuring it's optimized for handling customer enquiries. I've been involved in the entire process, from looking at vendors and options as well as negotiating the requirements.
Lessons learned and big takeaways?
From a technical point of view, I learned a tremendous amount, working with Linux and with Mongo databases but my biggest takeaway has been that I really liked interacting with customers and being part of a team.
When I started my project on the ticketing system, Narciso Figueroa-Gutierrez, Head of Customer Support said that when it comes to managing processes and optimizing performances you need to find the bottleneck otherwise you won't be improving anything. It really struck me because when you have a million things going on, you try and tackle the easiest thing first but it's actually about stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. In class you're taught how to solve problems but not necessarily how to identify them in the first place - that's the difference. Because in the real world, you won't be handed the problem with all the data and information - it's up to you to decide how to tackle it.
As engineers, we see code in a system, but we can forget that a team is also a system and we need to put just as much time into those teams and companies as we do with the code. It taught me that it's one thing to learn about coding and theory in class but when it comes to leading a team, optimizing performances and managing people - you can't learn that in a lecture. I discovered that I really liked dealing with more of the business management side of things and found the 14 weeks with Featurespace fascinating. I've actually been able to play an active role in the customer support team and it has been amazing - I've really learned a lot and I loved it.
I'm part of the Engineering Society here at Cambridge and work on a lot of side projects. After learning more about machine learning and AI as well as gaining lot of skills and techniques from Featurespace, I can take all of it back to my role at the society to improve our work flow. I know for the future that this is the type of role I'd be looking to enter after graduating - somewhere I can apply my technical skills but also have the chance to help people on a daily basis and build the company as a whole.
Any advice to undergrads thinking about internships?
When I think about my experience at Featurespace, I'd say my biggest piece of advice is that having focus is great, but don't let it stop you from seeing what other fun things may be out there waiting for you. Don't be afraid to take new opportunities and seeing where it leads. I wasn't expecting to join the support team but it's opportunities like these that show you that sometimes the path to your goals is not always linear. Try and say yes! If it seems interesting, see how it goes, because you might learn new skills and discover things you didn't know about yourself.
If you are a bright individual who is passionate about innovative technology used across the world to fight fraud, we'd love to hear from you!