As I exited my office through the sliding doors for the last time, one word perpetuated my thoughts: “wow“. At the moment, the final reflection of my summer was so positive I was nearly speechless. In this post, I will attempt to deconstruct my experience by honing in on what made the internship so positive, why flexibility is imperative in career discovery, and how I was able to make an impact on my team.
I could tell things were going to be different just minutes into my first day of work. My executive team leader was going over housekeeping for the rest of my summer. He began on an unorthodox note, asking me “what time do you want to come into work”. I stuttered. “Uh, what time should I come in?”. He negated my response, reiterated that he was asking the question, and framed that the rest of the team usually comes in around 9:30. This moment serves to illustrate the work and relationship structures that became a shaping force in my professional development for the next few months.
After working out my arrival times, my exec. team leader had some more important thoughts. “Over the next two weeks or so, you’ll be shadowing our team. Figure out what we do, why, and how that came to be. Ask questions. Be observant. We’ll determine your project later.”
3 months later, it’s early September, and I just completed the summer portion of my internship. Over this time, I have:
- Created my final project, “Fraudson”, a machine-learning system that analyzes boolean rules from our fraud-prevention system. It conducts statistical analysis to plot logical probabilities, while using the machine-learning model to experiment and make improvements to the rules
- Pitched a long-term holistic fraud-prevention software plan that re-structures and combines boolean-rule prevention, a machine-learning system, and a public records database access system.
- Asked to drop out of school and work on this project full-time
- Won the Quicken Loans Project Internship Competition
At the end of the day, I contributed something to my team and company. This is an extraordinarily rewarding concept, and there were a few factors throughout my internship that led to this result.
The most important trait for workplace success is curiosity.
Primarily, I was given independence, trust, and autonomy. Also on the first day of work, my exec. leader had more words of vast importance: “All-in-all, if this internship benefits you, it will benefit us. Find out what you like and pursue it.” I took that to heart. While I was primarily working on a fraud prevention team, I wasn’t inherently passionate about stopping people from trying to buy a house, oftentimes when they truly need a place to live (a large component of mortgage fraud is honest guideline non-compliance). What did interest me was the database system our team used to conduct large-scale mortgage security. My team never micromanaged me, never asked me to refill coffee, and never asked me to do menial tasks.
I was able to succeed within this independence because of my curiosity — another imperative trait for professional success. If you’re not curious about something, you’re not going to want to learn about it. Then you’ll fail to cultivate a passion, and if you have to complete something, say a project or a presentation on such topic, it will be a poor experience. I was able to find a curiosity within my team’s operations and create a project for myself that I was passionate about.
Creating a machine-learning system that transforms complex data inputs into rule based results was a lofty mission. I had no previous artificial intelligence or machine-learning experience. What allowed me to complete my project was my effort to perfect my learning process. I approached the subject as a child: learning, failing, trying, failing, learning, etc. There were days where I felt like abandoning my project, where I was so stuck there seemed no way to pull out of it. At one point I had to spend 3 days debugging a single model error. But I kept my head down and pushed through. I nearly broke into tears the moment I got my model to yield statistically significant results, the sheer elation made the process more than worth it. By breaking down my knowledge into pieces, becoming aware of what I didn’t know, then striving to fill in those gaps, I was able to create a sophisticated statistical learning model from scratch in the span of a few months.
With the internship finished, I feel grateful. Grateful for the wonderful opportunity I was given at Quicken Loans. Grateful for the wonderful team I was placed on. Grateful to be educated at the University of Michigan, and grateful to my family, friends, and support network.
Until next Summer!