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VISION: intern update – alex’s tresata experience


blog-details-userBrittany Box

blog-details-eye-slashSep 2, 2014


This summer I had the opportunity to intern at one of Charlotte’s newest start-up companies, tresata. All I really knew about tresata prior to coming here was that they had cutting-edge software and worked primarily with Big Data. My first thoughts were that this would be a fairly straightforward experience: I’d work with some software, learn some more coding, and leave with a better sense of what I wanted to do after college.

Little did I know, my time here at tresata would prove to be far more enriching experience that I could have imagined.

Tresata was very welcoming of the other intern (Caitlin) and I, who just so happened to be the daughter of the president of Davidson College, when we first arrived. They were very patient with the both of us and helped us step-by-step through all the initial set-up and transition on our first day (they were especially patient with me, who impressively managed to forget his password right after creating it to log into the computer). After the first couple days of adjusting to the environment and getting everything set up, Caitlin and I got the chance to be the first ones to go through the new tresata training program. It was basically a crash course on the tools and software skills necessary to comfortably navigate through Linux and the other programs we would be using for the duration of the summer. I learned very quickly that my role at the company would heavily revolve around being able to swiftly traverse the bowels of the computer and jump from task to task as efficiently as possible.

Thankfully, the training program was very well done and allowed me to learn almost effortlessly everything I would need to do just that. Upon the completion of the two week training course, I was debriefed on what I would be doing for the remainder of the internship. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I would be given the opportunity to work with real customer data and do something truly meaningful for tresata. It isn’t often that an intern is given the chance to work with pertinent information vital to the helping the company, so this was an incredible opportunity.

My goal for the summer was to clean, format, interpret, and analyze a compilation of massive data sets from one of their primary clients. Unsurprisingly, it took me quite a while to really grasp what the heck I was actually looking at in the files… which just so happens to be the most important part of working with Big Data. Needless to say, after that things seemed to flow rather smoothly. I was able to perform complex arithmetic and numeric operations to find relationships within the data using a neat visualization software called Tableau. The best part about Tableau is that it’s so intuitive and easy to learn, especially for those who have only ever really worked in excel for data analysis. With Matt’s help, Matt being my mentor for the summer, it took me no more than a few hours to start deriving meaningful results from the data.

I continued working in Tableau for more or less the first half of the summer, until it came time to generate a new sample data set from the big transactional file we received from the clients. This is when I got the chance to really delve into the technical side of tresata and work with a fancy coding language called Scalding. Scalding is basically the hybrid offspring of Scala and Cascading that allows for easier and more efficient processing of large data sets in Hadoop (the primary engine driving Big Data analysis). I’ve had experience coding in other languages before, so it wasn’t too difficult to learn this new one. Most of what I was required to do revolved around prepping and cleaning up the contents of a particular set I would later use for analysis, so thankfully it wasn’t anything too crazy.

Ironically enough, as unappealing as coding sounds to most people, it’s actually a pretty enjoyable venture. The raw satisfaction you get when your code runs successfully is just pure bliss (especially when it takes you hours to figure out you merely forgot an apostrophe). Nonetheless, I think it’s safe to say I’ve gotten pretty comfortable working in the terminal and writing up these scripts to use on the data, a skill I expect will be very valuable in the future.

One of the highlights of this internship occurred during the latter half when I was given the opportunity to accompany my mentor Matt and tresata CDO Richard and present some of my research to the clients at their corporate office.

It was so exhilarating getting to interact with them face to face and display some of the work I had done in an official setting.

How many other interns get to do that, huh!? I’d argue not many.

Another highlight of mine would probably be how much my ping pong skills improved over the course of the summer. With almost daily matches against various members of the team, I’ve become quite a force to be reckoned with on the table (in large part thanks to Matt and Arun). My biggest rival in the office was definitely Marc. We had very similar playing styles and almost all of our games came down to just a few points. However, although it took me almost the entire summer, I finally defeated him and it was well worth the wait.

It was truly a pleasure to have been a part of such a diverse and driven team of individuals.

I really couldn’t have asked for a better place to work or a more welcoming group for my first internship. Working at tresata has given me invaluable experience and guidance that will undoubtedly be pivotal in all my future endeavors. This company has an incredible vision for the future, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that they will make it happen.