The Internship

In the article of this week, Mattia Tosin tells about his experience of looking for an internship and the internship itself. 

Starting from January last year, I kept looking for an internship that I could do during the first semester of the third year of my Bachelor’s. I have to say, it was not very easy to find something appealing as an international student, but the process of finding a good internship can be a challenge for anyone. I remember I applied for a large number of positions around, just to hear back that my application was rejected. If I could give an advice to anyone who is “stuck” in the same situation, I would just say: don’t give up! It can be frustrating and demotivating to keep getting a plain “no” every time, but if you learn from your previous mistakes and do better and better at each interview, you’ll end up finding a great opportunity. That’s how I got my internship at Microsoft.

I was selected with a bunch of other students to join the “Project Power Platform”, a programme in which we assisted important customers in the Netherlands in the adoption of the Power Platform - Microsoft’s low-code/no-code development platform. I feel like this was an incredible opportunity for learning about low-code, IT consultancy, information systems and the challenges and issues that adopting a new system implies. It might not be surprising to hear that many companies and organizations are transforming their way of “doing business” to improve digitalisation and therefore efficiency, but what many tend to forget is that no digitalised or automatised process would be possible without making correct use of data.

Everything starts with data. If data can be collected, it can be processed, and if it can be processed, it can be used; this is where our study comes in. Data science and processes optimisation are of primary importance in almost any sector, but there are often two “downsides”. First: most people, even experts in their field, do not understand what data science really is about and do not know how they should implement new solutions. Second: students mostly know how things work theoretically - but almost never in practice. An internship is an excellent opportunity to learn about how to use theory to solve real-world problems - and my experience was no different. When a customer tells you they want to build a platform for uploading digital documents, you can use that knowledge about database theory that others do not have. But most importantly, you also have to learn from the customer and your (more experienced) colleagues what is actually needed to make the solution work. It is definitely helpful to know how to prove to them that your suggested solution is the most efficient way to “manage data” in that context, so that they are convinced about your contribution. But before doing so, you should be able to really understand what the customer wants and/or needs - and this is the part that no teacher will ever teach you. Only experience can.

An interesting project I have been working on together with some colleagues involved an application for internal use. The goal of this project was to provide Microsoft employees with a user-friendly tool for assessing the adoption maturity of customers, i.e. how well the customers are adopting the Power Platform as part of their information systems. This was a critical part of our role: knowing what their maturity is means having already some guidelines on how to assist them. One of the main points my colleagues raised was that we could also use data about the platform’s usage for carrying out an assessment - but there was no way to prove it would make sense to do so. This is where I decided to use what I learnt in my previous courses to find a possible approach, studying the properties of data and whether certain measures could indicate significant differences across groups with different maturity.

As I experienced myself, an internship is more than a mere “alternative” to university courses. It is a learning experience and an amazing opportunity for building and expanding your network, which can possibly shape your future career. Before this, I never even considered working in consultancy; now I have a part-time job at Rapid Circle - one of Microsoft’s partners - and I might continue working in this field after my studies. This is why I would really encourage everyone to explore job and internship opportunities around - and never be afraid of sending an application!

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