A Summer of Learning and Collaborating

As a returning Summer Apprentice, I do not see my last two summers as two separate experiences. Instead, I see them as one journey, split into two parts – one of which could not be as valuable without the other. Last summer, I was introduced to the very foundations of a business to answer the basic questions “what is a company?” or “what makes a company successful?” From a learning standpoint, working at a startup was the best way to answer these questions. In a single meeting, I could have a sales/marketing employee sit next to me, a business analyst two chairs away, and the CEO right across my face. Learning the ins-and-outs of a company couldn’t have been more informative and effective than working side-by-side with such a variety of roles within the company.

This summer, I took what I learned about project management, business analysis, and the Agile framework and applied those areas of expertise to both internal and external projects at Anant. As Project Manager of Mindy, an internal machine learning-based project, I took on a role I had never experienced before. How did I start? Well, I went back to last summer and used my knowledge of communication and business tools to serve as an efficient and effective leader.

I started off my standardizing the way our team – a team of student apprentices just like me – would function. The Agile Framework served to be the best way to fulfill the needs of the Mindy project. It provided us a way to release small chunks of the project on a weekly basis while always having opportunities to learn from previous weeks.

However, being a project manager requires more than merely dictating a path for the team members to follow. I have to act on what I say. This is Image result for boss vs leaderwhere the line between a “boss” and a “leader” is drawn. A boss orders. A leader acts on his/her orders with the team. For example, because Mindy is a data engineering process enhanced by machine learning, manual labor is required to “teach” the categorizing of data. The program must “learn” how to categorize the various jobs, but this requires hand annotations completed by a human. To learn more about how Mindy requires machine learning click here. In this situation, a boss would have ordered the team to annotate the data. Instead, I sat in front of the computer and went through all 273 data and labeled each one appropriately. After all, I was the most familiar with the category meanings. I knew that my manual labor would get the job done fast and effectively.

Another large portion of my summer at Anant was spent on an external client project with US Food Imports (USFI). My main job as the Internet Architecture Apprentice was to maximize the efficiency of the API Grabbers, which collects all data from a designated API. These scripts were written in NodeJS – a language I had never used before. Before the summer, I was well-versed in Java and Python. While the syntax of NodeJS was similar, its functionality was nothing like what I had dealt with before. Initially, I had to get used to the asynchronous nature of the language, which meant dealing with simultaneously running code within the same program. Working around callbacks and continuously reading/writing to files were my most significant challenges. However, I had always believed that once a programming language is learned, it isn’t too difficult to learn others. After all, the basic knowledge of variables, functions, and data storage stay fairly consistent across programming languages.

Nevertheless, even working with a brand new piece of technology for USFI compelled me to go back to my previous summer as a Business Operations Apprentice and utilize those skills once again. Throughout my experience working for USFI, I kept a customer focus – one of Anant’s core values – to ensure my work is benefitting the client. Whether it was finding the most effective Node modules or refactoring the code, every decision I made was for the benefit of the client so they were satisfied with the work I did.

The past two summers have been my most insightful and enriching experiences yet. Not only has it helped me to narrow down what I want to do later on in college and beyond, but it has taught me how to be a better worker. The three main lifelong lessons I have learned from my summer apprenticeships at Anant are interpersonal and communication skills, the power of Google, and the importance of always prioritizing the customer.