Picnic, games and problem solving – our intern’s summer at decisionLab

We were delighted to have Eleanor as one of our interns, who spent 8 weeks with us this summer. She has just started her third and final year of a Maths and Statistics degree and shares why her time at decisionLab was such a rewarding experience.

Until about a year ago, I hadn’t put too much thought into what I really wanted to do for my career. I thought that if I studied subjects I really enjoyed at school and university, I would discover something along the way that would really click with me. After studying an Optimisation module in my first year of university, I discovered Operational Research and was very keen to find out more. I signed up to the OR Society (it’s free to join as a student) and attended their annual careers fair in November. I met Gordon Squire, one of decisionLab’s senior consultants and immediately felt inspired by the company and their applications of Operational Research. I later got in touch via email and after an interview and meeting the team, we agreed I could start an internship.

Immediately I knew decisionLab was going to be an excellent company to work with and I settled in straight away. On my first day, a company social event had been organised where we had a picnic in the park and played sports games. It was a great way to get to know everybody and reflects the friendly and welcoming nature of the company. By the end of the 8 weeks of the internship, it was difficult to remember life without decisionLab.

I was given a project to manage throughout my time there. The task was to figure out a way to help clients visualise multi-dimensional data when making their decisions. 

This is when Optimisation methods look at minimising or maximising several objectives. For example, a client may want to come up with a plan for the next 10 years, with the aim of minimising cost, minimising CO2 emissions and maximising their resilience. Solving this optimisation problem will yield multiple “non-dominated” solutions and it is up to the client to choose which plan will work best for them. This is where my project came in – and we developed an interactive tool using a parallel co-ordinates chart to display the multi-dimensional data.

It was very rewarding to see a project from the beginning to the end, and to have the responsibility for managing my own project. I presented my work weekly to decisionLab co-founder and Director, Liz and one of the senior consultants, Silvia, and used their feedback to collaboratively move the project forward. We explored different directions for the project and it was up to me to decide which route was the best. This sort of responsibility and opportunity to manage a project was something I hadn’t experienced before, and it was an excellent way to learn business skills. 

The positive and friendly atmosphere in the company meant that I felt comfortable asking for help when I was unsure, and this really helped me stretch myself, as I knew the support would be there. Being able to take myself out of my comfort zone meant that I was able to learn a lot in a short space of time, and I knew that I was getting a lot out of my time with decisionLab. 

Alongside the data visualisation project, I had the opportunity to work with other members of staff on their projects. One task in particular involved modifying and writing Macros in Excel – something I had never done before. My colleagues were encouraging, and offered me a lot of support, which helped me to learn the new skills quickly, and at an advanced level. The work was for one of decisionLab’s current projects and it was presented to the client. It was a great feeling to be doing work that was genuinely useful to the company, and to be given the same responsibilities as the other members of staff. I think this is rare to find in an internship!

Working with decisionLab was a fantastic experience, and I learned more from an internship than I could have ever imagined. I will be keeping in touch with decisionLab, and will look back over this summer with very fond memories.

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