In the last 3 months, I was a part of the Puma Business Intelligence team, pursuing a Business Intelligence (BI) internship in Westford, Massachusetts. I was surrounded by such passionate and knowledgeable people. My internship was so amazing that I decided to share some insight into what I’ve learned at Puma.
Create order out of chaos and prioritize projects
As many of you may know, Puma’s brand positioning is Forever Faster. When I first started, one of my goals was to be the fastest BI intern. It was not easy at all. I still remember how overwhelming things were during the first week. I came to work with 5-6 different tasks (I worked only 2-3 days a week), and boy did I know what to do first? uhm..No!. Also, I had no idea what types of data existed in the system, and how and where to get them. Well, deadlines help; however, if you’re new, you probably don’t know how much time it would take you to do a certain task. I asked a lot of questions, spent countless hours with a senior analyst to learn how data flow in and out of the system. As a new intern, I had to take charge and talk to my manager and figure out how complicated each task is, which one is the most important, and how much time should be allotted to it. Prioritizing is so crucial to a day-to-day success at a fast-growing company as we want to focus on what brings the most value and improve efficiency. When faced with ambiguity, you should take the initiative, discover what your boss wants you to know and do, and always remember that there’s no harm in asking!
Be able to explain technical concepts to people in different roles
The cool thing about BI is that no projects are ever the same. One day I could be working on a dashboard for Human Resources, or streamlining a monthly report for Finance, the other day I’m in a meeting with IT and E-Commerce. Working with cross-functional teams for 3 months, I’ve learned to put myself in others’ shoes. Unlike presenting and expressing ideas in school, your classmates and yourself would usually have similar domain knowledge. At work, Marketing and HR do not need to know what machine learning or hypothesis testing is, but they will be interested to know how you tackle the problems, conceptually. Therefore, if I have to give a presentation on my projects and findings to non-tech business partners, I would try to explain technical concepts in layman terms, avoid jargons and give as many relevant examples as possible.
Mentors aren’t overrated
Ok, I’m all for self-taught learning. I’ve learned a bunch of stuff by myself, from statistical software to machine learning techniques. But hear me out on this. Seeking a mentor is one of the most important things in the beginning of your career. A mentor has been in your situation at some point and has made plenty of mistakes that they can now use as a resource for helping others to skip the devastating effects of not knowing. Having a mentor help accelerate your learning curve. I’ve learned so much faster at Puma than I’ve ever done before. The senior analyst and my manager were very accessible. Occasionally, my manager, Ryan, also shares his favorite books and business concepts with the whole team. Over the past 3 months, I have attended 2 resume workshops at Puma, one organized by HR and one by my manager.
Stay organized and document everything
At Puma, I have come to realize that if you want to work faster and more efficiently, you have to work smarter. One way to do so is staying organized and documenting everything. Documenting your changes to a chunk of codes, taking notes on how you get the data, and organizing files within a project folder would save you tons of time in the future. For example, Puma relies on several relational databases, each contains tremendously large amounts of data. Each of these databases includes unique data tables related to retail (POS, inventory, etc) and wholesale (shipment, customer, etc). Narrowing a single set of information needed requires a strong understanding of a company’s data systems. Therefore, every time I slice a data set to work on, I’d make sure to document every step so that it can be used for future reference.
Another lesson I’ve learned from the BI team at Puma is always being proactive. How? The team is constantly responding to changes, anticipating changes, adapting to changes and actively looking for new problems to solve. Every time we roll out a new dashboard or report, we re-group and think about potential problems down the road, about how to make it faster, easier to use, more friendly to general users. We don’t just sit around and wait for troubles to come, we are constantly moving forward, looking to the future, and making things happen. When troubles come, we don’t stomp and kick out feet, we stand up and go get the answers.
Frankly, I have never had an internship like this one at Puma where I felt like everyone genuinely cares about my experience, my personal goals and how these goals could be achieved during the internship. I had the opportunity to work on several end-to-end projects and see the impacts they have on other people’s lives. It has definitely been a fantastic ride at Puma and I am grateful for everyone who has supported me and made me forget that I was just an intern during this internship. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to work with. Now watch me work even smarter and harder as my new journey begins!