Looking at ScraperWiki’s team page, you can see that scientists working here is a common theme. I’m no different in that regard. Until recently, I was working as a university scientific researcher (looking at new biomedical materials).
As much as I’ve enjoyed that work, I began to wonder what other problems I could tackle with my scientific training. I’ve always had a big interest in technology. And, thanks to the advent of free online courses from the likes of edX and Coursera, I’ve recently become more involved with programming. When I heard about data science a few months ago, it seemed like it might be an ideal career for me, using skills from both of these fields.
Having written a web scraper myself to help in my job searching, I had some idea of what that involves. I’d also previously seen ScraperWiki’s site while reading about scrapers. When I heard that ScraperWiki were advertising for a data science intern, I knew it would be a great chance to gain a greater insight into what this work entails.
Since I didn’t have any prior notions of what working in a technology company or a startup involves, I’m pleased that it’s been so enjoyable. From an outsider coming in, there are many positive aspects of how the company works:
ScraperWiki is small (but perfectly formed): the fact that everyone is based in the same office makes it easy to ask a question directly to the most relevant person. Even if people are working remotely, they are in contact via the company’s Internet Relay Chat channel or through Google Hangouts. This also means that I’m seeing both sides of the company: both what the Data Services team do and the ongoing work to constantly improve the platform.
Help’s on hand: having knowledgeable and experienced people around in the office is a huge benefit when I encounter a technical problem, even if it’s not related to ScraperWiki. When I’m struggling to find a solution myself, I can always ask and get a quick response.
There’s lots of collaboration: pair programming is a great way to pick up new skills. Rather than struggling to get started with, say, some new module or approach, you can see someone else start working with it and pick up tips to push you past the initial inertia of trying something new.
And there’s independence too: as well as working with others on what they are doing and trying to help where I can, I’ve also been given some small projects of my own. Even in the short time I’m here, I should be able to construct some useful tools that might be made publically available via ScraperWiki’s platform.
(Oh, I shouldn’t miss out refreshments: as Matthew, another intern, recently pointed out, lunch often involves a fun outing to one of Liverpool’s many fine eateries. As well as that, tea is a regular office staple.)
It’s definitely been an interesting couple of weeks for me here. you can usually see what I’m up to via Twitter or my own blog. Over the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to writing here again about what I’ve been working on.