Hi Inês, can you start by introducing yourself and saying something about your educational background and prior experience?
My name is Inês Lains, I am 21 years old and originally from Portugal. I have a bachelor’s in International Relations and Organizations at Leiden University, however, it was my interest in data that landed me in the HCSS Datalab. Before working at HCSS, I was a research assistant for a Leiden University professor , where we looked in to how the 2017 insurgency in Northern Mozambique was portrayed in the National Media.
So, what motivated you to apply for the HCSS data internship specifically?
Having heard about HCSS as an International Relations student I really wanted to work for the company. In the Datalab I get to work for HCSS while also exploring the quantitative side of research. So, the different aspects of international security, such as cyber warfare and critical raw materials. Through my work at the Datalab I get to bridge the gap between qualitative and quantitative research.
You mentioned bridging qualitative and quantitative work, what does that look like? Can describe your role as a data intern?
As an intern I am responsible for both building graphs as well as interactive dashboards. Dashboards represent the data that was collected either by myself or analysts. In my position I am really involved with the end product that is then presented to policy makers, since I am the one responsible for creating the visual representation of the research. This means that as a data intern you are given a lot of responsibility and creative freedom.
What specific projects you have you been involved in during your internship? And how have these experiences helped you develop professionally?
Since I started at HCSS I have been involved in many projects, however, the main ones have been Critical Raw Materials, police and cyber dashboards. In these projects I worked with other analysts and interns to develop interactive dashboards. For the Critical Raw Materials dashboard, I created an interactive dashboard where it is possible to see the mines in which these raw materials can be found worldwide.
The main way in which these experiences have helped me develop professionally is by teaching me how to work in a team environment. There are several people involved in each project, this has helped me to learn how to manage the different expectations. I learnt how to adapt quickly and come up with alternative solutions. I think that going forward this ability will be invaluable in my future career. Overall the responsibility I was given in the Datalab, from day one, has given me a lot of opportunity to grow.
Are there any specific opportunities for professional development, such as workshops or training programmes?
HCSS puts on several workshops in which the data scientists at the Datalab explain how data is stored and other things, which for someone like me who doesn’t have an academic background in data is very important. The chief data scientist is always open to helping and explaining everything. This aid is what makes the data internship such an incredible learning opportunity because there is constant feedback and support.
Outside of the Datalab the company has a flat hierarchy so you get to learn directly from the experts in the field and everyone is always happy to help. Also each intern is assigned a mentor, which you should definitely take advantage of, in my case I was assigned a mentor that does not work at the Datalab and so I got to get a lot more insight into the different parts of HCSS.
For future data interns who are thinking of applying or applying currently what advice do you have?
I definitely advise you to apply for this internship, I would say the internship offers a lot of responsibilities and demands, however interns are given a lot of extra support. So, it is the perfect way to step into the research world without going straight into the deep end.
In terms of the recruitment process, it starts with an interview by the Chief Data Scientist and then there is also a skills test. The skills test includes knowledge on statistics, data science, and programming. However, the Datalab is constantly looking for new skill sets that they do not already have so they do take into account your background and the kind of skills and attitude they are looking for, so no need to worry if you do not master every single topic on the test or don’t have a background in everything.
This interview was conducted by HCSS PR and Communications Assistant, Alessandra Barrow