Hello, I am Megha Banerjee, a graduate student in the Applied Data Science Master’s Program at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. This summer, I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to be a Data Science intern at Walmart, in their Texas office.
This article will go through the interview process and my internship experience. Also, I will try to cover the most essential and helpful tips to make your internship search journey a bit smoother and land an incredible summer internship.
Before we begin, here is a little bit about me
I was born and brought up in Kolkata, India. I started gaining an interest in data science in the third year of my education. Before joining Syracuse University in the fall of 2021, I completed my Bachelor of Technology from the West Bengal University of Technology in Electronics and Communications Engineering (Yes! You do not have to be from a Computer Science background to land into a Data Science opportunity). Since then, I have done a couple of research internships and authored seven international research articles. Currently, I am assisting Professor EunJeong Cheon in one of her projects as a faculty Assistant.
Applying and getting the interview
I applied for this position in the first week of February through the company’s career portal and received the first round of interviews in the third week of February. The Data Scientist intern position for Walmart Global Tech and Sams Club requires three rounds of interviews. For the first round, it was an HackerRank assessment alongside some multiple-choice questions and a behavioral assessment. To pass this round, I would suggest being well-prepared with python coding in platforms like HackerRank and LeetCode. They have many assessments involving data wrangling, visualizing, and modeling. I found the content of IST 707 Applied Machine Learning course at iSchool beneficial, as it covers all the essential concepts. Below are some of my favorite genres to look at:
- Multiple linear regression
- Different Classification and prediction problems
- Time series forecasting problems
- Clustering algorithms
Take home assessment
The second round of interview got scheduled after a week. For this round, I received a take-home assessment before 24-hours of the interview scheduled time. It was messy real-life data, and you are expected to devise a feasible solution to the question asked. The problem involves data cleaning, wrangling, visualizing, feature engineering, and machine learning modeling. To solve it, you must approach it from a different point of view. In the interview, you need to explain your approach to the problem. You should be well prepared for the questions like:
- Why this algorithm? Explain the pros and cons.
- What changes would you make in feature engineering if there were more time?
- How to improve this model architecture?
- Usability of the solution to million-row data set in a production pipeline?
- Why didn’t you use solution Y instead of using solution X?
Final interview round
The final round got scheduled after a week. In this round, you can expect 1-2 interviewers (primarily Senior or Principal Data Scientists). The experience of this round differs from person to person as the interviewer has the flexibility to ask questions from any DS techniques or algorithm they want. I would suggest knowing the basics of popular data science algorithms and concepts (like Decision Trees, Regressions, Clustering, Probabilities, Hypothesis Testing, etc.)
· Prepare a great elevator pitch. It can change the direction of the interview.
· Do some research about the company and interviewer(s) beforehand.
· Be prepared to talk briefly about each word of your resume.
· Be ready to solve some business acumen questions and case studies.
· Have some questions related to them to ask after the interview.
After facing the questions in this round, I found IST 687 Introduction to Data Science and IST 772 Quantitative Reasoning for Data Science beneficial, as both courses cover the basics of all required DS algorithms and concepts. Both courses come as core subjects in MS-ADS at iSchool.
After completing the final round, I received the offer letter within two days!
Perks of getting a Walmart Internship
Apart from having an opportunity to strengthen your resume by including the most prominent retailer name in your resume, there are other perks too. As a summer intern at Walmart, you will get a sponsored trip to the associates meet event (The most significant event in Walmart’s calendar) and see some celebrities (We saw a concert of Jonas Brothers for free!) in their headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. As an intern from the east coast, I traveled from Syracuse to Bentonville to enjoy the Welcome week events and then flew to Dallas to join my team. During my time, I was given accommodation in a luxury apartment in Dallas. Again, all provided by the company!
What I did at Walmart
My project was to analyze the root causes of Walmart’s e-commerce returns and identify the room for improvement. For the project, I was given full access to the entire Walmart e-commerce database, consisting of millions of data. Almost every day, while fetching the data from Walmart’s vast database, I used the concepts I learned in IST 659 Database Administration Concepts and Database Management, another core subject of the MS-ADS program. In the end, we got to showcase our work in front of many senior leaders of the Walmart Global Tech and Walmart eCommerce. Not only working on the projects but all the interns were also highly encouraged to attend other socializing events and keynote speaker series and enjoy the whole internship experience. We visited multiple prominent landmarks in Dallas on Thursday, socializing events, dinner events, after-parties, and whatnot.
Working at Walmart comes with its flaws- every day, you will meet someone who makes a difference in how people shop. It is even more fascinating to look at the different checkpoints of a million dollars project and how gradually it develops and goes into production, positively affecting our customers.
Now, I will be sharing some general tips to keep in mind while looking for a job in the Data domain.
Apply! Apply! Apply!
One of the most frequent questions on I get LinkedIn is, “When to start applying for summer internships?” The answer is to apply like there is no tomorrow. The more you apply, the higher the chances of getting an interview. I only made the mistake of applying to particular companies, resulting in fewer interviews than my peers.
Concise resume and cover letter
Make sure your resume is clear, precise, grammatically correct, and passes through the ATS scanner. iSchool Career Services is a great place to get your resume reviewed. My piece of advice would be- keep it a single page, put experiences, projects, and skill sets relevant to the job description, and, most importantly- be truthful. The same goes for cover letters as well. Clear-concise-no spelling error-grammatically correct.
Make your LinkedIn account look pretty!
LinkedIn is an excellent resource for building a solid network and finding exciting opportunities. Make sure that you are keeping each section in your LinkedIn up to date. As it has no limits, I suggest focusing more on things that are not in your resume. Elaborate, explain, and beautify your work as much as possible; this is your place to shine. LinkedIn is also a great platform to write and share your fancy projects. Simple things like writing a blog or an insightful, relevant post can make your profile stand out. It helps a lot increase the reach of the profile.
Python and SQL are a must for a data science interview. The usage of R is more for academic roles. Spend time learning data structures, time-space complexities, sorting and summarizing data tables, etc. Reach out to your seniors or people around you, and learn from their experiences! Plenty of online resources are floating; select one you are comfortable with and start learning.
Stand out with a portfolio
Sharing your work in open source boosts your chance to showcase your skills and build your own personal branding. Try different platforms, like Medium, LinkedIn, Kaggle, etc., to showcase your work with the data science community and establish your presence.
Engage with Faculty Assistantships
Assistantships are extremely helpful in gaining hands-on experience by working on advanced research projects or dealing with students solving diverse issues. iConsult Collaborative and Nexis are also great alternatives to gaining real-world corporate experiences. They look good in resumes, but they are usually very competitive.
Know how to tell a story with the data
This is probably the most important tip out of all. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to know how to tell a story with your data. This is the most exciting and crucial part of day to day work of a Data scientist. I took a class this semester, IST 719 Information Visualization, and this class is all you need to achieve this skill.
Experiencing Walmart as my first corporate job is nothing less than a fairytale for me. It was a summer full of learning opportunities and exponential growth. But it came with a lot of patience, rejection, and hard work. Hopefully, I have covered all the essentials, and now you know how to navigate your internship search journey. It is okay not to get an interview for a while. Trust the process; you’ll get through.