How I spent my summer: international students apply skills at internships

Harsha Polisetty, data analytics student

Harsha Polisetty, a student in Penn State Great Valley's Master of Professional Studies in Data Analytics program, spent the summer in New York City at Nasdaq. Working as an intern with Nasdaq's operations department, he helped the team explore the potential of data science for process improvements.

Credit: Harsha Polisetty

MALVERN, Pa. — More than 10 graduate international students from Penn State Great Valley applied their studies this summer to a real-life setting through a variety of internships. Not only did they gain valuable work experience in data analytics, engineering management, and software engineering, but they also sharpened their interpersonal, leadership, and presentation abilities.

A few students share details on their internships and the skills they acquired.

Harsha Polisetty, master of professional studies in data analytics, Nasdaq

Harsha Polisetty, data analytics student

Harsha Polisetty, a master of professional studies in data analytics, spent the summer at Nasdaq as a data science intern.

Credit: Harsha Polisetty

Harsha Polisetty began the summer as a data science intern in the Nasdaq operations team.

Data science was new to the operations team, and they wanted to explore its potential for process improvements. This gave Polisetty a unique chance to be at the forefront of its adoption, allowing him to take the group’s data exploration to a new level.

To do so, he relied on his data collection and exploratory data analysis skills that he cultivated at Great Valley. He could successfully examine business problems, look at the feasibility of the requirements, and determine a value-add project plan utilizing machine learning. In turn, he sharpened his soft skills by learning how to deliver effective presentations and communicate pertinent information to nontechnical employees.

“Since day one, I’ve felt like part of the team,” Polisetty said. “I’ve even met the CEO. It’s rare for an intern to be given so much responsibility and ownership — I feel lucky. Our operations team is excited about our data’s impact, so I’ve been able to implement new technology and programs.”

At the end of his internship, he received an offer to be a contracted employee focusing on the role of data science and analytics to drive performance improvement. Living in New York City, Polisetty commutes once a week to Malvern for the capstone course. He will graduate in December, and he looks forward to taking on new projects with Nasdaq.

Avinash Pallikere, master of engineering management, OSIsoft

Avinash Pallikere, Master of Engineering Management student

Avinash Pallikere, master of engineering management student, interned at OSIsoft.

Credit: Avinash Pallikere

Engineering management student Avinash Pallikere spent the summer at OSIsoft, a company that manufactures the PI System, an application software for real-time data management.

He was already familiar with PI System. As part of a research assistantship with faculty member Ashkan Negahban, he used the software to collect energy efficiency data on Penn State’s Building 661, monitoring aspects like temperature and occupancy.

When the opportunity to participate in Penn State’s Energy Innovation Leadership Experience (EILE) came up, Pallikere began work with OSIsoft as an academic intern. Held over 13 weeks in the summer, EILE allows graduate and undergraduate students to experience challenging real-world problems, take immersive courses, and intern at leading companies and research teams on innovative solutions related to energy efficiency and sustainability.

While at OSIsoft, Pallikere was charged with strengthening an industry-academic relationship between Penn State and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), the property management company for the Navy Yard. There, Pallikere worked to provide value and meaning to utility data from over 180 buildings. He started by benchmarking the data and later created dashboards so PIDC can view tenants’ patterns and uses. This will eventually help in developing a new billing process for their clients.

The internship directly related to Pallikere’s graduate program, which blends the specialized aspects of an engineering degree with business and management concepts. At OSIsoft, he served as a liaison between different organizations, often working alongside nontechnical personnel. He also trained and mentored a fellow intern, an undergraduate student from University Park.

“It was a collaborative process," he said. "Between Penn State, OSIsoft, and PIDC, there were a lot of stakeholders in the project. But building relationships was my favorite part of the experience.”

It also allowed him to learn new skills and programs related to data analytics.

For students seeking summer internships, Pallikere advises them to leverage the Penn State community.

“Get involved,” he said. “Work with faculty and stay in constant contact with your classmates and acquaintances. Networking is so important, and people want to help.”

Dhara Thakkar, master of professional studies in data analytics, Oracle

Dhara Thakkar, data analytics student

Dhara Thakkar, a data analytics student, worked at Oracle.

Credit: Dhara Thakkar

Dhara Thakkar interned at Oracle, where she worked on Primavera Analytics, the company's project portfolio management software solution for construction and engineering-related projects.

A student in the master of professional studies in data analytics program, Thakkar relied heavily on her data mining and predictive analytics skills and her knowledge of R (a statistical programing language) to make enhancements to the software.

“I used skills that I learned at Penn State to uncover trends in Primavera Analytics, discover the root causes of issues, and improve strategic and project-level decision making,” she said. “With the help of R and Oracle Business Intelligence, I worked on problems surrounding project success and performance, resource parings, and outliers.”

Using a variety of data sources, Thakkar implemented machine learning techniques to determine the success of future projects. She developed an R script to quickly identify cost and resource outliers in large amounts of data — improving the overall customer experience. To provide users with an ideal working environment, she created a query that provides the optimal combination of resources based on individual need.

While Thakkar learned a lot about technology, she also gained important business skills, including the collaboration, time management, and mentorship.

“I gained valuable experience by working in a corporate environment,” she said. “I learned how to be a team player, manage multiple tasks at one time, and assist my team when they needed help.”

At Oracle, Thakkar applied her existing talents to a real-life environment, resulting in a new understanding of how technology applies to a business setting. Now enrolled in the data analytics program’s capstone course, she feels more self-assured when faced with challenges.

“I felt more confident going into the fall semester,” added Thakkar. “Prior to Oracle, I had only used R in one subject. My internship allowed me to apply that knowledge to real-world problems, think differently, and ask questions. It truly enhanced the skills I acquired from Penn State and made me more comfortable with technology.”

Shewta Tiwari, master of professional studies in data analytics, Wex

Shweta Tiwari, data analytics student

Shewta Tiwari, a data analytics student, interned at Wex in South Portland, Maine.

Credit: Shweta Tiwari

Shweta Tiwari spent the summer in South Portland, Maine, where she interned in the fraud department at Wex, a fleet credit card provider.

As a data analytics student, Tiwari relied on basic statistics and data-driven, decision-making skills to develop models that detect fraudulent behavior. She looked at historical data for trends in gas and convenience store charges to ultimately prevent customers from a negative experience and Wex from issuing new credit cards when identity theft happens. She also utilized her data visualization skills when presenting new information and reports to her team.

Tiwari enjoyed the position, and she was grateful for the time Wex spent to provide their 65 summer interns with a positive experience. The company organized barbeques, lunchtime speakers, and kayaking trips, allowing her to meet colleagues and network.

“It was a very wholesome opportunity,” said Tiwari. “Wex invested a lot in us. They set up social events and lunch and learns for us to meet senior leadership and hear about different parts of the company.”

“While I was there, I gained an appreciation for fundamental concepts,” she said. “The experience reminded me that sometimes I have to go back to the basics and look at the data objectively. Now, in my capstone course, I’m asking better questions and seeing new perspectives. I know what I need to do to make it as a data analytics professional.”

Deepak Aakula, master of software engineering, Dell Boomi

Deepak Aakula, software engineering student

Deepak Aakula, master of software engineering student, spent the summer at Dell Boomi.

Credit: Deepak Aakula

Deepak Aakula, a software engineering student, spent the summer at Dell Boomi, a cloud-based integration platform for connecting cloud and on-premises applications and data.

He interned with the cloud services team where he developed an automated backup and restoration procedure for customer data hosted on Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

He relied on his knowledge of Docker, Java, and design strengths cultivated from previous work experience and graduate courses in software construction, large scale databases and warehouses, data base design concepts, and software system design. He also used Python programming skills that he developed from a research assistantship with Joanna DeFranco and Mohamad Kassab, two engineering faculty members.

“Interning with Dell Boomi was a good experience,” he said. “The team is currently using the platform I developed, which is rewarding. It was also beneficial to experience the American corporate work culture.”

Mohini Kumar, master of professional studies in data analytics, West Pharmaceuticals

Mohini Kumar, data analytics student

Data analytics student Mohini Kumar interned at West Pharmaceuticals.

Credit: Mohini Kumar

Mohini worked as a data analyst intern at West Pharmaceuticals, where she relied on many of the technical skills cultivated in the data analytics program, including her knowledge of Tableau, Knime Cloud Analytics, Python, and R.

She worked on a variety of projects, including building an analytical infrastructure on Microsoft Azure Cloud, developing a predictive model to determine if a sales opportunity would be profitable, and performing diagnostic analytics on sales data to evaluate three years of customer behavior. Using skills cultivated during her research assistantship at Penn State, she built an emotion classification tool to analyze sentiments expressed on Twitter.

Kumar developed new skills using Microsoft’s Azure Cloud and Power BI tool while learning more about the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. She also enjoyed participating in the company’s culture by attending lunch and learns on technical and non-technical topics and participating in a company-wide volunteer event with Canine Partners for Life.

“Working at West Pharmaceuticals was an amazing experience for me,” she said. “I had the opportunity to work on multiple projects, allowing me to enhance my skills and gain hands-on experience with emerging technologies in real-time. I’m thankful to the faculty members and mentors at Penn State Great Valley for helping me improve and sharpen my skills, which I could build upon this summer.”