Navigating Imaginary Landscapes: My Placement with Makers of Imaginary Worlds

post by Pavlos Panagiotidis (2022 cohort)

My placement with Makers of Imaginary Worlds took place in various locations around Nottingham and remotely.

Starting date: 25/06/2023
End Date: 25/09/2023

During the past summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a three-month placement with Makers of Imaginary Worlds, a company that combines art and technology in innovative ways to create experiences for children and families. I worked on a number of projects during my time there, which helped me gain a better understanding of the practical implications of engaging audiences in mixed reality experiences, as well as the potential for research in the intersection of HCI and performance.

During my placement, I was presented with several opportunities to work on projects that involved immersive technologies, approaching audience engagement, and experimenting with prototype technologies for performance. These projects, located in various parts of Nottingham, posed diverse challenges that made the experience exciting and solidified my interest in the intersection of art and technology. This placement helped me refocus my research objectives towards areas likely to have practical impacts. These areas include developing innovative methods to assess audience engagement through computer vision and creating methodologies to evaluate the aesthetic implications of emerging technologies in performance-making.

One project I worked on involved the qualitative analysis of interviews with visitors to the “Home Zero” art installation. This installation was designed to encourage participants, mainly children and families, to envision a more sustainable future through a playful, interactive experience that used paintings from the National Gallery as a starting point. I cleaned the data and performed a preliminary analysis of interview transcripts to study how audiences interacted with and perceived the installation. My analysis showed evidence that visitors enjoyed engaging with tangible interfaces and hands-on interactions, which made the experience more engaging and effectively supported the learning process. Later that year, I co-authored a paper that transformed some preliminary insights into a study on the significance of tangibility in designing mixed reality experiences about environmental sustainability for children. I also had the opportunity to contribute to another academic paper based on “Home Zero”, which aims to provide bridges between the disciplines of theatre and computer science, exploring how these fields can converge to enhance participatory design.

An example of an interesting field observation was when a child participant in HomeZero used the “Imagination Scanner,” a device that supposedly measured the participant’s imaginative capacity. The child’s excitement was palpable when they scored higher than their parents, and the automated system rewarded them by opening the door to the next part of the installation. This moment highlighted how design and technology could invert typical familial hierarchies, providing a unique and empowering experience for the children involved.

During my placement, I also had the opportunity to engage closely with “The Delights,” an event that blended dance, sensory activities, and interactive installations to captivate its young audience at the Hoopla Festival, which was held in Nottingham’s local parks. My role involved interviewing families to document their experiences and synthesising this information into a detailed report for stakeholders such as the festival committee. This report not only showcased the high level of audience engagement but also underscored the event’s impact on community connection, child development, and the creative transformation of public spaces. I gained valuable experience in the process required by funders to collect and analyse data and report the outcomes of publicly funded events to justify subsidising an art-making company.

Evidently, the event transformed perceptions of local parks from mere recreational spaces to vibrant community hubs that facilitate child development, artistic expression, and community bonding. Interviews with parents revealed significant shifts in how these spaces are viewed and utilised, emphasising the parks’ new roles as sites for creative and interactive family engagement. Notably, parents appreciated how the event encouraged their children’s expressive skills and social interactions, with many noting increased confidence and communication in their children due to participating in the activities offered. The experience showed me the importance of audience insights in designing experiences. Understanding audience behaviour, expectations, and engagement can be crucial in creating successful events. My placement’s most technically challenging aspect was working on a computer vision-based audience participation assessing prototype. This project aimed to collect and analyse data regarding audience behaviour in interactive installations and explore the possibilities of using computer vision technology to refine interactive artistic experiences.

During my placement at MOIW, I gained a deeper understanding of how my backgrounds in theatre, physics, and computer science synergistically apply to mixed reality experiences. The diverse approaches include assessing audience engagement, designing for optimal user experiences, performing qualitative and quantitative data analysis, and exploring the potential of physical and technological prototypes in performance. While being a “jack of all trades and master of none” can pose challenges in pinpointing one’s exact skills, it also allows for unique involvement and contribution to artistic projects.

Further reflecting on interdisciplinary approaches, I recognised that while the potential for convergence between computer science and theatre is evident, the independent evolution of these disciplines has occasionally made collaboration challenging. However, this placement reinforced my belief in the value of interdisciplinary research and the potential to bridge gaps between these fields, making designing each mixed reality performance a valuable step toward this integration.

In general, my placement with Makers of Imaginary Worlds was a valuable experience that enhanced my understanding of immersive technologies and audience engagement in a real-world setting. It solidified my commitment to exploring the intersection of art and technology, paving the way for my future work in the field. Thanks to my placement, I developed a deeper understanding of the intersection of HCI and performance, both academically and practically. I learned that collaboration and interdisciplinary research are crucial in creating and studying mixed reality events. Mixed reality requires a blend of skills and knowledge, including art, technology, and design. Therefore, processes that support interdisciplinary collaboration are essential in creating innovative mixed-reality experiences.

My Placement: Empowering Older Adults with Technology Through the ExtraCare Smart Market Initiative

post by Angela Higgins (2022 cohort)

Technology may help older adults maintain independence and live healthier lives, however there is a belief that this population is completely unable or unwilling to embrace these interventions. My work considers how we may empower people using technology, so when given the placement opportunity to work directly with older people trying out technology, I was eager to accept. My placement with my PhD industry partner, ExtraCare Charitable Trust, was split into several weeklong activities from autumn 2023 to spring 2024.

ExtraCare Charitable Trust is the UK’s leading not-for-profit provider of retirement housing, for people over 55. Their stated mission is “creating sustainable communities that provide homes older people want, lifestyles they can enjoy and care if it’s needed”. As such they encourage active and independent living and provide their residents with opportunities and activities to promote healthy ageing.

The Smart Market scheme is run by ExtraCare to allow their residents to try before they buy a range of technologies, along with set-up support. Older people may benefit from the use of appropriate technology to support independence and manage their well-being. However, there are many perceived barriers to entry, including usability, usefulness, and cost. To negate some of these factors, the Smart Markets allow residents to trial smart devices, including Amazon Echo and Alexa products, Ring doorbells, smart plugs, smart lights, sleep tracking mats, and Fitbits.

I ran Smart Markets at two ExtraCare sites, Lark Hill in Nottingham, and Reeve Court in St Helens, Merseyside (which just so happens to be my hometown). At both locations, the Smart Market was announced at the monthly village meeting, followed by a “Demo Day”, allowing the residents to drop in and ask questions alongside demonstrations. Then, to encourage further uptake, two “Market Days” were conducted where I set up a “market stall” in a common thoroughfare at the villages for two hours on subsequent mornings. At both the Demo and Market days residents could either take the smart device themselves, if they felt comfortable setting it up, or book an installation appointment. After 6-8 weeks I returned to collect the device they’d trialled. I also interviewed some of the residents about their experience with the Smart Market, and their use of technology more generally, to produce a report to assist ExtraCare with their future provision of technology services for their residents.

Through being present in the community, I was able to meet and chat with many of the residents at each location, and met a wide range of people, with different interest levels in technology. Some people already owned a full suite of gadgets, and some had no interest in technology whatsoever. However, quite a few were interested in trying things out but were either concerned about the cost or had no one to help set them up. These people were my main Smart Markets “customers”, and I was able to answer their questions and help them decide on some technology that was useful for them. If they required the help, I then booked them in for an installation appointment where I would come to their property and get them started. Finally, some people stopped by the Smart Market events not to try out a new product, but because they were having issues with technology they already owned. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to assist everyone who needed it, but I tried to help wherever I could.

I found installing the technology with residents a joyful and insightful process. Having spent some time in the communities, this gave me a chance to get to know the individuals a little better. Residents all had unique needs, challenges, and aspirations when it came to using technology, and I tried to work with them to set-up the technology. Examples include someone who wanted to try and Fitbit because her doctor had recommended it for health monitoring, someone else wanted a smart plug to avoid having to bend down to switch a light on and off, and another woman wanted to try and Echo Show to display photographs taken by her husband. Before I left, I handed residents a guide to the features of their device and asked them if they had any specific desires from using the device. If possible, I’d set up any services or systems they’d like, such as favourite radio stations, or connections to other apps. I believe that if we are to encourage people to use technology, it should be for purposes they find useful or enjoyable, so having sometime to spend with individuals was invaluable. I was even invited to speak at a retiree’s lunch club by one of the residents, which was a new experience for me, but a very pleasant one!

After the trial period, I returned to collect the devices, and setup the new devices if residents had bought replacements. Some residents agreed to an interview about how they’d found the device, and if they were buying their own. As well as providing direct feedback to ExtraCare about the Smart Markets, I could also provide insight into how residents used technology. Often more technologically competent residents would support their friends and others in the village with their devices. Additionally, many of my interviewees had extensive experience with technology prior to retiring, and did enjoy using it, even if there was the odd difficulty!

The main difficulty I encountered during my placement was with scheduling. As I split this research into separate sections (between sites, and between the different stages of research) often I could not achieve everything I wanted within the allocated time. Sometimes this was due to scheduling conflicts between myself and the residents, sometimes due to conflicts with other responsibilities I had, and sometimes just because life events prevented everything from going to plan. However, this emphasised to me the importance of flexibility and slack time when conducting research.

Overall, I found my time spent at Lark Hill and Reeve Court thought-provoking and inspiring, and will help me develop my future work with older adults. I was able to build relationships within the community, which is especially useful as I will be conducting more research at Lark Hill, and get in-person experience of how older adults were using technology. I especially learnt a lot about outdated and ageist stereotypes at work in the assumptions people have when designing for or researching with this community.  This work has proved valuable to my PhD and I hope ExtraCare have found my work beneficial to facilitate their residents to use technology to stay happy and healthy.

My Placement Experience: Lessons and Triumphs

post by Kuzi Makokoro (2022 cohort)

Reflecting upon my placement, a key lesson around the most important decision to make before starting a placement, was to consider the specific skills and experiences I hoped to gain. This past summer, I had the opportunity to partake in a placement with my industry partner, Co-op, which turned out to be a remarkable and invaluable experience for my professional and academic growth.

Before finalising the arrangements for the placement, including setting the dates, duration, and defining the project, a series of discussions took place between my supervisors and me. We assessed the multitude of opportunities that this placement could offer. It was during these deliberations that the versatility of a placement’s benefits became apparent to me. One option is to align the placement activities with your ongoing PhD research, ensuring that the work is not only relevant to your academic pursuits but also meets the strategic needs of the industry partner. This synergy often results in a mutually beneficial outcome that propels your research forward. Another approach could be to take a break from academic work to gain a breadth of experience in the industry, thereby expanding your professional network and engaging in projects that are also of interest to you.

Having spent the last nine years in commercial roles within various industries and capacities, I was already familiar with the dynamics of industry life. This pre-existing industry experience informed my decision to select a project that complemented my PhD research. Once I made this strategic choice, the focus shifted to pinpointing a suitable project. After numerous consultations, we collectively decided to concentrate on the Healthy Start Scheme—a government- initiative designed to aid low-income families with children under four by providing them with essential foods like milk, fruits, and vegetables. This project was not only crucial to my industry partner but also resonated personally with me, as it underscored the meaningful impact of data-driven initiatives on societal well-being.

The research objectives for the placement were ambitious: to utilise predictive analytics to predict the uptake percentage of the Healthy Start Scheme using food insecurity measures and to apply machine learning techniques to identify and understand the factors that influence uptake significantly. Working in conjunction with an industry partner meant that the practical application of my research findings could potentially aid the partner in supporting and promoting the scheme more effectively.

Entering the placement, I had certain preconceptions about how the experience would unfold, the nature of the work I would engage in, and the interactions I would have with various stakeholders. However, the practical aspects of my placement differed from my initial expectations. I quickly realised that my chosen topic necessitated a more independent working style, with periodic contributions from my industry partner rather than continuous collaboration. This shift led me to a new understanding of the role of a researcher in a consultative capacity, working in partnership with an industry entity. The experience also allowed me to lead a research project autonomously and understand the nuances of impact work. My responsibilities included initiating regular meetings with my contact at Co-op, seeking input and assistance from the wider team when needed, and managing the project’s pace and milestones.

In hindsight, although the timing of the placement originally seemed appropriate, I later reflected on whether doing it later on in my PhD program might have allowed for a richer output. The project demanded proficiency in skills that I had not yet mastered at the time, necessitating a steep and rapid learning process. This included developing an understanding of predictive analytics methodologies, acquiring proficiency in programming languages such as Python, learning about digital data collection techniques, and interpreting complex model results.

Consequently, what was initially set out to be a three-month placement evolved into a five-month project, as additional time was required for me to learn, adapt, and then effectively engage in the research. I adopted various learning strategies, such as the accelerated learning techniques outlined in Jake Knapp’s book “Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days,” which aided me in assimilating new information rapidly, trialling different approaches, and breaking down the project into smaller, more manageable tasks. Ultimately, I was able to enhance my skill set and produce actionable insights from the project, though a better approach to defining deliverables within the given timeframe would have been advantageous.

The research outcome was insightful; we identified several strong predictors within the model, such as income deprivation and language proficiency, as well as intriguing variables like household spending on fish and the caloric density of purchases. We explored various ways in which my industry partner could leverage these insights to better support the Healthy Start Scheme in communities where it is most needed.

In summary, the placement was a journey of adapting to a different work environment, setting pragmatic goals, and scaling up professionally. This learning experience has been instrumental in advancing my PhD work. It reiterates my initial emphasis on the importance of understanding what you seek to achieve from a placement. Although I had not initially set out to acquire these specific skills through the project, they have proven to be of great value as I continue with my PhD journey. Looking ahead, I am excited about the prospect of converting this project into my first published academic paper.

Exploring Children’s Interaction with Robotic Installations: Reflections on Placement with Makers of Imaginary Worlds

post by Victor Ngo (2022 cohort)

My placement ran from July to September 2023, with Makers of Imaginary Worlds (MOIW), and involved planning and running a two-part study that would help inform my PhD research on ‘Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in Live Creative Installations’. More specifically, how children interact and form relationships with the robotic installation, how children understand and shape their interaction in this context, what meaning children attribute to the robot and their interaction, how curious children are during the interaction and what motivates their curiosity.

NED (The Never-Ending Dancer)

To add some background to my placement partner, MOIW are a Nottingham-based art company, who aim to create interactive and sensory experiences where children can play, engage and explore. MOIW’s first live robotics project, Thingamabobas, is aimed at younger audiences and involves the use of a computer vision-equipped robot arm, called NED (The Never-Ending Dancer), which can detect audience members and interact with them autonomously. This installation also includes a series of mechanical circus-like creations that are designed to enable children to interact with them as imaginative, dynamic sculptures that provide novel, enjoyable, and empowering experiences.

Unlike social robots, industrial robot arms typically have a functional design, void of humanoid features or facial expressions. MOIW aims to transform the industrial robot arm into a playful kinetic sculpture that defies expectations, offering an inventive interpretation. By introducing variables such as costume design, musical accompaniment, and contextual storytelling, the artists aim to redefine the perception of the robotic arm. Demonstrating how fiction can facilitate a willing suspension of disbelief among audiences, allowing viewers to trust and immerse themselves in reimagining a new reality.

The Study:

The first half of the study, part 1, was completed at the National Festival of Making, Blackburn, with a tremendous number of people attending and in general a great event! This half of the study explored the audience’s understanding of the initial robotic system, with no changes to the system’s capabilities or functionality. This allowed for a base understanding of its performance, capabilities, and limitations in the wild for a researcher new to the system, this proved extremely useful and provided me with the knowledge necessary to complete part 2. The second half of the study, part 2, was completed at the Mansfield Museum, Mansfield, exploring the same audience understanding, however, the system was altered to allow for 360-degree motion around the robot’s base as well as a different method of detecting the audience, moving to body pose detection from facial recognition. Although a direct comparison between the two studies is not possible, insights into audience responsiveness, engagement, and enjoyment are all possible and valuable to the discussion, and future development of this system or similar systems.

Reflections:

Over the course of three months, this placement has provided me with the opportunity to develop key interpersonal and professional skills, as well as improve my technical aptitude.

My initial discussions with MOIW for the placement were straight away met with enthusiasm and sometimes whimsical imagination from Roma Patel and Rachel Ramchurn, the artists of MOIW. Despite MOIW being a relatively small company, I was fortunate enough to learn the ins and outs of art installation production and how artists like Roma and Rachel turn ideas and imagination into professional productions, and how they deal with issues, changes and unexpected setbacks. Shadowing them allowed me to observe how they manage large-scale projects and interact with professional organisations. This has enabled me to further develop and improve my own understanding of professional engagement and project management.

Throughout all stages of the placement, the artists from MOIW frequently discussed possible alterations and upgrades with me to improve the interaction capabilities of the robot. Here I was able to apply and improve my technical experience, developing solutions to enhance the robot’s interaction capabilities or increase the system’s audience detection accuracy and reliability. Despite the technical success of some of the solutions developed, it is important to highlight that not all of the artist’s ideas were technically feasible or within the scope of the project. Communicating this effectively and managing the artist’s expectations was key to ensuring that both the robot was functional and ready for the study, and the professional relationship with MOIW was maintained, without either party being let down or led to believe the system was any greater or less than what was agreed on.

During the study, I was not only the lead researcher on site but also a range of other roles that sometimes required me to step out of my comfort zone. These included in no particular order of social or imaginative intensity; Thingamabobas Wrangler, Storyteller, Imagination Guide, The Researcher from Nottingham University, Technical Support.

As part 1 of the study at the National Festival of Making was a two-day event over the weekend during the height of the UK summer holiday, I was left with little choice but to quickly adapt to these new roles or suffer being swarmed by the thousands of curious and enthusiastic visitors that attended the event. To my surprise, and with a little help from Roma and Rachel, I was able to help children and adults alike be transported into the whimsical world of the Thingamabobas, for about 20 minutes at a time.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and opportunity to work with MOIW to not only develop an art installation, but to also help run it was a great privilege. The skills I have learned and applied in both professional engagements as well as in the wild will be beneficial to my PhD research and to myself as an individual.

 

Reflections on my placement at the Department for Transport

post by Phuong Anh (Violet) Nguyen (2022 cohort)

I began my placement in the Data Science team of the Analytic Directorate at the Department of Transport in April 2023 to gain access to datasets for my pilot research. However, I feel that my internship officially began in July, when I was able to become familiar with my work and knew precisely what was expected of me. I still remember the rainy afternoon when I went to the warehouse to collect my IT kit. It was quite a funny memory, and now it is quite emotional to pack and return my kit as my internship is over.

My project

My internship was an integral component of my doctoral research on “Using personas in transport policymaking.” I aimed to combine various data sources to investigate the travel behaviour of various demographic groups, and then use this understanding to inform transport planning and policy formulation.

I began by examining multiple DfT data sources, including the National Transport Survey, Telecoms Data, and Transport Data dashboard. I arranged meetings with several data team members to ask them about how they analysed these data in previous projects. I also had opportunities to discuss with members of other teams including System Thinking, Policy, Social Research, and Data administration… to learn about their work and the policy-making process at DfT.

Since the official release of the transport user personas report in July, I have collaborated closely with the personas team. I began with an examination of the methodology for developing personas. I also attempted to apply additional data science techniques to the same dataset (National Transport Survey) to cluster travellers into distinct groups and compare the results of the various methods.

DfT published transport user personas. (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/transport-user-personas-understanding-different-users-and-their-needs).

I worked with the Social Research team to organise workshops introducing the potential of using personas in DfT’s work, such as Road Investment, AI Strategy, and Highway… In addition, as part of my research, I utilised the Social-technical framework theory to structure the transport system and then gathered data to present and analyse the interaction between personas and other transport system components. On the other hand, I learned how policy is formulated and I will continue to work with the Policy team to investigate how personas can support their work.

Some lessons for myself

About work

Working on the Data Science team, which is part of the Advanced Analytics Directorate, was an excellent opportunity for me to improve my statistics, mathematics, and programming skills. Colleagues were very knowledgeable and supportive. Through the team’s regular meetings and project summaries, I got a general understanding of which projects are active and which models and methodologies are used to solve the problems. Sometimes I found myself bewildered by mathematical formulas and technical models. Although I have studied Data Science in the past, which has provided me with a foundation in Data analysis and Programming, in real work data looked more complicated. The assignments in the placement have taught me how to overcome the challenges of dealing with multiple data types.

Working in Civil Service, I had access to numerous training resources, workshops, and presentations, including but not limited to Science and Programming, this course covered user-centric services, artificial intelligence, evidence-based policymaking, and management skills. This is why I regard my civil servant account to be so valuable.

I received numerous perspectives and comments on my research proposal thanks to weekly discussions with my line manager and multiple team members. Importantly, I learned how to present and explain my ideas and academic theories to people from diverse backgrounds, as well as how to make the ideas clear and simple to comprehend. I believe this is a crucial skill in multidisciplinary research, communication, and public engagement.

About working environment

This was also my first time working in civil service, a “very British” working environment. Even though I have more than five years of experience in the airline industry, it took me a while to become accustomed to office work. It could be because the working environment in Vietnam differs from that in the United Kingdom, business differs from civil service, and full-time office work differs from hybrid work.

In addition to the knowledge and expertise I gained, I learned a great deal about time management and how to use Outlook professionally to organise my work, as well as how to spend concentration time between multiple meetings every day. This was extremely helpful when having to divide my time between multiple tasks, such as PhD research, placement, and meetings with supervisors from various institutions. In addition, I believe that working in person in the office is more beneficial than remote working, having access to a larger screen. being able to meet and discuss with multiple people, rather than being limited to 30-minute meetings and a small laptop screen. Thus, I travelled to London every week. These regular catchups with my line manager/industry partner proved helpful because the industry partner was able to provide a realistic perspective and I was able to update them on my work and interact with other DfT employees who supported my research.

About my personal development

Since I began my PhD journey, I have experienced many “first-time experiences”, including my first time working in Civil Service. This placement is not only an integral part of my PhD research, but also provides me with a great deal of experience and lessons for my personal growth. It was so unusual and sometimes difficult, but it forced me to leave my comfort zone. I was confident in my ability to perform well, having had the previous experience of being an airline strategist in the past, but the new experience of being an intern, learning something new, made me humble and enthusiastic as if I had just started school.

My principal lesson is to simply DO IT, JUST DO IT. I believe that the majority of my depression stems from my tendency to overthink. There were times when I examined the data set and had no idea what to do. I was even afraid to send emails or speak with others. However, when I actually did what I should do – WRITE something and ASK some questions – and I saw results, I realised that that work is simpler than I originally thought. Then I learned that sitting in a state of distress and worrying about the future is ineffective in resolving the issue. I must take action and be diligent to see myself become a little bit better and better every day.

The summer was very short, and most colleagues took vacation time. Honestly, the internship was not “comfortable” in the beginning, but now I believe everything is going well. This placement is also assisting me in developing a clearer plan for my PhD project. I am grateful for the support and lessons I have gained from this opportunity, and I am considering another summer placement next year.

My Internship at Capital One

post by Edwina Borteley Abam (2019 cohort)

My internship at Capital One started mid-November 2021 and ended mid-May 2022.  Capital One is a credit card company originally situated in the US with two branches located within the UK in Nottingham and London specifically. I interned at the Nottingham branch over a period of 6 months, on a part-time basis.

The company has several departments and units. I was placed within the Data Science team which forms part of the wider Data group within the organisation. There are three main sections within the Data Science team namely Acquisition, Customer Management and the Bureau team. The Acquisition team concentrates on building models to score new credit card applicants. The Customer Management team focuses on managing and monitoring the behaviour of all existing credit card customers and credit line extensions and the Bureau team manages all data and information exchanged between credit bureaus and Capital One.  For my daily work, I was placed within the Customer Management team and collaborated on two related projects- (Onescore2 and Challenger Model).

The internship:

Onescore2 project involved creating machine learning models to manage the behaviour of existing credit card customers. I worked together with my manager to build models to predict customers likely to default on their cards over a defined period of time.  We used R (a statistical programming software) as the main tool for the project. The specific activities assigned to me on the project involved creating the R program files for executing the models, monitoring the progress of the models’ execution, collecting and interpreting model results, and updating the GitHub repository with project outputs. The previous knowledge and skills acquired from the Data Modelling and Analysis course in year two of my PhD helped me understand the technical details involved in the analysis and to carry out my assigned duties effectively on the project.

The second part of this project is the Challenger Model project and it involved building different models in Python to compare their performance with Onescore2.  The project was an exploratory study of different conventional models in predicting the likelihood of default. The Challenger Model project serves as a baseline to compare with results from my PhD work, which potentially could form part of my PhD thesis. As this phase of the project is linked to my PhD work, I benefitted from the guidance and input of my supervisor.  While working on the Challenger Models, I held periodic meetings with my manager, supervisors and other members of the Data Science team where I presented on progress and discussed possible directions for the project.  I also took part in weekly stand-up sessions where all associates within the Data Science team shared updates on ongoing projects.

My reflections:

Looking back on my internship, overall the experience has been insightful, an exciting journey and a time of personal development.  I have grown and evolved in several areas in terms of interpersonal and professional skills.

Upon arrival in the first week of the internship, my manager was deliberate to arrange informal meetings and chat sessions with other members of the Data science team.  These introductions and chats exposed me to a range of people in various roles and at different levels of leadership in the team. It helped to quickly integrate into the team to create new connections and meet new people. Despite being naturally reserved, I enjoyed the conversations much as everyone was friendly. I was encouraged to step out of my shell to interact with more people. During my interactions, I seized the opportunity to ask all the lingering questions I had on the topic of credit scoring which is also at the heart of my PhD research. Each person was friendly and particularly eager to answer all my questions and chat about the work they do.

Apart from the Data Science team, I had the chance to speak with other associates in other departments of the company and that experience was reassuring and enhanced my confidence at the workplace. I got first-hand experience in mixing with different people from different backgrounds in an office setting and learning to blend with them.   The conversations in the first couple of weeks opened up my understanding more on the details of credit scoring and credit cards. I got more understanding of how the different teams work together to make credit cards available to people and how customers are managed and credit lines extended. I had the opportunity to join major meetings and to hear updates on projects being worked on within the different departments of the organisation. This also gave me a wider view of other aspects of the business.    I was able to connect how the theory of credit scoring I had read in books and research articles played out practically in the real world through this experience.

During my internship, I worked both from home and the office.  Every week during the first few months, I worked three days at home and two days in the office.  I found commuting to work on time a discipline to develop as this was my very first time working outside of industry. Although challenging initially but got easier with time.  The regular catch-ups and progress updates with managers and my supervisor were sometimes strenuous and nerve-wracking, however, it trained my communication and presentation skills.

The work culture in Capital One challenges associates to give their best on the job but at the same time encourages relaxation and places such high priority on wellbeing.  Unlike other work environments, I was surprised to find several fitness and relaxation points like the gym, tennis and pool table strategically placed in the Capital One building to support associates. In addition, during my internship, the company observed a day of fun activities for its associates every quarter of the year just to have a break from work.  This shaped my perceptions about the working environment.

Capital One is the industry partner for my PhD and I was privileged to have access to their data for my PhD work. Through my connections with the team members, I was able to easily recruit participants for my first PhD study which I believe would have been difficult otherwise without the internship.  Overall, I enjoyed the internship and the experience has been beneficial not only for my PhD but for my personal development.