An Inside Look at DISCO's Summer Internship Program

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During this unusual summer, DISCO brought three interns on board — virtually, that is. Though DISCO established an internship program three years ago (our first intern Julio still works for DISCO!), the global pandemic meant major shifts for this year’s cohort. Still, our interns were able to accomplish quite a bit during their time at DISCO, from learning new systems to meeting with executives to mastering the art of GIF reactions. Here, they share their experience and what they learned in the process.

DISCO generally hires interns each summer, although we are always looking for top talent. Check out our current openings here

Matt (UT Austin, Class of 2020)
Business Intelligence Analyst Intern 

I wanted to challenge myself this summer. Though my field of study is engineering, I felt a job in finance would diversify my skill set, as I hope to create my own tech startup someday. 

Working for a company with such high revenue, I was expecting to be forgotten and given little freedom on small, boring projects. However, my expectations were completely reversed when meeting my business intelligence team. I spent most of the summer growing the immense database of firms within DISCO’s system and providing relevant data on the most prominent companies in the world of law. 

My manager was James Mills, an analyst with a passion for data. James has a massive amount of knowledge and he showed me clever workarounds to seemingly insurmountable problems with my scrapers. 

I had never used some of the programs and supporting software, so it was hard to get to the speed of my coworkers. However, by the end of the internship, I had several new skills on my LinkedIn profile —  including finally understanding RegEx, a text parsing programming language. Although complicated at first, I was able to learn from examples of my peers and managers and teach myself this new language. 

My favorite project was optimizing a web scraping process. As a team, we built a template file, reducing every website to its commonalities and seeing through the flashy CSS to the core data. Building this template nearly doubled our workflow for building web scrapers. I got the idea for the template from a mistake when I forgot to restart my file — which shows you can always learn from your mistakes! 

DISCO taught me that companies have real people behind them. I was able to see the people behind the curtain making the decisions of DISCO — for example, during my internship, I met with our director of business intelligence to discuss how my work could be used in the broader scope of the product. I enjoyed hearing about the department goals at our biweekly meetings, seeing the relationships built between seasoned employees, and truly getting a look into the clockwork that makes DISCO tick.  

James (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Class of 2023)
IT Intern

When deciding what jobs I apply to, I have two main criteria. The first is seeing if I can grow technically as well as professionally, and the second factor is purpose. There are plenty of profitable companies, but I’ve decided I only want to work for companies where I know I’m making an impact for good. DISCO stood out in this regard.

Working at DISCO has been really fun. My team included me as soon as I joined and I was able to get a lot of hands-on training. The hardest thing for me was getting familiar with the various tools and systems IT uses day-to-day. However, I made sure to pay close attention when shadowing others on my team. 

My manager, Ellen DeVries, is great! She’s always available to answer my questions, but she also gives me enough freedom to poke around things and learn at my own pace. She took the time to identify projects that let me learn and have an impact within the company, which is a great change from the busywork interns usually get at other companies.

Because of the pandemic, this experience has been very different from internships I’ve had in the past. It can be difficult troubleshooting with a user remotely especially when neither of us know exactly what’s wrong, but I’ve been able to adjust pretty quickly and now can proudly say I’ve added remote support to my list of skills.

I’ve been able to meet new people around DISCO through DISCO Donut (a program that randomly matches people in the company for short coffee meetings) and different Zoom meetings. I recently had a great conversation with Zack Price, our principal site reliability engineer, about creating stable sites and managing cybersecurity for businesses today. 

One of my favorite projects was making documentation videos for user education. I had never done it before and honestly wasn’t so sure about how to start. But I found my rhythm pretty quickly and realized I enjoy teaching people how to solve basic technology problems on their own. I also worked on a team to optimize the onboarding process for our managed review teams. That was my first time working on a professional project that spanned weeks and worked directly with a team besides my own to achieve a larger goal.

Overall, DISCO has been a great place to work!

Erin (UT Austin, Class of 2020)
Business Intelligence Analyst Intern

I applied for the Business Intelligence Analyst Intern position in late June after my initial offer for a summer internship was rescinded due to pressures from COVID-19. As soon as I saw the listing, I knew this role was a perfect fit: a mix of business, marketing, and computer science experience.

I was promised exposure to the business as well as variety of data science structures, and this position sure did deliver. I have grown confident in my skills in this niche and witnessed firsthand the power, capability, and limits of data science. Interacting with legacy software like Visual Web Ripper, adding to and managing SQL databases, fine-tuning data with Regex, and scripting with Python to build cleaners have placed me within every strata of the project and provided a comprehensive, satisfying view of my work and its impact.

My manager, James Mills, is a data science superhero, a great manager, and a master of Slack GIF reactions. We talked extensively on the power of data and how the skills learned in this role can apply to personal projects. James is so good at what he does and has the passion to back it up, which is a combination suitable for praise by a :chefskiss:

My favorite project is the one I worked on pretty much the whole summer. It’s quite a behemoth to build out a database, but when it is done, it’s so worth the wait.

The most challenging part of my internship is being away from the office. I’ve met some fantastic people through the DISCO Donut program (and I’ve learned that you should set your monitor background to something neutral, otherwise the lighting will make you look like a Smurf). Meeting others brings to light the bigger picture of how the work you’re doing creates value for not only your department, but the company as a whole. Seeing where your skills and ideas can apply in other places around the company adds tremendous value on both ends. Plus it’s nice to chat casually at work every once in a while.

From my internship, I’ve learned the power of data and the effort it takes to manage it, as well as the intrinsic value of doing so. 

What advice do our former interns have for those seeking an internship at DISCO?

Matt: No matter what field you end up working in at DISCO, I would advise you to try to revolutionize their current method, even if it’s something small. You can be the spark that ignites change toward a better future for your company, and learn valuable skills doing it! 

James: Hit the ground running and don’t be afraid to fail. Ask to be included on projects, tasks, or meetings that you’re interested in — I’ve found that the quickest way to learn is to get involved in as many projects as you can. Go outside your comfort zone — for me that was having a Zoom call with a user and troubleshooting a system I was relatively new to. Even if you mess up, there will be someone on your team to help fix it and to help you learn. 

Erin: Ask lots of questions! The limit to where you can go in DISCO is where you take yourself. Take note of your interests and ask to get involved. There is space on every team and helping hands abound for you to develop your skills and add value in your own way. Discovians are some of the kindest people around and will answer any question with patience, precision, and encouragement. DISCO is a super-super-super (and I mean every super) cool company that plans on being here for the long haul and wants to take you with them. Take advantage of that.

This article was written by the Matt, James, and Erin, though responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

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Erin Russell

Erin Russell is the senior communications manager at DISCO. She has extensive experience covering tech and AI as a journalist and editor, and her bylines include Texas Monthly, Eater, and Austin Business Journal.