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An Exellys Intern story: How a taste of ‘company life’ can make an impact

Written by Laure Busschot on 25 November 2019 for Tech Graduates

Exellys matches the finest tech talent with ambitious companies. Not only for recent graduates and young professionals but students as well. Last Summer, 8 motivated students completed an internship at our clients ranging from the Port of Antwerp to Delen Private Bank. We had a quick chat with Atsuki Kojima, an international student from Japan who completed an internship at e-commerce pioneer Veepee in Brussels.

Atsuki Intern story

Hi Atsuki, thanks for taking the time to tell us about your internship. Can you shortly introduce yourself?

My name is Atsuki, I’m 24 years and I am originally from Japan where I studied Political Sciences. I enjoy backpacking and discovering different countries. That’s one of the reasons why I ended up in Belgium, where I’m obtaining a master’s degree in Statistics at the KULeuven. During my studies in Belgium, I completed an 8-week internship as a Data Analyst at VeePee in Brussels.

And how did you get in touch with Exellys or where did you first learn about us?

When I was at an internship fair in Leuven, I met with Laure (Tech Talent Scout at Exellys) and we had a small informal conversation. Exellys already seemed like an attractive option to find an internship because I was too busy with school and projects to look for an internship on my own.

After the fair, I wanted to know a little bit more, so I googled you and read the entire ‘about us’-section. That’s when I realized that Exellys is consciously connecting students with companies, rather than ‘just finding a spot’. I appreciated how convenient it would be in my situation as a busy international student.

“Exellys is consciously connecting students with companies”

Atsuki Intern story

And what were the next steps in this process to find you the perfect internship?

After the first talks with Laure, I took some online tests and was invited by Veepee for a first meeting. The interview was very positive and only took us 15 minutes to feel that there was definitely a match. It was clear what they wanted and what I wanted, so that was quite an efficient job interview if you ask me (laughs).

Well, we like efficiency too! Fast forward to the start of your internships. Can you tell us a bit more about your first days on the job?

Veepee is a big company located in Brussels, so I took the train from Leuven to Brussels. As an international student, this was an extra opportunity to discover more of Belgium, instead of staying in the city center of my student town. I do like a nice change of scenery.

The first day at the job was exciting but I still felt nervous. There was another intern and I felt a little bit insecure, thinking that she might be more competent or knew much more than I did. But luckily, I quickly found my place when I got to work on some projects involving statistics.

Normally, we ask our consultants who go abroad what their experience is with other cultures, but in your case, since you’ve mentioned your ‘discovery of Belgium’, we are interested to know how you are experiencing the Belgian culture?

I would describe it in two words: tough and fun. Fun because I was learning more about statistics and I was able to grow academically and professionally. Tough, because a lot of my team members at school are from different cultures and that sometimes proved to be quite difficult in terms of communication.

Atsuki Intern story

However, I found that I easily adapted to European culture. In Japan, age is really important on a social level. It’s not common to be friends, let alone talk freely to someone who is one year older than you. But in Europe, and in Western culture in general, it is so much easier to become friends with lots of different people. So, my social network expanded a lot.

We’re glad you like it here! Let’s talk some more about the projects at Veepee. What were you working on for those 8 weeks as an intern?

I worked in two different departments: IT and marketing, each for 4 weeks. During my time in the IT department, I mainly worked on adopting the cloud technologies that they use on the one hand and figuring out what kind of information is located where on the other hand. Unlike in school, there wasn’t any documentation available. I also got to work on a new exciting feature at Veepee where I had to analyze and a/b-test different layout implementations on their web shop.

Sometimes, it was more difficult than expected, because translating a task into executing it correctly in the working field, is so different from the outlined projects you are given at school. But I believe this is what made it extra educational for me.

In the marketing department I was responsible for user documentation based on big data. So that Veepee could improve their services. I started by visually inspecting the data and began to wonder if I would be able to predict users’ age based on their behavior on Veepee’s website. I thought age would be a useful feature to segment users. Although I found some interesting correlations, my model was not good enough for prediction. So I eventually discarded my idea and went for another approach.

That’s when I decided to calculate how many times each user bought something from a specific product category within the last year. Since there were a lot of these categories, I first reduced that number by looking at what type of products tend to be bought together.  Then, I merged categories that are ‘similar’ into one which led to reducing the number of categories from 40 to 5. Then I found clusters of users who have similar interests.

Atsuki Intern story

I also calculated at what time they visited the website and found two distinct types of users. This is the second clustering (sub-cluster) based on users’ active hours. This method worked pretty well.

Sounds fascinating! What were the most valuable learnings you picked up during these weeks?

Thanks to this internship, I was fully exposed to a real working environment which gave me, as a student, a first full experience of what it’s like to work in a real-life company setting. It helped made me change my mind on the courses I want to take next semester; instead of more theoretical lessons, I am going to follow more practical courses. Because I experienced first-hand that that is what employers are looking for in an employee.

“The internship gave me, as a student, a first full experience of what it’s like to work in a real-life company setting”

We’re sure this will help you kick off your career when you graduate! Any last words of advice to students who are looking for or starting an internship soon?

I feel that an internship prepares you much more for the real work-life than school will ever do. At school, it’s only about passing your exams and getting good grades. I would advise other interns to remember that it’s more important to do something interesting and useful than to do it completely ‘by the book’.

Wise words to end on. Thank you for your insights Atsuki!

Are you on the lookout for an internship or even a student job in IT, science or engineering? Are you looking for a company where you can show your technical skills and learn from professionals in the field? No getting coffee for your boss, that’s our promise at Exellys.

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Do you also want to get a real taste of what it’s like to take on projects in a real-life company? Or are you interested in what Exellys might have in store for you? Have a look at our website or head over directly to our job page. We’d love to meet you!