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Ask an Intern with Michael Celentano (Geopulse Audience Team, Summer 2015)

This post is part of a series of Q&A’s with former Factual interns. Read more here.

Name: Michael Celentano
School: Stanford University
Major: Electrical Engineering
Hometown: Irvington, NY

What made you decide on an internship at Factual?
I had heard great things about the willingness to tackle very challenging data problems. I wanted to work at a company that would give me the flexibility to be creative and not pigeonhole me on a project I didn’t find interesting.

Which team did you intern with? Tell us about working with your team.
I interned on the Geopulse Audience team. My mentor struck the right balance between giving me guidance and independence. I had the freedom to take my project in the direction I felt was most promising while also receiving feedback and ideas from those around me. The Audience team has a lot of data and a lot of open-ended and interesting ideas for how to improve the way they analyze that data. I was able to delve deep on one problem and also know that if I wanted to there were many other projects I could work on!

How did your experience working at Factual compare to your expectations going in?
I was surprised by how friendly and welcoming everyone at Factual was. People work very hard, but there is also plenty of time for fun! Everyone was really excited to have the interns in the office for the summer and made an effort to get to know us and help us get to know the company.

Share a favorite experience from your time in Los Angeles
Factual Beach Day was a lot of fun. We got brunch on the beach and throughout the day we played volleyball and ultimate frisbee, I took a surf lesson, and we participated in the first annual Factual sandcastle-building competition. It was a great way to spend the day!

Tell us what projects you worked on over the summer at Factual.
Factual has a lot of data on how people move around cities, and there are all kinds of interesting things you could imagine doing with such a data set. My project focused on examining if and how we could improve Factual’s Geopulse Proximity product by examining the movement of devices between nearby places. The opportunity to get my hands dirty with a data set which you would probably not be able to come across anywhere else was really exciting. I was given free reign over figuring out how best to glean insight from this data and was able to see the project through from its inception to the implementation of pipelines which were nearing product-readiness.

What new skills or technologies did you learn over the summer?
The most useful skill I picked up was learning Spark and more generally gaining an appreciation of implementing big data algorithms in a distributed way. In big data, so much of your time is inevitably spent not just on algorithms and statistics, but on getting your code to not crash! This summer I gained a much deeper facility with the implementation details of big data problems. The Hackathon1 was a great opportunity to work with people at Factual outside of my team. We worked on an analysis problem which would detect holes in Factual’s Global Places data-set.

If you have any questions or are interested in being an intern here, please drop us a line at recruiting@factual.com.

Notes:
1. Each summer, Factual hosts an internal hackathon where everyone spends a few days working in teams (or individually) on projects they have been thinking about but maybe not had time to do otherwise - from making new internal tools to fun short videos.

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