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Smart Data Foundry's interns reflect on their experience with us

AUGUST 2022

by Georgina McNamara

An exciting introduction to FinTech

It’s safe to say that working at Smart Data Foundry this summer was decidedly out of my comfort zone. I’ve always been a devoted member of the humanities squad (our degrees ARE challenging, and I won’t hear anything different, STEM naysayers) and I instantly doubted whether my literature-loving brain could cope with the work of a FinTech start-up. Although my internship was in marketing, a popular choice of field for English Literature students like myself, I knew that if I were to engage with our target audience effectively, I would have to learn more about data science and financial services, a field I had always intentionally shied away from. And yet, despite these initial fears, this summer has been the most rewarding and enjoyable I’ve had since coming to Edinburgh in 2019.  

Within my first month, the stereotype that menial, grueling tasks were reserved for the intern cohort was thoroughly debunked. I really felt like the work I was given by my Line Manager was valuable to both her and Smart Data Foundry, whilst also developing my own skillset. Throughout my three months, I was heavily involved in producing content on social media that advertised our work, with my managers even being receptive to myself and another intern, Asya Fazrary, launching an Instagram account, @smartdatafoundry. We both wanted to showcase the role young talent played in fintech start-ups, whilst challenging the stereotype that work in financial services was stressful and driven more by profit rather than ‘doing good’. Obviously, as with any job, there were times when I or the other interns felt anxious about a project – but we also had a lot of fun too! Asya, who worked as a Talent Proposition Intern, praised the “flexible work environment,” which allowed us to dictate our schedule, so long as we got our tasks done on time. This, she said, offered “the perfect, first in-person office experience,” which went a long way towards challenging her expectation that working in financial services would be akin to becoming the “corporate slave” finance workers are often stereotyped as. 

Creativity and collaboration across departments

There were also opportunities to be creative in ways I hadn’t expected. I have always loved writing and editorial work, so my line manager ensured that tasks of this nature were often passed over to me. This was an extremely productive way for me to both develop my established skillset and learn gradually about fintech through proofreading and editing company documents, circumventing my fear that the industry would be inaccessible to me. I also realised, as I got to know my fellow interns, that all of us were coming into our roles from totally different fields of expertise, none of which related exclusively to data science. Once I knew this, I could appreciate that we weren’t employed because we were presumed to hold a wealth of knowledge on fintech. Rather, Smart Data Foundry hired us because we could each bring our own unique perspective to the table, something that is extremely valuable to a company trying to do social good.  

These differing perspectives were especially useful when we were doing collaborative work, which contributed to the wonderful office environment we experienced; getting to liaise with such friendly people on a day-to-day basis, and the mutual satisfaction and joy we felt when we completed a project together, really helped to make my experience as happy as it was. It was also a great way to see what different sectors of the company were doing. Seren Limb, who worked as a Project Delivery Intern, said: 

One of the best things about my internship with Smart Data Foundry was the opportunity to learn about activities in the company outside of my immediate remit. There are a number of projects and activities across the company dealing with diverse themes, from synthetic data, to net zero emissions, to poverty. As an intern, I was given the opportunity to learn about and get involved in projects that interest me, and the open culture in the office made me feel comfortable approaching any member of the team to chat about their projects and interests.

Her work in Project Delivery did indeed lead to Seren working on an array of different projects with her fellow interns: she assisted Chen Chen Zha, a Social Impact intern, on a review of literature that details the Poverty Premium. This is one of Smart Data Foundry’s key areas of focus, with Chen Chen and Seren’s work involving making edits to include newer research on the issue and expanding the scope of the areas of research that the review covers. This project of Chen Chen and Seren’s was featured in Asya’s FinTech 101 workshop, which aimed to clarify the more confusing aspects of FinTech for those who are new to the industry (much like Smart Data Foundry’s interns in our first week!). Hosted at the end of the internship scheme, this workshop was a wonderful way for the interns to collaborate on one final project, showcasing how each of our newly developed skills can be used across different sectors of the company. 

I think I speak for every intern this year when I say that working with Smart Data Foundry has been a complete joy. I am sad to leave, yet I go armed with a wealth of experience that I am excited to utilise in my career going forward. 

To catch up on the work the interns did this summer (along with all the fun they had!) take a look at their Instagram page, @smartdatafoundry.