Lirong Ma ’19 Interns with DFSY Internet Sales Startup in Urumqi, China

My name is Lirong Ma, and I just graduated from Skidmore College this May with a double major in economics and mathematics and a minor in computer science. In my coursework, I was introduced to different methods for gaining meaningful insights from large datasets through statistical software and programming. The experience ignited my passion for analytical thinking and data science. I looked for internship opportunities in this area and got the opportunity to work for DFSY Internet Sales Company in China this summer, a start-up that aims at helping business owners to manage their business online, mainly on two Chinese major platforms Taobao and JD.

The goal of DFSY is to help clients in realizing their mission by managing their sales channel through strategic guidance, search engine optimization, running Taobao or JD Advertising, and managerial reporting. DFSY helped 14 firms to achieve more than 100% year-on-year revenue growth last year.

My main responsibilities were to analyze large datasets containing detailed transaction information using statistical techniques ranging from classical modeling to machine learning and artificial intelligence to help business decision making. Moreover, I designed methodologies that can be automated in production so that it would help the firms increase efficiency when dealing with the same kind of decisions. Besides using various techniques to analyze data, I also presented my research findings to colleagues and clients in both technical and nontechnical ways.

Through this internship, I realized a real-world project was much more complicated than working with datasets given to practice skills learned in class. I especially valued this opportunity, where I made the theoretical knowledge operational in realistic settings. Moreover, this internship at a start-up was different from my previous internships in big tech companies where I only focused on one part of a project. At DFSY, I was able to participate in all phases throughout a data science project, from business understanding all the way to model deployment.

The process of solving real-world problems fascinated me: asking questions, analyzing data, building models, interpreting results, and implementing solutions. This was what drove me to major in economics and mathematics and minor in computer science at Skidmore and to continue pursuing graduate studies in this area. The experience of working with large and complicated datasets of firms in various industries in this internship helped me move toward my career goal – applying data science methods to real-world business situations and turning data into actionable insights as a data scientist at a tech company, which has a massive amount of data at fingertips.

I really enjoyed my summer internship. The internship was a great way to gain experience and help me develop concrete ideas of my career path. Besides experiencing the pressure working at a fast-growing start-up, I also got the chance to apply what I learned in class to help small business owners in my hometown. Therefore, I want to thank CDC and donors for motivating me to engage in an unpaid internship that makes a significant difference in my career path. This great summer internship would be impossible without their support.

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