Athena Pathways Internship at MetaOptima

As part of the Athena Pathways initiative to enroll 500 more women into artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, and various other technology roles, MetaOptima provided an internship for Aliya Mohamed. We had a chance to connect with Aliya and hear about this highly interesting and formative experience for her.

Q: How did you enjoy your internship experience?

A: The amount of responsibility and variety of the tasks that I worked on made my internship extremely valuable and enjoyable. I had no idea I would be given so much respect and ownership despite my lack of previous experience and so much room to try things out and grow. Over the 8 months that I was with MetaOptima, I got to work on so many different features of MetaOptima’s DermSync Integration software and felt like an important member of the team. I enjoyed the many meetings and fun events at the office and most of all the supportive team environment that I got to be a part of.

Q: Did this internship help set you up for the next steps in your career path?

A: It definitely did! This internship has opened my eyes to so many different opportunities and roles that exist with a computer science degree as well as the diversity of tasks and people that are involved in producing good software. I think it’s made me more open-minded and comfortable with reading job applications and not being overwhelmed or feeling like it would take years and years to learn how to use some technologies — now I feel confident that I can indeed pick up new skills quickly.

Q: What was the best part of the internship and what did you learn?

A: The best part of my internship was being able to work with the other two members of the system integration team. These other two women became not only my mentors but also very supportive friends. I loved getting to learn from them and also appreciated their encouragement, support, and friendship.I gained a lot of technical skills and also non-technical skills in this position. Technical skills included: experience with working with SQL Server Manager and writing SQL queries, with wxpython and UI in client-oriented software, as well as computer science concepts like threading and sockets, data structures in python, navigating and working with a large codebase and of course improved debugging skills. Non-technical skills included: writing documentation, using Jira/Confluence and other Atlassian tools, presenting progress during stand-up meetings, learning how to work effectively with many developers on the same codebase and how to explain and communicate code changes.

Q: Did the internship provide you with any insights that you hadn’t anticipated? Was there anything surprising that happened that turned out to be a happy surprise?

A: I think one thing that surprised me was how much I was able to feel like a normal full-time employee and how much I liked showing up for work every day so much that on many days I honestly did not want to leave! Something that truly surprised me was how much I came to love my team and I think a cool story I want to share is having to do with my relationship with my other team members and especially my direct supervisor who is a woman in technology with a well-established career. Of course, I was at the beginning quite intimidated by my supervisor and her amazing coding skills and vast amount of knowledge being a part of the company for so many years. But I think a cool story about us is that a couple of weeks in when I was talking about wanting to use the gym in the building, somehow I started regularly going to the gym with my supervisor and another woman on our team. This was surprising to me since I haven’t had this type of a friendship with any previous work supervisors like this before where we did things outside of work together!

Q: Athena Pathways seeks to address gender imbalance in AI, can you share any particular story or experience you had during your internship to feature this aspect?

A: It was very important to my experience that on my team, women of colour like me were represented on the tech team and everyone was treated as equals. I felt so comfortable talking with people I was working with and comfortable doing my job and asking for help when I needed it. I think having that diversity and feeling like I belonged in this way was very empowering and made me feel especially confident to participate and get the most out of my internship.

Have you had a great experience at your tech industry internship? Let us know and we will share your story!

Athena Pathways is a project aimed to help enroll 500 more women into various tech roles to address the gender imbalance that currently exists