Unleashing the Power of the Social Sciences

Lihn Nguyen, a person with light brown skin, long dark hair and glasses, smiling

Linh Nguyen, a fifth-year graduate student majoring in psychology and statistics, completed a 12-week internship at Allianz this summer. This experience not only allowed Nguyen to experience the day-to-day work of a data scientist in a corporate setting but also gave her a newfound appreciation for the unique skill sets that are cultivated in a strong social sciences program.

What were your job responsibilities? 

I worked as a data science intern this summer at the Data & Analytics Center of Excellence at Allianz Life in the life insurance and annuities industry. The team provides data science solutions to internal business units across the company. For the summer, I was tasked with three different projects that spanned operations, human resources, and sales.

I worked on outlining the analytic strategy, building machine learning models, and deploying and maintaining a model in production to be used by other business units. I attended regular meetings both with business stakeholders and other team members. The team was highly collaborative and we often had paired programming as well as code sharing and review tasks. I found that my education prepared me well with the technical skills needed for the job. However, there was still a lot of room for developing soft skills, including stakeholder management, business understanding, and presentation. 

It was a great learning experience to try to explain a complex statistical model to the business team. The most interesting thing from this internship was how open everyone was to connecting and sharing their experiences within the company. During my first few weeks, I had a couple dozen “step-in” meetings where I learned how a variety of different roles function, ranging from people within my team up to the C-suite (executive level). Their internship cohort is also highly structured and promotes networking and professional development. Given my memorable experience, I would highly recommend an internship at Allianz to other students.

How did you find your internship? What tips do you have for others seeking similar opportunities?

I used Handshake, LinkedIn, and Indeed extensively during my job search, but this internship position was shared with my department by the hiring manager. Networking did not help me directly but it was still extremely valuable because I learned a lot of helpful information from conversations with those who recently went through the same process. Tips and information came up naturally during these exchanges.

One thing I wish I’d realized beforehand was that my background in social science research is a unique strength in itself and to therefore talk about it as a strength instead of a weakness when transitioning into a technical industry role. I think we often have the mindset that we are “pivoting” into a different area and thus have to try to fit into a different mold. In reality, our unique skill sets are extremely relevant to many positions (even if this is not apparent in job postings), and it is a disservice not to highlight them. 

For instance, in my field of data science, there is often a push to compare yourself to people with a software engineering or computer science background. However, a successful data scientist employs many of the research, analytical, and even teaching skills that are uniquely developed in Psychology’s PhD program, and my team was extremely welcoming and appreciative of my different perspective.

What are your top takeaways from your internship experience? How has it helped inform your plans?

I thoroughly enjoyed my internship experience. It not only provided me with a learning opportunity but also with clarity on my career path. The experience confirmed my interest in a data science role within the financial sector. It has also confirmed that I enjoy a business-facing role where I can practice effective scientific communication. I am continuing with Allianz part-time during my fifth year as I wrap up my dissertation and have accepted a return offer for a full-time position after graduation. 

Linh Nguyen received the Heritage Dissertation Research Award from The Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) and the 2022-23 Summer Graduate Research Grant from Psi Chi, The International Honor Society in Psychology. Learn more about Nguyen’s awards.

This story was edited by an undergraduate student in CLA

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