An intern’s experience at Aquarius Population Health

Ed Collins, Summer Intern
Ed Collins, Summer Intern

When I started hunting for internships towards the end of the third year of my Computer Science degree, I knew that I wanted to work for a small and growing business. I found Aquarius through the UCL Advances internship scheme that specialises in small to medium sized businesses. Aquarius offered the perfect combination of experiences for me: a way to apply my technical skills while being exposed to the fundamentals of how a growing business was run. My primary task was building an online data portal that the team could use to store and organise their data related to their various projects.

I got to apply my technical skills from the first day. Using software development techniques that I’d learnt on my course, I was able to kick off the project and understand exactly what the Aquarius team needed. Over the course of the internship I then got to work through every stage of the software development process – requirements capture, user interface design, prototyping, building, testing and deployment. I feel that this was something completely unique to Aquarius – it’s unlikely that an intern would get to be the sole manager of a piece of software through every stage of development in a big company.

Following a software engineering project all the way through to deployment was not something I’d done in my course before. There we tended to stop after testing what we’d made, but never had to deal with issues like getting a piece of software online and keeping it secure so that people could actually use it. I’d say that this is the area I learnt most in, where I went from having no idea how to get software online at all at the start of the project to being able to spin up a web server on the Amazon cloud (AWS) and launch a secure web application on it. This is a vital thing to learn if you are going to work in industry.

But technical skills were not all that I improved. Perhaps more importantly, I got to learn a great deal about how to conduct myself in business – whether that was speaking to other companies who we thought could help us develop the data portal or participating in the sales workshop that was organised while I was there. These are not things that you can learn while studying at university and Aquarius exposed me to many different aspects of them.

It also goes without saying that I also learned a lot about the healthcare industry and about various medical topics. One of the things I loved about working with the Aquarius team is that they were all so keen to share their knowledge, and in return were avid listeners to what I shared with them. The sense that people are genuinely interested in what you have to say was the most welcoming thing about Aquarius.

My advice to anyone considering interning at Aquarius from a Computer Science background is to be prepared to work in every stage of software development, not just in the area you enjoy most. A role like this is perfect for anyone considering starting their own business in the future because you will effectively get to take a piece of software from conception to deployment as you would do with your own business.

The working life at Aquarius is wonderfully varied and you will learn about so many different areas of industry, which for me is what made working at Aquarius extremely enjoyable.

Ed Collins, Summer Intern 2016