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Focusing On Data Science With Callaghan Innovation

Callaghan Innovation funds hi-tech New Zealand businesses working on innovative, technology-focused projects in a bid to give companies a boost. Early on, Callaghan Innovation were a key investor in the success of Movio, and have since enabled us to further that success through the funding of their R&D grants, particularly within our Data Science team. Movio is, at its core, a data company, and we’ve invested heavily in data science over the last few years in order to maximize the value we can extract from this data for both our clients and ourselves. As such, it made sense to invest our time and resources into the data science community and give undergraduates the opportunity to put their theory to practice.

We spoke with our most recent data science intern, Montanna Bowyer, on her experience here, and also looked back on the successes of Callaghan Innovation Career Grant recipient, Karthik Subra, and previous intern, Adrian Mendoza.

Where did you hear about the Movio data science internship?

Montanna Bowyer: One of my lecturers knew a few people who worked here already. He circulated an email around about the opportunity, and was very encouraging of us to apply for it.

What tasks and projects have you been working on whilst interning here?

MB:Bryan Smith, the Chief Data Scientist here, has had me trying to predict total box office revenue. In the first few days, I conducted some research to see if anyone had used social media to do so in the past. Quite a few people had, particularly in China on their social media platform WeChat, which is a mix between Twitter and Facebook. They had used status updates to get sentiment and analysis to use the prediction. So, I did that for the first couple of days, and then web scraped a list of 2017 movie releases and downloaded tweets related to those movies. He then got me to do some machine learning, which I'd never done before in my life and was really cool. I also spent some time working on decision trees, another new thing for me! I’ve been learning pretty much everyday I've been here, which has been great.

Which programs have you been working on?

MB: Everything I've done here has been in Python, which I’d never used prior to my time at Movio. The only coding  I'd done was in C++, Matlab, and a little bit of R. So, it was quite different flipping from that into Python.

Python uses a lot of libraries and different things you can work with, so it was initially quite challenging. In the beginning, I was trying to do things the long way, but once Bryan showed me through some of the shortcuts, it all became a lot simpler! It’s quite an intuitive program once you get started, which made it a little bit easier to get through, too.

What have you enjoyed the most about your internship?

MB: I think the thing I've enjoyed the most, is how hands-on the learning has been here. At university, you have a lecture and they talk at you, and there isn’t much practical. Where as here, I get to play around more and try a whole bunch of stuff to see what works and what doesn't. Bryan's been great in the way that he supports me if I need it but, for the most part, he's just let me do my thing and figure it out on my own. Which, has been really nice. It’s a lot better than just listening to someone in a lecture theater!

What are the key skills you’ve developed whilst here?

MB: I think I’ve gained a lot of transferable skills, as opposed to anything too niche. The coding's been great. It’s been really interesting actually analyzing data to understand problems, rather than being presented with a problem, and being forced to provide a solution. It's thinking about how you can reach a solution. That process has been a brilliant learning curve. Plus, Bryan's been really great with that way of thinking. I'll create a model and present my results, and he’ll be very upfront with what’s worked and what hasn’t.

I've loved getting a taste of what it will be like once I've finished university and I’m in the workforce. I've really enjoyed this experience.

Movio and Callaghan Innovation Grant successes

Karthik Subra joined Movio in 2015 as a Data Scientist whilst finishing his PhD in Bioengineering. The Callaghan Grant provided funding for his research into data modelling and algorithm design. Karthik has since completed his PhD, whilst working full time in Movio’s Data Science team. “Callaghan Innovation's grants provide a great opportunity for PhDs to transition into research roles in industry. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year at Movio and have learnt an enormous amount about R&D for product development and innovation.'

Adrian Mendoza was a brilliant addition to the Movio Crew as our 2015/16 intern. “My time at Movio required a lot of learning and effort, but being in such a positive environment with genuinely exciting, intelligent people really took the edge off writing all those lines of code. It also taught me a lot about how ‘big data’ actually works in the real world; the fact that I can finally understand AI descriptions in Sci-Fi movies is just a welcome bonus", says Adrian, who has since gone on to work with accounting software giant, Xero. "I'm using a different system and different tools in my new role, but the research skills I developed at Movio are still very much relevant when solving complex issues."

Keep an eye on our careers page for Data Science opportunities at Movio.

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