My internship at Redfin has been somewhat of an untraditional one. I just finished my PhD in biostatistics this spring, a journey that took six years to complete. I had been in school my whole life, spent many of those years doing research, and had never really tried anything outside of academia. As graduation neared, I started to feel anxious about the next step of my career. Though I was extremely proud of my accomplishment, I couldn’t help but wonder what other options were out there for me. To depart from the biostat world was uncommon for graduates from my department, but something inside me didn’t want to settle for the familiar. I wanted to try something new. I wanted to know what else was out there that might stir up my passion.
I had heard that people with strong quantitative and analytical skills were prime candidates for the relatively new field of “Big Data”, a catchy term for extremely large data sets that cannot be processed and analyzed using traditional database tools. I began to look into companies that did this kind of work, particularly projects in data mining and machine learning. Though it was exciting to venture into this new area, it was also quite scary to take the leap because I had dedicated so much time to biostatistics. I decided to go talk to a career counselor about my plan, who then recommended that I attend the Harvard Startup Career Fair. This is where I stumbled across Redfin. I had actually heard of Redfin before because I had a friend in college who worked here in 2005 when the company was truly just starting up and only consisted of a handful of people. Time has passed by quickly, and it is incredible to see what Redfin has become today.
Today, Redfin is an exciting place to be. Everyone here is incredibly dedicated to their work, and the energy in the office is both invigorating and motivating. I admire the company for having good values and sticking to them. Everyone knows each other and there are abundant opportunities to work on different project both within teams and across teams. Also, the people on the analytics team are some of the nicest people I have ever met, and I genuinely appreciate their support, encouragement, and willingness to help.
The experience has allowed me to learn many of the skills I wanted to learn. I came in not knowing python, SQL, or hadoop/hive, and now I am proficient in all these tools. I completed two text mining projects and also got to dig into some session analyses and retention behavior of users coming to Redfin from Google and Facebook. It’s been quite interesting watching the big data platform being built and grow; I am sure that the data science group will grow in no time too. It’s been great learning some of the basics of how a business is run and seeing first-hand how data-driven analyses drive change in a business. I have also learned a ton about the real estate business, which I am sure will come in handy when I buy a house!
I wonder if I’ve been spoiled this summer with all the delicious lunches, a super nice work environment, and a spectacular view of the Seattle waterfront. The bar has certainly been set high!