Intern to Employee: How I Found My Full-Time Fit

Last fall, I took the opportunity to join Punchh as a data science intern. Fast-forward a short 6 months later, I am now a full-time Junior Data Scientist with the company. Through my internship experience, I found that I enjoyed the tech industry and the work being done at Punchh. However, this is not where I had always seen my career going.

While I was getting my Master’s in Financial Engineering (MFE) at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, I realized that the financial industry was not fit for me. The long hours, high stress, and cut-throat competition was not the lifestyle I wanted to commit to. I decided to continue with the program and pursue the MFE’s data science path with the intention of applying it to the non-finance industry. During the required three-month internship period of the program, I applied to Punchh and was the only person in my class to be in a non-finance related internship.

During my internship, I worked on a project called “Enrich Persona.” In this project, I modelled the temporal spending patterns of cold customers. I predicted what time of day (breakfast, lunch, or dinner) and what day of the week (weekend or weekday) the new customer would most likely visit the business. This would allow brands to target these customers with relevant notifications and campaigns without causing early customer fatigue and unsubscribes.

The most interesting thing I learned was how different it was to get and clean data as compared to data we get from classes and Kaggle competitions. I also learned about how much teamwork and collaboration is needed for any project to get done, as opposed to schoolwork where you work independently.

Punchh wasn’t the only company I interned with, but after graduation, when I had to decide where I wanted to start my career as a full-time employee, Punchh was the obvious choice. Compared to other places I’ve worked, the environment at Punchh is the best I have ever experienced. Everybody is friendly and very easy to talk to, there are no hierarchies blocking my way to convey my messages, and everybody treats each other as equals. My projects are also enjoyable; they are fulfilling and have significant meaning.

As a full-time Punchh employee, I have the opportunity to work on larger and more challenging projects. I am currently working on a tool called Predictive Customer Lifetime Value to predict a customer’s monetary value, their lapse probability, and their next purchase size. Since this project is no longer focused on cold customers, I now have a much larger dataset to work with, which is a new challenge in terms of speed and scalability.

In the future, I look forward to learning more about this industry in general, as I am still new to the field. I see Punchh creating innovative technologies that no other company in this industry has even thought of and I can see our data technology becoming one of the main motives for a client to sign with Punchh.

My biggest piece of advice to people getting into this field is to not be afraid of learning new technologies from scratch. The tech world is always evolving and everybody constantly needs to adapt. Don’t be afraid of “starting behind” because, odds are, something completely new is coming out this year.

Darren Lieu is a Junior Data Scientist at Punchh focusing on making models to predict customer behavior and creating a journey to turn them from a new customer to a lifetime loyal customer. He graduated from UC Irvine where he triple majored in financial math, quantitative economics, and computer science. He later received his Masters in Financial Engineering from UC Berkeley, and decided to pursue the technology industry. In his free time, Darren likes to enter competitive video game tournaments, specifically, Super Smash Bros. Melee.