Musing About Datamuse: My Internship Experience

I interned at Datamuse as a Research Software Developer from September to December 2022 (my rising junior term). I greatly enjoyed the experience — enough to nominate Datamuse for the University of Waterloo’s employer of the year awards. Below is my testimonial for the student experience at Datamuse.

A job starts with its title, and at Datamuse, I interned as a Research Software Developer. It’s a rare opportunity for undergraduates like myself (the most similar roles I’ve seen are reserved for graduate students and beyond), leading to my heightened expectations for Datamuse. Looking past the superficialities of my label, the internship quickly lived up to its name. By my first month, I had already dabbled with a greater breadth of disciplines than I had in my previous two internships combined. Usually, the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, but defying conventional wisdom, this pattern persisted throughout the term.

I saw Datamuse’s focus on intern growth from Day 1. Straight away, we were presented with contrasting tasks:

  1. a logic-heavy problem in an emerging field (prompt engineering) that tests one’s critical thinking and pattern-recognition skills; and
  2. a creativity-focused project using familiar tools that requires one to consider the product’s big picture.

Immediately, I was met with new disciplines and technologies, but in a situation where I could alternate between disparate tasks to avoid the mental strain of burnout. With freedom on how to learn, I chose to primarily focus on the former. With an emphasis on holistic growth, I was given ample chances to strengthen skills associated with the latter.

By the end of my internship, I had worked with disciplines beyond my current formal education (2B Computer Science): natural language processing, machine learning, and distributed systems — topics introduced in 4th-year computer science courses at the University of Waterloo. Some projects, like my AI-generated table of contents, were at a graduate level complexity, and even the simpler ones presented their own unique challenges and learning opportunities. From reading research papers and extrapolating their ideas to sort words by humour, to designing the architecture for the user-facing component of a word game, to leading projects and teaching co-interns computer science concepts, to participating in fireside chats with industry veterans, I cannot recall another 4-month period of time where I had this many opportunities to develop both professionally and academically.

Alongside my personal fulfillment came the glamourous parts. Around the midpoint of my co-op term, we interns went on a 4-day company-paid trip to New York City. We met each other in person, dined and visited attractions together, and partook in team-building activities — memorable experiences that strengthened our relationships. From the trip, I made new friends, leaving an impact long past its initial duration.

As the ultimate benefit to the student experience, most of the code we interns wrote is non-proprietary, and with the bulk of my time spent working with code, it symbolizes much of my Datamuse experience. Stemming from an extremely rare company policy, we were encouraged to build upon our work post-Datamuse rather than confine these “experiences” within the company, embodying the one word I would use to describe the intern experience at Datamuse: freedom. The freedom to schedule my own working hours; the freedom from daily meetings and prying eyes — the trust from my boss to deliver honest and quality work; the freedom to choose how to learn and what projects to work on; and much more. All together, it achieves the best quality that an internship can offer: an environment where you get what you put in; control over success. With the seemingly endless learning opportunities and a supportive boss, Doug Beeferman, who encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone, I had an environment where I could “learn at will”. As a self-driven individual with an interest in research, Datamuse has given me the perfect co-op term.

This is probably my best written work as of yet; I really tried on this one . I look forward to working with Datamuse in 2023.