Equipped to Lead and Succeed

Meet Malik Khouma '23

USF Data Science Major

The data science student discusses how he applied the tools he learned at USF to help create a data pipeline at Vacasa.

Malik Khouma

Why USF?
I chose USF primarily for the data science program, the location in the Bay Area, and the faculty-to-student ratio. For such a new field, USF's data science program is very innovative. I believe USF had one of the first data science bachelor's programs in the U.S., which was appealing because it indicated an early commitment to embracing and utilizing data. As someone who wants to enter a technical field, USF's location seemed like a unique opportunity to make connections and immerse myself in the culture of Bay Area tech.

Where are you interning?
This past summer, at the end of my second year, I did a data engineering internship at Vacasa. At Vacasa, I was given a project to create a data pipeline for their customer service call log data. Over the course of the internship, I met with internal stakeholders to determine the requirements for the pipeline, designed it, created documentation for it, and finally, implemented the pipeline into their production environment. The data engineering team has a culture of independent work, with collaboration to ensure everyone has the information they need and that their processes create a smoothly running environment. This means that I was responsible for the project from start to finish. I was one of the few people at Vacasa who worked in-person, along with my manager and another team member. They made the internship truly great, because I could very easily ask them for clarification about a tool, where in their code base I could find examples of something, or anything else I was stuck on.

In my internship, I mostly used tools that I had not experienced before. The tools that I did have experience with were Python and SQL, Python because I have been doing personal projects in Python for a long time, and SQL because I had introductory classes for both my business analytics minor and my data science major. That said, my classes prepared me far beyond just teaching me SQL. The major thing that my professors and classes impressed upon me was the importance of learning how to learn and adapt, rather than rote learning of specific skills.

What have you learned at USF that has applied to your internship?
My classes gave me basic knowledge of the things I would be expected to know and be able to do when I enter the workforce. That kind of academic knowledge is important, but the best way to learn anything is by actually doing it, and my internship gave me some of that very valuable experience. I learned how to apply the tools I knew in a professional setting, how to collaborate with non-technical users, and project management skills that are difficult to teach in the classroom.