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‘Cats in the Loop

This summer I had the opportunity to intern at the CME Group (Chicago Mercantile Exchange) as a data scientist in the Product Marketing department. I have worked there now for more than 7 weeks, and I have been learning and absorbing new knowledge just like a sponge.

Miranda Zhao spends her summer as a data scientist at CME Group.

What’s the view from rising senior Miranda Zhao’s cube? Chicago.

The pilot project consists of 3 parts: cross selling marketing analytics, identification/clustering of customers, and marketing program success, all of which require intensive data extraction, processing, and analysis. I work with 4 other interns, making us a 5-person team, and our home base is a conference room with a big white board and 5 computers. The 4 of them are all NU data analytics master’s students, so that left me as the only undergraduate student coming from an economics background. To be honest, I was a little worried in the beginning: how am I going to work with them given that I know so little about data analytics? I have taken some math and stats classes before, and know some STATA and consumer analytics, but nothing compares to what my colleagues have learned in school. But that worry went away very quickly: they taught me, step by step, how to use Oracle SQL to extract and analyze data, showed me how java language works and what the programming of R entails. It was a little hectic at first, but I was so excited to learn and to be able to use those skills to produce some meaningful results. Having been able to recognize the basics of these programs, I started to teach myself and learn on the go. I also picked up QlikView, a data visualization tool that the company uses to monitor trading information, and I have developed a model for our own analysis.

Maybe it sounds very boring and data heavy, but there are so many aspects of the internship that balance the quantitative with the more intellectually engaging and “fun” parts. Working in a room with 4 other very smart people is probably my favorite. In an environment like this where roles and responsibilities are not defined strictly at the beginning, teamwork and communication are crucial. Every now and then, we have to set targets, delegate tasks, and give input on one another’s work. The room is not nerdy at all, in fact, we have people that bring in Kit Kats every now and then (and they are usually gone by the end of the day), I occasionally bake something to share, and we also share our stories and experiences during lunch time. The whole marketing department knows us because we always do things together.

In addition to the technical stuff, I participated in almost all of the internship events, ranging from tours of the Chicago Board of Trade to see the pit floors to lunch&learn sessions about different departments, and even went to the Blackhawks celebration parade with my colleagues! At the same time, I took the initiative to set up individual meetings or coffee chats to talk to people from various functions within the company to understand what they do and learn how the business operates.

Fun fact: I even used my language skills to identify emails that were sent in Portuguese, Spanish, and Chinese to help analyze the open rate and test on the possibility of sending more targeted emails to specific regions. I was then able to present this finding, among others, to the marketing department, the technology department, and the managing director of the marketing department.

I always wanted to truly grasp the essence of “being independent” and “project ownership” in a real-life setting. This summer experience at the CME Group definitely taught me many aspects of teamwork, taking initiative, and problem solving. While all of these sound generic, the unique part is that the managers we work closely with and the 5 interns in the science room are all Northwestern students/graduates. The room is always filled with purple. Go Cats!

Miranda Zhao is a rising senior from WCAS, studying Economics, Geography, and participating in the Kellogg Undergraduate Certificate in Managerial Analytics. In her spare time when she’s not twiddling her thumbs, she enjoys cooking, and serving food at “Miranda’s Dinner Club.”

About Views from the Cube
Views from the Cube offers an inside look at what it means to be an intern from Northwestern students who are interning across the country and internationally for companies and organizations in all industries. Would you like to share your experience? Please contact careerservices@northwestern.edu.