Big data co-op experience at Pythian

Posted in: Pythian Life


I joined Pythian as a Big Data co-op for duration of 4 months. At the time I joined, I had only heard of Big Data as a buzzword in the technical community. So when I was selected for the job I was quite nervous and at the same time very excited and eager to learn.

During my first 2 weeks, I attended BORG sessions with department heads to learn about all departments and how company is run. My favourite one was the session with CEO Paul Vallée where he talked about how he started the company in his basement and his vision for the future. I was repeatedly hearing “Pythian hires the top 5% talent in the industry”, which was intimidating thinking that I’m surrounded by brilliant people and I didn’t know much. However, that feeling didn’t last very long once I got to know my coworkers. Everyone at Pythian is very helpful and there are several mediums for knowledge transfer among employees. Pythian is constantly hiring so if you think you’re new and feel hesitant at first, remember there will be someone newer than you in 2 weeks or less.

Some of the exciting events I encountered during my work-term included the Pythian days, Quarterly all hands meeting, Pythian Future Leaders session for career growth, the holiday party and of course the headquarter move from St-Laurent to Westboro. I also enjoyed the weekly Pythianology sessions which are a great way to learn about best practices for dealing with data.

Being part of the Big Data team, I had to learn to work in a distributed environment. I worked from the Ottawa headquarters while my team members worked remotely from other cities in Canada and worldwide. This is undoubtedly one of the most important skills I learned during my time at Pythian.

Coming to an end of my work-term, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in Big Data and ready to deal with customers just yet, but I sure learned the type of challenges that customers face. I like to tackle problems on my own, so I strived to get things running with help from Google, Stackoverflow and the Pythian blog before I asked team members for help. Every now and then I would hit a roadblock in which case my team members would guide me in the right direction. An important lesson I learned is that theoretical knowledge is just as important as practical knowledge. As a programmer, I had trained myself to learn by practice so I wanted to get started with my project as quickly as I could. In doing so I skipped over some of the reading I should have focused on. Due to this I struggled with errors that could have been avoided and saved me a lot of time. In my experience, dealing with Big Data technologies is very different from programming (at least, at first). Before you can get to the programming stage, you need to deal with A LOT OF configurations. I’m happy to say that I not only learned about technologies directly related to Big Data like hadoop, MapReduce, Hive, Oozie, Hue, CDH etc. but learned a lot more. In the last 4 months I have dealt with at least 4 flavours of Operating Systems including Windows 7, windows 10, Ubuntu and CentOs. I have worked with Virtual Machines running locally on my system and Virtual machines running on the cloud. I worked mostly on Google Cloud but at some point for a brief period of time explored Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure services. I also played around with docker images which I found to be pretty cool and plan to keep using them in future.

I confess that if I had explored Big Data technologies on my own time, I would have given up very early on, but being at Pythian allowed me to stay committed to achieving my goal. I was allowed to learn at my own pace while experimenting and failing repeatedly. I got help from my team members when needed, which helped me to achieve my goal for the work-term. Being new to Big Data can be overwhelming seeing how fast the field is growing and hearing about the large variety of technologies there are. An important piece of advice I received is to not try and learn too much at once but take one technology at a time and understand it well. Having gotten this far, I’m motivated to dive in deeper and to explore things further to improve my skills.

I highly recommend students to join Pythian for coop terms for a chance to learn from industry leaders worldwide. At Pythian you will not be treated as an intern but as a full-time employee.  You will gain knowledge about technologies that are not covered in school. You will get an opportunity to not only learn technologies relevant to your area of interest, but develop transferable skills which will be beneficial in several fields.



Interested in working for Pythian? Check out our open positions.

About the Author

Zunaira is a software developer enrolled in a Masters in Computer Science program. Within the last year, she gained experience working as a Jr. C# developer working on automated testing and as a Big Data intern working with technologies like hadoop, hive, oozie, docker etc. Zunaira's interests include using NLP to find answers to real world problems and developing automation tools.

2 Comments. Leave new

Awesome post Zunaira! Thank you.


Very impressive Zunaira. Wish you all the best for your future


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