My fellow Princeterns and I arrived at Spry Incorporated not quite sure what to expect from our three day stay. We had read the materials the company had sent us and we had combed through its website, but what Spry actually did was still not quite clear. However, once we met Spry CEO Brooke Stevenson ‘01, the Princeton alum who brought us out to Maryland, she showed us around the office and fully elucidated the company’s field of work. Spry endeavors to allow client companies and corporations to easily search their data by connecting their individual databases that are often disjointed and inflexible. As she duly noted, scattered data precludes any attempts at a thorough analysis, preventing a company from making important and pivotal decisions in this fast-paced world that waits for no one. At the heart of their approach is the use of ontologies to organize the data. This kind of semantic architecture emphasizes the relationships between information, making it easier to query for the desired answers. An equally important aspect of Spry is their agile approach to development. Instead of the traditional waterfall approach where a company releases a single end-product after completing development, Spry espouses an agile scheme that allows them to not only quickly turn over a working intermediate product, but also show clients realized value. The incremental releases allow Spry to easily meet the ever-changing needs of its clients.
We quickly realized that this Princeternship was not going to be the typical shadowing opportunity. Instead, it was going to be much better. Usually, it seems that those who shadow are given tasks that are either menial or boring, but Spry was going to give us a crash course on semantic and query languages so that we could develop a solution to an existing problem. This was both exciting and refreshing; we were tackling an issue that no one else had ever solved. After learning Turtle (Terse RDF Triple Language) to write ontologies and SPARQL (SPARQL Protocol and RDF Query Language) to write queries, we wrote a user-customizable query creator in MDQO (Model Drive Query Ontology) that Spry will continue to improve.
Spry Incorporated has a casual dress code that many tech startups often have, but it also has a lively and enjoyable atmosphere that may not necessarily reside in companies of any size. The employees feel comfortable bouncing ideas around daily progress off their coworkers, regardless of their seniority at the company. Spry thrives on this mutual assistance attitude that naturally manifests itself.
This Princeternship let me explore the new and constantly-changing field of analytics. Perhaps the most profound discovery was that this sort of job exists. It is filling a much-needed role in the relentlessly-expanding global data paradigm. The most valuable knowledge I gained is that, according to many of the employees with whom we spoke, learning how to learn in college is the most important thing to take away from those four years. Although the actual material of academic courses is definitely important, the ability to problem-solve proved to be the most helpful skill from college in their daily projects.
I would like to thank Brooke, Meg, Christina, and the rest of the Spry team for their immense help and support during the Princeternship. They really made the three days stimulating and pleasant. I would definitely recommend this Princeternship to other students, because I gained valuable insight into my future plans. This experience has encouraged me to consider analytics as a possible career path. For that, I am also grateful to Career Services for offering this program.