This piece was originally published on the Whittaker Associates blog.

By Yang Fu

It has been almost three months since I started my work at Whittaker Associates and it has been an unforgettable experience and fortune in my life. I have learned way more than I expected in many ways. I am so grateful for the opportunity offered by my boss, Dean Whittaker, who has become more like a mentor and friend. As I complete my summer internship, I would like to share some of my experiences.

I always remember the day I came for the interview; my palms were sweaty and although it was a sunny day, I could still feel the cold in Michigan’s early spring. During the interview, Dean shared a lot of insights about applying data science into the real estate industry, which was something that I had never heard from class and raised my interest. He walked me through his business and I had a strong sense that my data science and experience in consulting industry would make a big difference in this area. The conversation was pleasant and meaningful. At the end of the interview, Dean suggested I take a look at the beach. I went to the beach looking at the lighthouse standing there in front of me and had a strong feeling that I was about to work here two months later. When I arrived home, I received the offer from the company for the summer internship and knew it would be a great experience for the company and me.

After a short trip to Mexico, I started working at the Whittaker Associates on June 3rd. On my two hour drive, I was really attracted to the beautiful town of Holland, Michigan. The huge windmills, the building styles, everything is totally different from the places I have ever lived. But what inspired me the most, are Dean’s ideas and his passion. Dean took me and Joe, another intern working for the company this summer, to visit his business partners and instantly, I felt involved in the business and had a better understanding for the company’s mission. I have also received knowledge from a lot of experienced experts at the company and learned things that might never be taught in class. Thanks to these great opportunities, I combined what I had learned from them and the knowledge from class to build several programs for the company and am now working on an algorithm that will greatly benefit our clients.

The most important thing I have learned from the experience, aside from advancing my programming skills, is free-thinking. Dean is also a wise thinker along with a knowledgeable businessman, and the atmosphere he has created at the company is relaxing and we are free to share our ideas. He has shared many insightful and interesting ideas with me which led me to reflect on life outside of just the office. I was raised in a traditional family and always taught to do the ‘right’ thing, like everyone else. Now I feel I am considering things in a more critical way and thinking more about what I want to be in the future.

In the end, I would express my gratitude to my colleagues Brittany and Joe. Thank you for making us a great team and for being my friends. Also, I would like to thank my girlfriend Binbin, as she talks with me every time I make the two hour drive from East Lansing to Holland to keep me out of boredom (I can’t wait to see you again this September). Lastly, thank you Dean, for providing me with such a good opportunity for me utilize my expertise and also for teaching me so many things that I will benefit from the rest of my life. It is hard to say goodbye to a company that helped me so much and a group of life-long friends, however I am not upset, because I know someday we are going to meet again and talk about this wonderful experience like we were always together.