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Interview vol.3 Ryosuke Isono

Empowering Environments: Where Personal Growth and Joyful Living Thrive

Internship Student Ryosuke Isono
(Osaka University School of Engineering Science)

Motivations Behind Pursuing an Internship: Understanding the Benefits of Work-Based Learning

──How did you get involved in the eftax internship program?

It all began when a college friend introduced me to a senior member of his astronomy club who was participating in the eftax Corporation internship program at Soleil Data Dojo. At the time, I had modest aspirations and no particular desire for personal growth. However, three of my friends and I decided to visit the Osaka office on a whim.

I recall feeling intimidated by the people who seemed to be operating at a high level and wondered if I was even allowed to participate. Despite this, the company’s representative, Mr. Nakai, and a senior intern explained the program’s contents to me. Although I struggled to understand many of the technical terms, I realized that I could earn money from programming, which was my area of study in college. This realization became a significant motivation for my participation.

In contrast to many jobs that trade time for money, eftax allowed me to exchange my skills and value for compensation. Listening to their explanations gave me a new perspective, and it was an eye-opening experience that led me down a path of self-discovery.

While I was drawn to the job description, I had doubts about my abilities to fulfill the role. I discussed my concerns with my friends on the way home and at the university. Declining the internship offer due to my anxiety was also an option, but I decided to take the plunge and gain experience, thinking, “I won’t know until I try,” or “Although I’m worried about potentially dragging the team down, they are all high-level individuals who can help us improve our skills.” Ultimately, we all agreed that it was a valuable opportunity and decided to go for it.

People, places, and even rewards. Working Environment

──You participated in the internship despite your apprehension, but how did you feel when you actually entered the internship?

Despite my initial apprehension, I felt at ease once I started the internship. The team assigned me tasks that were aligned with my skills, and I was able to ask questions without any hesitation. Looking back, I realize that I had grown a lot during my time there without even realizing it.

I appreciated how the team respected my opinions and actively considered whether my ideas were valid or not, instead of talking over my head. This gave me the confidence to speak up and honestly express what I was capable of doing. The team never belittled my ideas, and we engaged in discussions that allowed me to deepen my understanding and learn from them. The overall atmosphere was conducive to open communication and collaboration, which made me feel valued as a member of the team.

The system of salary increases based on my skill development was also a great motivator for me. I received visible recognition in the form of an hourly wage for submitting deliverables, and the amount of compensation after working on corporate projects gave me a sense of accomplishment, knowing that my efforts and skills were being recognized. I was delighted by the discovery that what I was doing was so valuable. Research is still my main focus, so I have a long way to go, but eftax is such a good place to work that I would like to work for a company like this if I were to enter a company in my job hunting.

──So your anxiety was relieved by receiving positive feedback in a tangible way. What makes you feel comfortable working with eftax?

Regarding what makes me feel comfortable working with eftax, as I mentioned earlier, the first thing is the great “people” at Soleil Data Dojo and eftax. The other great thing is that we can work “remotely.” Even though I am paid by the hour, it is self-assessed. Of course, there are deadlines for tasks, but the hours I work are not fixed, so I can proceed at my own pace. Sometimes I do it in a small gap of time, such as on the bullet train or during free periods at the university. The fact that I can do it anytime is significant.

Internship Progression

──You mentioned that the work and compensation varied based on your level of skill. Can you describe the progression steps?

For my first task, I read a book and created educational materials that helped me learn Python and machine learning theory. The book was titled “Deep Learning from Zero: Theory and Implementation of Deep Learning in Python.” Although I had prior experience in C, creating the teaching materials was my first experience with Python. I even used the Python skills I learned during my internship for my university research. When I submitted my finished work, my supervisor complimented me, saying, “I was surprised to receive something better than I expected.”

Following this, I began working on projects for business clients. As I gained more experience, I was given more challenging tasks that required a higher level of expertise. My compensation increased accordingly, and I received regular feedback on my performance. I felt that the company was invested in my growth and development, which motivated me to work harder and continue learning. Overall, the progression was based on my skill level and the value I could provide to the company.

──It seems speedy to participate in a practical project as your second task, did the company recommend or approach you?

They were looking for project participants within the company, and I ran for the position myself. I thought to myself, “I will take any job I am given the opportunity to do”. Actually, I was quite busy with university experiments at the time, but I knew that if I used my busyness as an excuse, I would never be able to do it. I am still working on that project today.
In addition to that, I also did a little bit of work for other companies. Some of the projects were mainly carried out by my fellow internship students, although we had mentors. I feel that I was able to develop a mindset of “doing things on my own”.

──I see, it’s so practical that it can be intimidating for those who want hands-on, step-by-step instruction, but it opens up opportunities for those who take the initiative. Can you tell us about the project you are still working on?

My task involves analyzing the simulation data of a device to identify the cause of anomalies. Due to confidentiality reasons, I cannot go into details, but I have been working on this task for over a year.

My responsibilities include programming, meeting with clients, and providing consulting services, which include defining requirements and passing data to create applications.

One of the methods I use for this project is the DTW (Dynamic Time Warping) approach. Since DTW was covered in my university classes, I was excited to realize that my studies could be applied in this way.

──What challenges did you face or overcome while working on corporate projects?

I find it most challenging when I am unable to find a solution. Initially, it can be frustrating to not know the way forward. However, through discussions with eftax and community members, and working with the data, the solution often becomes clear. I enjoy seeing my ideas come together like a diagram once the problem is resolved.

──That’s what makes it fun and worthwhile.

What makes programming fun and rewarding for me is that I don’t find it difficult to think and come up with ideas. I feel a sense of achievement when I’m able to challenge myself and think of creative solutions. Once I have a potential approach in mind, the process of thinking about the code and putting it into action becomes effortless. When I write code, I enter a state of flow where my mind is fully engaged and focused. The process of thinking and problem-solving is the most enjoyable aspect of programming for me.

Synergy Between Academics and Internships

──Is there anything you feel you are learning through your internship?

In projects for business companies, I have to report the results of my work to the client myself. Therefore, I have acquired not only programming skills, but above all, the skill to express my ideas and discuss them with others, I have acquired the skill of expressing my ideas to others and discussing them, even though it is still in its infancy.

In undergraduate studies at universities, the focus is only on specialized knowledge and programming skills. However, I realized that in practice, the ability to express and discuss one’s opinions with others is equally or even more important. I realized that no matter how much knowledge and skill I have if people don’t understand how great I am, even if I have value, it is meaningless. Being aware of how to show them has had a positive impact on my research at the university. In fact, the place where I feel the effects of the internship the most is in my academic work. I can think to myself, “I’m getting better at presenting my experimental reports,” “I’m giving good presentations”.

──I see, there is a good interaction between academics and the internship! How did you hone the “skills of expressing and discussing one’s own opinions” that you say you acquired the most?

It is through repeated discussions with seniors, and the rest is an imitation of that person.

──Yeah, if there is an environment where we can discuss on an equal footing with people who are willing to emulate us, it seems to promote growth!

Yes, it is. In addition, I am gaining a lot of experience, which is great for me. I talk directly to clients, and I get nervous because there are about 10 adults listening to me at one online debriefing (laughs). I don’t think I’m very good at it yet, but I have a “let’s give it a shot” mentality. Thanks to this, I think I’m getting pretty good at talking to my peers at the university.

──The internship students at Soleil Data Dojo come from diverse backgrounds. What exactly are you doing at university?

I have studied system control, information theory, and signal processing at a place called the Department of Systems Science in Osaka University School of Engineering Science. Robotics and artificial intelligence are often cited as applications of what I studied in my undergraduate studies. Currently, I am studying and researching image processing as my specialty.

In university classes, students first learn C for the purpose of studying the concept of programming languages, and Python and MATLAB are often used in research. However, programming is only a method. The essence of a university lies in the study and theory of specialized fields, and programming is positioned as a tool for research.

I am doing research in the field of image processing to separate moving objects from backgrounds in video. I use mathematics for theory and programming for verification. I implement mathematical formulas on paper in Python to see if they work as expected.

Most people in the world have the impression that mathematics is difficult and unapproachable, but one thing that clearly shows the usefulness of the mathematics we have studied is image processing. An easy example is “jpg”. JPG is a file format that is widely used in daily life because of its excellent compression performance that allows image data, which tends to be large, to be reduced to a small size. The technique used to compress jpg data is the Fourier transform, which I learned in university math. People perceive almost only the low-frequency portions of images and sounds, and hardly perceive high-frequency images. So, even if data is restored using only the low-frequency portion, people perceive it as almost the same image. Therefore, data compression is made possible by using the Fourier transform, which can replace even complex objects with easy-to-understand ones. The photos you snap are stored with Fourier transforms.

When I first learned about the Fourier transform, I was confused, but as I learned how to use it, I became impressed. To be honest, during my math studies, I questioned its usefulness and thought it only fit in the world of mathematics. However, I encountered moments where I realized its potential and thought, “I can do a great job if I use it this way!” and developed a love for image processing. The beauty, practicality, and elegance of the mathematics I have studied are visible at a glance. I was fascinated by this and found myself specializing in image processing.

──Knowing the connection with JPG, which is very commonly used, made me feel very familiar with the technology, which seems to be difficult at first glance! You seem to be very busy with your academic work and internship, but are you able to balance both?

Yes, I am very happy with the workload. The internship allowed me the flexibility to adjust my workload not only with my university research, but also with the graduate school entrance examinations. I think it was partly because I learned to manage my schedule through the internship and was able to make adjustments such as telling them six months in advance. Thankfully, I will be able to continue my internship at Soleil Data Dojo after entering graduate school.

What You Can Gain Because It Is Soleil Data Dojo’s Internship

──Congratulations on entering graduate school! As you continue your academic journey, let me ask you: What are the benefits of interning at Soleil Data Dojo?

Firstly, you gain valuable experiences that are not typically obtained through university studies or regular part-time jobs. As a student intern, you have the opportunity to experience the entire project process – from consulting to analysis, review, and demonstration – which is difficult to achieve once you enter the workforce. This experience allows you to see how your studies can benefit society, which in turn, motivates you to continue your studies.

Through my work, I can also see how my studies are benefiting society, which makes me more committed to my studies.

Secondly, you gain a different perspective on job hunting than many other students. You will learn to view your value and how to capitalize on it, ensuring you play an active role in your future workplace. This perspective is gained from witnessing the job hunting activities of senior interns and experiencing firsthand how comfortable and easy it is to work with the team at Soleil Data Dojo.

Smooth Communication Even Remotely

──I understand that you work remotely, but you seem to be communicating interactively and are active and growing. How do you interact within the company?

We primarily use chat and video calls as communication tools, which are convenient and efficient. The team is easy to work with, which is cited as a reason for the smooth communication.

One unforgettable episode was when I learned to love beer, which I originally disliked. During a business trip, my senior ordered “three pints of draft beer” without asking me anything. After taking a sip, I felt an electric current in my brain! Since then, I have come to love beer, especially when I’m tired.

Message to Students

──Beer after work is delicious…… !(deep nod) Finally, please give a few words to those who are wondering about internships!

Some students may hesitate due to concerns about gaining practical experience or whether the company will exploit their labor. However, at Soleil Data Dojo, the environment is comfortable and supportive. Even if you lack confidence in yourself, as long as you are motivated, the team treats you with sincerity, and before you know it, you will be able to do it. So don’t hesitate – internships provide valuable experiences that will benefit your future career.

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