UPOP's teamwork training proved invaluable in Judy Wang's Optum internship
When UPOP sophomore Judy Wang ’19 interned at Optum, she worked on data-lakes, chatbots, learned how technology innovation is being applied to improve costs and outcomes in healthcare—and drew extensively upon the collaborative skills she learned during her UPOP year.
“If you’ve seen technology in the healthcare system, Optum has probably touched it,” said Judy, a materials science and engineering major with a keen interest in consulting and coding.
Her first project at Optum’s Boston office was to create a chatbot to help Optum employees parse through the vast “data-lake” and help them to find certain files. Her second project involved provider design, which patients bump into when they go to the doctor: “Your insurance company has to figure out which providers the patient can have access to. This was a very manual process, so we were tasked with figuring out a way to make this process streamlined.”
Judy’s road to landing and thriving in this far-ranging internship was helped in many ways by UPOP: through Optum’s job posting with UPOP; through the skills Judy learned in the Team Training Workshops; and through her interaction with mentors and UPOP alums.
“Optum was a UPOP job posting. I was very late in the game applying to internships, and leaned on UPOP a lot. Optum had been one of my favorites, and it had healthcare, which I had worked in the previous summer, and it had coding, which I wanted more experience in.”
Optum is also home to one of UPOP’s veteran alums and volunteers, Shane Picciotto ’08, who was able to meet with several prospective interns at volunteer events, including Judy.
Judy found that the skills she learned during her Team Training Workshop proved invaluable during her internship. During the workshop, she was able to make mistakes in a safe and supportive environment. She says that it freed her from having to write “the perfect thing down at the right time… I was able to experience this in the workshop, in a comfortable environment without fear of failure. I learned to jot something down and figure out how to improve from there, and this has helped me in coding, and figuring out my problem-solving process.”
Reflecting on UPOP’s learning objectives for students—communication, problem-solving, and teamwork—she said, “I think being in UPOP helped me the most with teamwork. We were strategically paired with students we didn’t know, which was startling, but also great because we were able to see how quickly we meshed together. It helped me realize the essentials of a team, and this carried into my summer internship, where sometimes there would be a person on my team on the sideline, not as invested, and it would affect the dynamic of the group. I drew on my experience in UPOP… I’d notice there would be times when a teammate would want their feelings heard and validated, so I’d try and talk it out as a group. It ended up helping us to acknowledge the fact that we were all on the same page with being frustrated at times with one of our projects.”
"[My supervisor] told me that I was the glue that kept the team together, that I kept the energy up and motivated the team.”
Her supervisor was not unaware of her team skills. “He told me that I was the glue that kept the team together, that I kept the energy up and motivated the team.” Even though she had worried that, with her materials science background, her technical skills weren’t as high as those of her co-workers, “I was able to know where my space was on the team, and I was able to be a team leader. We did a good job at understanding our roles.”
Judy also found that her experience with interacting with the mentors over the UPOP workshop helped prepare her for what could have been an unnerving experience at Optum. “We’d have ‘shark tank’-style presentations, and I found myself not as intimidated by the judges, and even reached out to one of them and a few other higher-ups to speak with them. I was comfortable doing this because I had been able to spend time with my mentor, Wayne Delker, and get used to speaking with someone in authority.”
Looking back on her year with UPOP, she says that she found it really reassuring to be able to come into the UPOP office at any time:
“I was late in the internship search process, and UPOP really helped me to sort out my goals, and showed me how to get to those goals nicely. It was also great to just have the support system and people in the professional environment that were there to support and advocate for you.
“Having people in the MIT space understand how an MIT student is, was also especially special!”