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My internship in digital strategy at Limerick City & County Council

My internship in digital strategy at Limerick City & County Council

by Turlough Kelly, Stage 4 BSc Computer Science

When it came time to begin my search for my internship in Stage 3, I wanted to do something off the beaten track, something different. While my initial plan was a position that is more software engineering focused, my overall goal was to learn, and expand my skill set, no matter how that may have been. Over the months, I applied to many different places, all over Ireland, until I settled with a little place called Limerick City & County Council (L.C.C.C.), the local authority of Limerick county.

The application process was a little different than most. Previously for a class called L.C.V.P (Leaving Cert Vocational Program) in secondary school, part of the assessment required me to carry out work experience, and write a report about the working world. It was at L.C.C.C. that I completed that experience, and was able to mention that on my application. A few days later, I was invited to an interview, where the head of Digital Strategy, Alan Dooley, asked me about my experience, and was able to talk at length about my tech stack and the projects I had completed throughout my degree. I must have said something right, as the very next day I received a phone call saying I had gotten the role!

I started my internship in March 2023, and was assigned to the Digital Strategy Department. It was a little strange, as we weren’t referred to as “interns” during our time here, but rather as “Co-ops”, but the only difference was in name. I was placed on a team of just 3 others, and despite the size of the L.C.C.C. and the many departments, we were like a skeleton crew, with just over a dozen people across Digital Strategy! It meant that every day was different, and that there was something new to do or an opportunity to learn, through practical work or, in the quieter periods, through online learning to upskill on what I was working with.

During my time, my main focus was with data analysis and visualisation, utilising SQL and a program called Tableau. I had done some work previously with SQL and data analysis, but this was still very new to me! Whenever we were gearing up for a new project, we would have a meeting with our small team to discuss what the aims and objectives were, and what sort of data we would need to compile. After, we would pull the necessary data from the servers, and gather them into a Tableau “workbook” for further manipulation. Depending on the project, we would sometimes get in contact with other departments, for further clarification on what data they need, or if they required any specific features with the workbook, mainly through the use of “calculated fields”, which added a light programming element to Tableau, meaning the software engineering work I did as part of my degree became a real asset to the team! Part of the workbook-making process also included making accompanying documentation, including details about what sort of data was included and for what reason, as well as any special features included. It was really interesting to be exposed to many different departments outside of Digital Strategy, and see the inner workings of a local authority in more detail!

Data analysis wasn’t the only thing I did. As a local authority, we used a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, specifically SugarCRM, to keep track of customer details or other notable persons. Part of our job was to debug and investigate any issues that may arise with the software, and take action to rectify the problems, but also assist with other departments through creation of new users, updating records, and more. We managed these requests through the “ServiceDesk”, where I acted as a technician for the latter half of my 6-month tenure. In addition to issues with SugarCRM and Tableau, I would also manage any other computer-related issues alongside the ICT Department and troubleshoot effectively alongside the rest of the team. This made me realise that the upkeep of software was just as, if not more, important than the creation of it, as well as the importance of accompanying documentation.

While most of my time was spent doing data analysis and management, I was able to put my software engineering skills to use. My team had issues with storage on their remote servers, and had to constantly ask the ICT Department to grant them additional space. To combat this issue, I developed a script in Bash that, at the beginning of each month, would be run and would gather all the files in a certain location that were created in the previous month, and archive them in a compressed folder. This allowed them to maintain older files that, while not actively in use, could not be deleted, and make room for newer files. After much testing and a few days of coding, I was able to present this script – named “Archvarius” by another member of my team – to the rest of my department, and talk about how this addressed the issue that was present. Both my team and department were extremely surprised by this script, and how it was an effective solution to a big problem they had!

My time in Limerick City & County Council was one that was extremely beneficial to me, considering how much I learned and my experience throughout. The biggest thing that surprised me was that life is unpredictable, and while this role wasn’t one I had initially aimed for, it was one that I am eternally grateful to have gotten. It gave me an opportunity to expand my skills in many different areas, and learn new skills, too. Working within such a small team and within the public sector gave me an extremely unique opportunity, and one that I can confidently say has greatly improved my confidence both personally and professionally.

Published January 31st 2024

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