The Columns

Interns at Work: Xiaoxiang Yang ’16 The Brattle Group, Washington, D.C.

— by on September 5th, 2016

Xiaoxiang Yang '16

“As a mathematics and economics major at W&L, I had the background knowledge that allowed me pick up the economic models and quantitative analyses used in my internship very quickly.”

What attracted you to this internship?

I wanted to find a summer internship that allowed me to pursue my interests in both economics and mathematics. The economic analyses performed at the Brattle Group are very quantitative in nature and aim at solving problems that the companies are currently facing.

How did you learn about it?

I first learned about this opportunity through a W&L alumnus who is working there. Then I reached out to my Economics professors and got in touch with several people who are currently working at the Brattle.

What gave you the edge in landing this internship?

Definitely the breadth and depth of a liberal arts education. As a mathematics and economics major at W&L, I had the background knowledge that allowed me pick up the economic models and quantitative analyses used in my internship very quickly. Several computer science courses I took helped me write scripts that can process large data sets efficiently. Additionally, because I worked as an intern on their energy side, my physics background gave me a better understanding of the electricity market and the energy data being studied.

Describe your daily duties.

My daily duties included attending team meetings, managing the transmission system datasets in the electricity market, auditing other analysts’ work, doing background research to assist in the pitch process for new projects, writing and updating Stata scripts and economic models, and so on.

What were some tasks/projects you worked on?

I worked on several projects in different industries such as electricity market, financial institutions and telecommunications. One of the projects that I spent a lot time on was modeling the investment positions of seven major transmission systems in the Western U.S. for the next 10 years. I calculated their rate bases in order to figure out the best pricing strategy for them to follow if they merged together. Another example of the project I worked on was writing Stata and Excel scripts to classify ambiguous insurance policy IDs in order to assist in the further study of market share.

Did any courses and/or professors prepare you for this internship? Which ones?

The Econometrics course taught by Prof. Blunch definitely helped me a lot in this internship. Being able to perform regression analyses and use Stata was crucial for success in the position. Prof. Grajzl and Prof. Anderson in the Economics department also gave me a lot advice about what to expect and what to learn, which I found very helpful.

What did you learn by the end of your experience?

By the end of this summer I learned what the consulting world really looks like. I have a better understanding about the challenges that exist in the work that consultants do on a daily basis and the transition from studying at school to working in the real world.

What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?

Definitely the people I worked with. Everybody at Brattle is very intelligent and friendly. They were always willing to help you out when you had any questions. The family-like environment made my summer experience very enjoyable. They even threw several different parties on my birthday in June.

What did you learn from city where the internship was located?

Besides being the political center of the U.S., Washington, D.C. also houses many leading economic think tanks and business firms. Therefore, D.C. also has many wonderful opportunities for students with strong interests in finance or economics to explore. It is a very young city, which means that you will always have something to do and have some new cool people to meet everyday.

What key takeaways/skills did you bring back to W&L?

This summer position improved my coding skills and expanded my economics knowledge. It also honed my interpersonal skills and helped me become a better team player.

What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?

Always pursue your interests. Take as many classes as you want and participate in as many extracurricular activities as possible. In doing so, you can not only explore more things, but get a chance to meet more people. Some of them might give you valuable advice in the future.

Has this experience influenced your career aspirations? How so?

It allowed me to explore the field of economic consulting and let me see how my work could impact the clients.

Describe your experience in a single word.