My summer internship at Symmetron
Moving on from education into a new industry can be intimidating, but there are plenty of options for those going through this transition. If you find yourself at this stage of your career, and you are not sure which next step might be the best for you professionally, one path to explore may be an internship!
I joined Symmetron full-time in October 2022, following the completion of my MSc in Health Economics and Decision Modelling from the University of Sheffield. Before joining the Symmetron team, I worked alongside them during a summer internship to complete my MSc dissertation, a key requirement of my degree.
I hope to share my experience of undertaking an internship at Symmetron, by answering some commonly asked questions.
What is an internship?
An internship is an extended period of work experience undertaken with an organisation. It offers a great opportunity to gain valuable experience in an industry you may not have been previously exposed to. It also provides the flexibility to explore a field without any long-term commitments. Internships can vary in length, depending upon degree requirements or the lengths of projects. My internship lasted 12 weeks.
How did you get an internship?
To apply for the internship, I had to send my CV and cover letter to Symmetron. These mainly focused on my academic record, particularly modules from my degree that demonstrated what I had learnt in health economics. After a one-hour interview, I was offered the intern role.
The interview is an important stage of the process because it provides an opportunity to meet Symmetron’s team members. This allows you to gain an insight into the culture of the company and to decide whether you could see yourself here; it isn’t a one-way street!
The process may seem daunting, but going through it enables you to practise important skills regardless of the outcome. It helped me develop soft skills focused on presenting, communicating, and self-reflecting. If you are looking for help with interview preparation, I found prospects.ac.uk a great place to start.
What was your dissertation topic?
My dissertation topic was developed by Symmetron, with the objective of conducting a cost-effectiveness analysis of monoclonal antibodies to treat patients with chronic migraine from a UK perspective. The dissertation involved conducting a systematic literature review to identify inputs before building a de novo economic model in Microsoft Excel.
What skills did you gain from this experience?
The internship enabled me to bridge the gap between an academic and real-world setting. It was extremely satisfying being able to draw from and build on the skills I had learnt during my degree and apply them to a large project. Working alongside Symmetron meant I could see real-world examples of economic models. This didn’t only help with the development of my model, but also kept me intrinsically motivated as it demonstrated how my work was directly applicable to the health economics and outcomes industry.
Over the course of the project, I became more proficient in health economic-specific skills, such as input collection, programming and using visual basic (VBA) in Microsoft Excel. Moreover, I learnt to be more time efficient and accountable for self-set deadlines, as I had to co-ordinate with my Symmetron colleagues and my Sheffield supervisor. I had never fully appreciated the importance of setting and meeting timelines until being with Symmetron!
Interns are also encouraged to take part in company meetings and training sessions. The onboarding exercises filled gaps in my knowledge and helped me achieve the best grade possible in my dissertation, ultimately leading to the completion of my degree (Figure 1).
Figure 1. My graduation
What is the day-to-day of being an intern?
The primary focus of the day is completing your dissertation. Weekly check-ins with your supervisor help with keeping track of progress and troubleshooting, although they are always approachable and supportive whenever you need them.
Symmetron is a small consultancy, so you get to know everyone quickly. I felt welcome instantly, and by the end of my internship, I felt as though I had known everyone for much longer than three months. There are also opportunities to get to know people through other mediums too, such as a weekly staff meeting, team lunches (Figure 2), and work drinks.
Figure 2. Some of the health economics team grabbing lunch at Nando’s
Why should I consider an internship with Symmetron?
Since 2008, Symmetron have been growing steadily in size and expertise into a highly respected source of research in health economics and outcomes research. When undertaking my internship, having access to this knowledge proved invaluable.
Multiple factors drew me to Symmetron. The internship topic was an important aspect, as I wanted to apply my modelling skills to an area that interested me. Knowing the expertise on offer meant I was confident my collaboration with the company was going to benefit both my learning and the quality of the research I was planning to undergo. Having done some exploration of the Symmetron website, it was clear to me that the culture of the company fitted what I was looking for. A friendly and open environment that enables everyone to be themselves and to grow both individually and collectively. The team members who interviewed me reflected these values, cementing my decision to join the team as a summer intern.
Throughout my internship, my supervisor Kirsten was always able to assist me when needed; she was welcoming with no question too small, making collaboration effortless. This is true for the rest of the team with everyone eager to provide their expertise at the drop of a hat.
Will I have enough time to study alongside my internship?
Interns are encouraged to take part in company activities as much as they wish, depending upon their academic workload at any given time. For myself, as with any dissertation, it was intense at points, but the team were supportive the entire time. Everyone was aware of how stressful completing a degree can be, so they were appreciative of my workload throughout the summer.
The company operates a hybrid working policy where you can work from home or the office, with flexible core hours to fit around your routine. I went into the office fortnightly, which I found to be the perfect balance between focusing on my studies in Sheffield whilst experiencing what Symmetron had to offer in person. Visiting the office is a great opportunity to catch-up with people you might not be working directly with in your day-to-day.
Where is the office?
The location of the office is a 2-minute walk from Liverpool Street station in central London, making it easy to reach, as it is well connected by several Underground lines, Overground and National Rail. My favourite part about being in the office is that we’re on the eighth floor of the building, which makes for a great view (Figure 3).
Figure 3. My favourite lunchtime view, as seen from the level 8 common area
Are there previous examples of work completed by interns?
Yes! Please have a look at Sam’s work on structural uncertainty in cost-effectiveness models.
If you have any questions that are not answered here, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of the team members will be happy to help!
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