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Intern Insight: Cameron Elliot

Hi, I’m Cameron and I recently graduated from University of Southampton with a degree in Electronic Engineering. I’m from Cheltenham, and I have a passion for sustainability and using data to drive real changes in the world. I joined as an intern, but have been working as a contracted employee for the last 6 months

Why did you choose an internship at Absolar?

I chose to intern at Absolar because they are creating real-world impacts with their technology, and I was keen to get involved and learn more.

I had some experience coding with images in Python, and they were doing interesting work using satellite imagery. I wanted to gain more skills in areas like data modelling and image processing, and Absolar was the perfect place to do that!

When did you join the internship?

I joined the internship at the beginning of July 2021, for a duration of four weeks. I started at the same time as two data science interns, who were more focussed on the AI side whereas I was more focused on image processing and data modelling.

What have been your main responsibilities?

My responsibilities have been very varied. Primarily, my day-to day involves a variety of different tasks. Most days I’ll do some data modelling in Python using Numpy, Pandas, OpenCV and some geospatial toolkits.

I’m primarily responsible for turning results from the solar radiation model and the deep learning models into useful, actionable insights.

What have been some of the main activities and projects that you’ve worked on during your internship?

The main project I’ve worked on is Solar Sim- the automatic solar modelling tool to analyse the solar potential of entire cities at once.

Aside from that, I’ve been involved in many discussions and meetings about anything from branding and marketing to data-driven solutions for our council clients.

What have been your favourite experiences during your time at Absolar?

I’ve particularly enjoyed going to industry events and representing Absolar while speaking about our technology and how it’s creating impact.

From going to these events, I have expanded my professional network and gained exposure to many areas that I would otherwise not known about, like carbon trading. I’ve also found seeing my work get sent out to customers very satisfying.

Work I have done has directly inspired action to reduce emissions within council properties.

What key things will you be taking away from your time as an intern at Absolar?

Personally, I have developed in many areas. I have had to learn to be more adaptable – due to the nature of working in a small company, you frequently don’t know what you’ll be doing tomorrow, and that’s exciting.

I have learned to communicate and work with a variety of stakeholders, varying from very technical to non-technical people. Finding ways to effectively communicate technical concepts to managers and clients with less technical knowledge has been a steep learning curve, but a valuable one.

Academically, I have gained a wealth of knowledge within GIS (geographic information systems) and data modelling in Python, which is a widely applicable skillset that has set me up for my future career.

How has this internship supported your studies?

This may be an unexpected answer, but it showed me that I preferred working to studying.

I enjoyed the work enough to end my studies a year early, graduating with a bachelors instead of a masters degree.

As I was offered a job with Absolar for six months of research and development, I decided to use the opportunity to get some professional experience with a company that I knew I enjoyed working with instead of furthering my studies.

Please can you summarise your experience of working as an intern at Absolar in a few sentences

Interesting and impactful work with incredible people. Learned new things every day, and new challenges to inspire you, keeping the work exciting. I felt supported along every step of the way, and my colleagues kept spirits up during difficult weeks.

Would you recommend an internship at Absolar to other students?

I would certainly recommend an internship at Absolar, you will learn so many things, while being supported by some brilliant people.

There is a culture of learning, meaning that there is no shame in not knowing something - there is only shame in not wanting to figure it out!

Due to Absolar being a small company, you will get access to areas that you would not at a larger company.

Opportunities like speaking to energy managers of local councils to design data-driven solutions for their net-zero carbon strategy are not usually afforded to interns, and for that I am very grateful.

What are your future plans/ career/ academic goals?

In the future I want to remain primarily within the sustainability industry, as I am very passionate about the environment and want to have an impact on the direction of the industry in the future.

I may choose to do a masters degree if I feel I need specific expertise in the future, but I plan to continue working amongst innovators and thought leaders to deliver real change.

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