Honing Your Netflix Night 

Sharika Mahadevan shares how the MLDS program prepared her for her summer internship and the work she did helping the streaming giant fine-tune its content delivery.

When you sit down with your freshly popped popcorn and Netflix serves up a perfectly crafted assortment of viewing options tailored precisely to your interests, spare a second to thank Sharika Mahadevan (MSiA '23). 

Mahadevan is a student in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Analytics (MSiA) program (newly renamed MS in Machine Learning and Data Science or MLDS). This summer, she worked with Netflix as an analytics engineering intern.  

Sharika MahadevanPart of her job was to develop tools to help the company more accurately understand audience preferences so it could develop the type of content its users want most.  

Mahadevan said she found the work meaningful.  

“Being part of an organization that's renowned for its creative and innovative culture is thrilling,” she said. “The most exciting part of my day was knowing the impact of my work. The chance to advise on content that is available on Netflix, to me, is the coolest job.”  

The ability to make that level of impact was honed in part by her previous work in the MLDS program.  

After starting her career as a product supply manager with Procter & Gamble, Mahadevan decided to pivot toward data science. She searched for programs that would allow her to build fundamentals in the field and push her to expand on her abilities.  

“I am happy to say MLDS does do that,” she said. “The curriculum is organized such that each course builds upon the next, and by the time of graduation, you have a strong set of useful skills.”  

Mahadevan also was attracted to the MLDS program by the small cohort size. This showed her she would be able to work with talented individuals who shared her deep passion for data science.  

That type of group work translated well into her internship with Netflix. Mahadevan praised the team that she worked with over the summer.  

“The kind of work I did involved multiple stakeholders, which helped me interact with numerous people from different functions,” she said. “My team was supportive throughout the internship and generous with their time. They played a large role in my growth this summer with valuable feedback.”   

Mahadevan said she believes the internship requirement is a key component of the MLDS program and is a differentiator for its graduates. The hands-on experience and opportunity to test the theories being learned in the classroom are invaluable, she said.  

But the benefits go beyond that. Internships also help students build stronger and wider networks, and the experiences during those summer months are often just as valuable as what is learned in the classroom, she said.  

“Internships are the perfect platforms for skill development,” she said. “It's not just about what we learn from textbooks. It's about acquiring essential life skills like communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and time management. These skills are not only crucial for excelling in any career but also for personal development.”   

Mahadevan plans to take all that she has learned through the MLDS program and pursue a career in the tech industry as a data scientist or machine learning engineer.  

She said the MLDS program has given her what she needs to accelerate her career growth.   

“This program is fast-paced, even for the most proficient of programmers,” she said. “What’s special is that you are part of a phenomenal cohort who can help one another. A lot of the work is team-based. Understanding each other’s strengths and working together to get everything done is important.”  

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