Erin, Grand

Internship Description

Erin Grand SEAS’16 worked with Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit organization that provides crisis support through text communication via volunteer counselors. The Crisis Text Line counselors are trained through a 34-hour program designed by Crisis Text Line with Common Ground, which consists of video programming, readings, role-plays, and feedback. As the Data Intern, she worked with the Data Science team to conduct an analysis on the training program in order to identify improvements to the training materials and increase counselor retention.

At the end of spring semester, I sent in my application to for their Data Intern position. I found out about the position through a communication that started over Github, and thought it sounded interesting. I sent in my resume and cover letter and waited to see what would happen. I made it through to the next rounds. The last step was a phone interview where I gave a quick presentation on my analysis on some data, and talked about what the internship was about and what I was interested in. I mentioned that what brought me to Data Science was my excitement about education, and how I hoped to be involved with research and education technology in the future. I didn't get the job.

Instead, I got an email directing me to a Data Intern position available at Crisis Text Line, where I could work on data related to training crisis counselors. After an interview with Bob Filbin, Chief Data Scientist at CTL, I accepted the internship, and it has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had.

Crisis Text Line was born out of, and the two companies share an office space. Crisis Text Line does two things: (1) provides free, 24/7 emotional support to people in crisis, by text. And, (2) uses the data to improve the service and the crisis space as a whole. As the Data Intern, I worked in providing data and metrics for products to make the service better. More specifically, I focused in two areas (1) getting more people through the volunteer application and (2) increasing the lifetime number of conversations our counselors take. I used hard numbers and ethnographic research such as interviews and observations to determine user needs and then suggested solutions to solve them. Over the 10 weeks, I successfully researched the major pain points in our application, determined the best way to remove them, wrote a new application, and launched it!

The experience I have gained from this internship has been invaluable to my career and to my person. I've gotten to work with the most wonderful people, and spent every day feeling I was doing meaningful work.

There were rough spots at the beginning of the internship as I was trying to get a hold of the flow of a tech based not-for-profit start-up, but I got there quick enough. At a regular internship, interns are given jobs that managers may not want to do because they are time consuming or boring. At Crisis Text Line, interns were treated (and acted) like staff. We were given important projects with lasting effects for the company. I used the chance to dive deep into my projects, working hard to get them done correctly.

I dived so deep into my work, that I couldn't be pulled out. Luckily, I don't have to stop! As of a couple weeks ago, I began my official job with Crisis Text Line as a part-time Data Scientist while I finish my last year of graduate school at Columbia. I feel so lucky to have been given this opportunity to continue working with these amazing people!

If you have more questions on Crisis Text Line, and how you can get involved please visit