How Matteo looks back to his internship at element61

(written by Matteo Ballegeer - element61 Trainee in 2023)

Matteo Ballegeer

Who are you and what are your educational goals?

I am Matteo Ballegeer, a student pursuing a master's degree in Business Engineering – Data Analytics at Ghent University. This summer, during the break between my two master's years, I had the privilege of undertaking an internship at element61. This experience reaffirmed my belief that practical experience is highly important, complementing the value of academic accomplishments. Now, having successfully concluded this internship, I stand even more firmly by my beliefs, as I have acquired knowledge and skills that surpass what any classroom could offer.

What did your internship look like? What did you do exactly?

During my internship, I embarked on a journey with Large Language Models (LLMs) and delved deep into the realm of prompt engineering to evaluate its potential for enhancing LLM performance. This endeavour consisted of multiple phases:

In the initial phase, I conducted an exhaustive exploration of state-of-the-art prompt engineering techniques and assessed their practical applications in a business context.

Subsequently, I put this newfound knowledge into action by actively contributing to the development of an in-house chatbot. This chatbot harnessed the power of LLMs, vector databases, prompt engineering techniques, and the LangChain Python package. Its primary use was to proficiently respond to queries related to company-specific documents and data.

In the latter part of my internship, I collaborated with my fellow intern, Lise De Deyne, to further enhance the chatbot's capabilities. Together, we introduced an Agent-Tool architecture that enabled the chatbot to intelligently select from a diverse array of tools, including an internet search and intranet documents. This architecture allowed the chatbot to provide responses by choosing the most appropriate tool as the source of information, thus optimizing its answers and its range of uses.

How did you experience the contact with the team of element61?

Throughout my internship, the members of the branch dedicated to OpenAI consistently showed approachability and a genuine interest in my findings. Whenever I encountered obstacles or felt stuck, they provided guidance, helping me navigate through challenges. Conversely, as I uncovered new insights and made progress in my work, their genuine enthusiasm and support further fuelled my motivation, creating a dynamic and inspiring learning environment. The other employees were equally approachable and open to conversation throughout my internship, whether it was discussing my internship tasks or engaging in everyday conversations during lunchtime. A special thanks to Floriant and Joran for their support and enthusiasm!

What is your biggest takeaway from the internship?

My primary takeaway from my internship revolves around the skill of navigating emerging technologies, particularly in areas with limited or vague documentation. As OpenAI, LLMs and especially prompt engineering only became a hot topic recently, many of the techniques and features I investigated were still very experimental and novel. Learning to distinguish between what was relevant for business purposes and what was not required a learning curve and practice. This not only goes for the techniques, but also the topic of the internship itself: what started as creating a prompt engineering roadmap soon took a turn when we realised that merely creating prompt templates was not going to be of much business use, given each application’s specificities. I believe this self-steering way of working is something valuable that I had not been able to experience before, as University assignments are usually given top-down.

What do you want to share with any future students considering an internship at element61?

If you have a genuine passion for data science or business analytics, I wholeheartedly recommend considering an internship at element61. I believe this experience offers tremendous value, bridging certain competency gaps that a university education alone may not address. Moreover, it serves as an ideal opportunity to explore whether a career in data science or business analytics aligns with your aspirations. This internship can provide a pivotal and practical introduction to the field, helping you make informed career decisions and gain valuable insights into your chosen path.