Learning, exploring, innovating with Azure – a summer at Theta

We love having interns at Theta, and for the second year running we’ve had two students working in our innovation lab over the summer, to complete their Master of Information Technology Degree at Auckland University.

Preethi Vinay Nair and Lex Liu have been working on enhancing TypeMine, a product of our innovation lab first developed by Rose McColl and Alisha Thakkar, who were interns from the same degree programme working at Theta last summer. We caught up with Lex and Preethi recently, to find out a bit more about what they have been working on.

Our project in a nutshell

Our initial brief was to look at TypeMine – a search tool for smart content retrieval in Microsoft Word – and see how it could be enhanced using Azure Search and cognitive skills. From our initial project brief, we had a lot of freedom to explore different technologies and techniques, and think broadly about the solution.

There were lots of different elements – from ingesting and storing the data to setting up Azure search, and then looking at different ways of indexing and enriching the data. We looked at text mining and custom ontology approaches.

On the cognitive skills side of things, we used some in-built Azure Search skills, handling things like people and locations, as well as developing custom skills relevant to our particular document library.

And then we needed to think about user interfaces - a web app for the search experience, some admin screens, and data visualisations.

What we’ve developed is fully flexible and extensible, a search solution that can be applied to any library of documents, and connected up to TypeMine or used stand-alone via a web interface.

In just ten weeks I think we did a lot – more even than was expected!

Preethi Vinay Nair and Lex Liu

Code for the real world

At uni we have learned a lot of theory – this was a great chance to get real and practical – see how things work out there in the real world.

We really appreciated the training we got on Theta’s practices and procedures – particularly around code management. At uni, you just have to create code to produce a result and you’re done. It’s theoretical. But there are so many other considerations. Code doesn’t just need to work, it needs to be sustainable. That means understanding and adhering to standards, and following security practices too. Learning more about this side of things was invaluable.

Sparking new interests

Preethi: We have worked on most of the Microsoft Azure Cloud Services in this project: Azure Storage, Azure Search, Azure Functions and Azure Logic Apps to build an extensible cloud based solution.  My eyes were opened to the power and potential of cloud computing, and it’s something I’m really excited about going further with.

Lex: For me, web development and web services are where it’s at, and that’s where I’m interested in building my career.


Working at Theta

From the beginning we have been treated like regular employees. We were so surprised (and delighted) to be invited to the Christmas party!

Theta has all the resources to work on cutting edge technology and they strongly support innovation – it’s not just words. We were given everything we needed to work effectively, like the right kind of Azure account – there’s a real commitment to innovation and to doing it right. 

Jim and Rose were great mentors – any time we had questions or doubts we could just go and speak to them, they were very open.