What I Learned as an Amazon Intern: DU Computer Science Grad Student Shares Her Experience

sneha-sawlaniSo a summer internship probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind with papers, projects and the end of the quarter looming ahead, but when it comes to grad student internships it’s never to early to get the ball rolling. A lot of competitive internships have deadlines in late winter and early spring and it’s definitely worth fitting in some time to apply. Just ask master’s student Sneha Sawlani. She applied early in 2015 and landed a 2016 internship at commerce behemoth Amazon. This internship was so successful that she even landed a full-time position with them! Take a read below and check Sneha’s advice to DU grad students looking to land their dream job.

Intern: Sneha Sawlani, MS student majoring in Computer Science
Employer & Position: Amazon, Software Development Engineer Intern

The Application/Interview Process

The application process was fairly rigorous and involved 2-steps:

  1. Online Coding Challenge: This involved solving 7 questions in 20 minutes. After one week of passing the Coding Challenge, I was notified of a Phone Interview round and was given 2 weeks of time to prepare for it.
  2. The Phone Interview: The phone interview was technical in nature. It lasted for 45 minutes and the individual I spoke with had me write code on a shared screen to solve 2 problems. The problems tested my understanding of object-oriented design, data structures, algorithms and basic coding skills. The interviewer concluded the interview by briefly explaining intern activities at Amazon.

The Internship

From June–August 2016 I worked in Amazon’s Search department as their Software Development Engineer (SDE) Intern in the rainy city of Seattle. The first week of the 12-week internship was spent getting oriented – meeting my team, settling into the culture, and getting the hang of Amazon’s internal tools and technologies. Then it was time to get more focused. I was assigned a Software Development project to be completed under the guidance of my mentor. SDE Interns at Amazon are given most of the typical responsibilities of a full time software engineer, including writing code, attending scrum meetings, code reviews, and reporting progress to the manager.

At the end of the internship, I presented my work to the team and received feedback from senior managers and engineers. I was also required to write a self-performance review, which along with my manager’s and mentor’s review, were used for evaluation of a full-time hiring decision. I’m happy to report that at the end of the internship I was offered a full-time position and will soon be working for Amazon Search!

Favorite Parts of the Internship

  • Meaningful work, challenges, and learning: At Amazon, I got to work on an actual application that was used internally by mangers, engineers, and data scientists. The challenges of writing production code that is maintainable, scalable and efficient pushed my skills to the limit but also helped me grow as software developer. It was a productive summer with a steep learning curve.
  • Perks! Amazon took all the responsibility of relocating me to Seattle for the summer. I got to stay right next to Lake Union, attend fun intern events on weekends, and received a humongous stipend which made all the hard work worthwhile!

Advice for DU Grad Students

  • Start early: I noticed that most summer intern positions at Amazon were filled up by March. I would suggest students to apply to jobs and internships at least 7 to 8 months before the actual time.
  • Prepare for the Technical Interview: From my personal experience and from what I heard from other interns and employees, data structures, algorithms, and object-oriented design are very important topics for the technical interview preparation, especially for people fresh out of college. So take those classes seriously!
  • Get an Employee Referrals: Although I got the interview just by applying online, I think it was easier to be noticed in the pool of thousands of applicants by having an employee referral. I would suggest networking with people who already work at your target company in order to obtain one.

Getting summer internship at Amazon was a dream come true and getting a job offer out of it was even a bigger dream come true. Working with so many smart people, learning and using cutting-edge technology to solve complex problems, and applying classroom knowledge to real-world problems was a very valuable experience. It also gave me an opportunity to showcase my skills and capabilities to Amazon and allowed me to network with fellow employees. All of these steered my career toward an exciting new direction with the e-commerce giant.

2016 Graduate Summer Internships to Apply for Now

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Believe it or not despite the frosted accumulation surrounding us this month, January is a great time to start applying for graduate summer internships. Paid graduate internships are highly competitive and not as prevalent as their undergraduate and unpaid counterparts so it’s important to start applying early. Also, many of the deadlines for these opportunities close at the end of January/February, making it important to get your applications submitted before your window closes. Listed below are just a few of the upcoming internships we think will interest you. They cover a wide variety of skill sets and internship positions. To get some tips on how to conduct your own research check out our post Resources for Finding a Graduate Research Position.

ETS 2016 Summer Internship Program– Deadline February 1, 2016. ETS provides an 8 week summer program with opportunities to conduct research in validity or games, simulation & collaboration. You must be in a Ph.D. or Ed.D. program to apply.

Razorfish– Deadline April 24, 2016 (selection for interns starts in January). Razorfish offers a 10 week summer internship program in a variety of specific disciplines including business, marketing, journalism, and analytics.

Google– Deadline February 25 or 29, 2016 (depends on the field). Graduate students studying computer science, engineering, business, design/UX, law, public policy, or liberal arts will definitely want to check out the internships offered at Google. They have positions specifically for masters and PhD students.

Adobe Research– Deadline not listed. Adobe Research offers doctoral students with an opportunity to “engage in industrial research.” There are some really interesting projects including video puppetry and stress relief. Before applying for an internship be sure to study up on the various researchers who work at Adobe and indicate which individual you would like to work with.

Time Inc 2016 Summer Internship Program– Deadline not listed. Time Inc offers a general summer internship program and a Technology Summer Internship Program for students interested in many different areas.

NBC MediaTech Summer 2016 Internship– Deadline not listed. This internship is open to masters students in technical fields such as electrical engineering, computer science, Film/TV production, digital media technology, and telecommunications.

Learning to Lead Internship Program– Deadline TBD. The Independent Institute hosts a Learning to Lead Internship program in the areas of acquisitions, donor relations, marketing and communications, publications, research, student programs, and technology.

FDA Summer Student Research Program– Deadline February 27, 2016. The FDA provides an internship program for individuals who want to conduct research on “the biological effect of potentially toxic chemicals and the solutions to toxicology problems that have a major impact on human health and the environment.”

Domestic Nuclear Detection Office Summer Internship Program– Deadline January 27, 2016. This program is aimed at graduate students interested in Advanced Technology Demonstration programs.

Pew Research Center– Deadline not listed. Pew is a great place to gain experience doing empirical social science research.