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


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.

True Stories: How Grad Students Used Summer Internships to Launch Their Careers- Julia

Greetings grad students! We’re excited to bring you our fourth installment of True Stories, Julia Cawthra. Julia did her summer internship at Wellspring Campus just like Ben, but instead of basking in the California sun, her journey took her to the Lone Star State.

julia Cawthra-True Stories-Office of Graduate StudiesIntern: Julia Cawthra, master’s student majoring in sport and performance psychology

EmployerRivermend Health Wellspring Camps a weight loss camp for kids, teens, young adults, and women. Services include behavioral health experts, cognitive behavioral therapy, culinary and nutritional training, lifestyle management, exercise and physical activity, and continuing care.


What she did

From June–August 2014, I was in San Marcos, Texas, working with overweight to obese youth aged 11–24. The campers voluntarily gave up anywhere from three to eight weeks of their summers to develop and build a healthy lifestyle. My role as a behavioral coach was to empower them to make those difficult, daunting changes so they could achieve their goals of a healthy weight and active lifestyle that continued past their time at camp. I met with 15–20 campers individually on a weekly basis and ran between four and six groups each week. We discussed the difficulties of camp in general, being away from their families, and then of course the difficulty and importance of making this lifestyle change. Every three weeks, I held individual meetings with the campers and their parents to discuss changes at home that would help facilitate a lasting change.

How her summer internship helped her career

At Wellspring I was able to work with an individual client base that provided me with the experience I wanted to go on and get my PhD to obtain licensure as a psychologist. I was provided with a wonderful real world application to what I was learning in my classes, and the individual and group sessions helped me feel more comfortable coming into my second year of coursework. Additionally, I felt very nurtured as someone new to practicing that enabled me to learn and develop as a future practitioner. I also got accepted into my top choice PhD program at Indiana, so I’d like to think my experience over a short 9 weeks at Wellspring really boosted my chances there!

Advice she’d give to DU grad students

  • Start early: I applied to Wellspring around February or March, which I thought was pretty early but others had secured employment earlier than that. Definitely not ideal to wait until the last minute because many positions require specific training before starting the job.
  • Be prepared to be busy: As far as things to look out for, Wellspring is exhausting but such a wonderful experience if you like the camp environment of your youth days. I generally enjoy having alone time as part of my daily routine, and that was cut short while at Wellspring (but I thoroughly loved spending that extra time with the kids because they were so loving and fun).
  • Expect the unexpected: I would say the most difficult and surprising part of the job was connecting and communicating with the parents of the campers. Those interactions were difficult mostly for the eye-opening detail they provided into why the campers were struggling so much.
  • Speak up: If you are looking for specific hours for certification or licensure, be sure to mention that to the employer; they might be willing to accommodate your needs if they value you as an employee (that being said, if they don’t accommodate you it does not mean they don’t value you!). I wish I would have known the possibility of a variable end date to the position. Everything worked out for me in the end, but some people in my position were not on staff for the full 9 weeks as I initially expected, which affected the pay that we expected to receive.

The aftermath of the summer has been interesting. Initially I was thankful for the experience but was not considering returning for subsequent summers. Now I am yearning to go back and keep working at Wellspring because of the positive relationships created, not only with my fellow colleagues but also the higher positions within the company. Wellspring is a very enhancing environment!

True Stories: How Grad Students Used Summer Internships to Launch Their Careers- Alex

Happy summer pios! Hope you had a wonderful Independence Day. The third installment of our True Stories series highlights Alex, a master’s student who’s internship experience resulted in a job offer!

Alex Easterbrook-True Stories-Office of Graduate StudiesIntern: Alex Easterbrook, second-year master’s student in forensic psychology

Employers: A.B. Counseling: A counseling center that offers personalized treatment plans for offenders, allowing them to reach an optimal quality of life.

Mental Health Center of Denver: A private recovery center that assists individuals recovering from mental illness. Alex was specifically involved with the Denver First program offered through the Mental Health Center.



What She Did

A.B. Counseling: I led individual and group therapy sessions with different types of offenders, including domestic violence offenders and sex offenders. I also conducted intakes there. I enjoy working with offenders and helping people, especially in individual therapy. The work is never the same because everyone I work with is different and has their own story.

Mental Health Center of Denver/Denver First: I, along with four other students in my program, conducted assessments at jails with “frequent flyer” offenders, meaning they continue to end up in jail over and over again. Our job was to conduct a few different assessments to identify the strengths and challenges that will help and/or hinder the inmates from being successful in the community. After meeting with an individual, we wrote a report recommending intensive case management, housing and/or substance abuse/mental health treatment in the community through MHCD. I really enjoyed going to the jail to conduct these assessments, and the work was really meaningful and valuable.

How her summer internships helped her career

A.B. Counseling provided me with my first experience doing clinical work . I gained a lot of valuable experience, including how to run group therapy, come up with treatment plans, conduct initial intake sessions, etc. It was extremely relevant to what we had learned in class, and it was a place for me to apply what I had been learning in a clinical setting. This internship also resulted in a job opportunity, as I have officially been hired on as a therapist at the agency. My main focus will be working with sex offenders; however, I will also likely continue working with domestic violence offenders.

The Denver First project was also extremely valuable. I had the opportunity to use many assessment tools that are relevant in forensics, such as the LS/RNR and START. In fact, I ended up taking a class last quarter focused on the LS/RNR and START. After the internship I felt like I had a better understanding of class material, because I had real world experiences I could relate it to.

Advice she’d give to DU grad students

I think taking advantage of the opportunities you are presented with is the most important thing. I applied to A.B. Counseling as my second year internship. They asked me to start in the summer, and I gladly obliged. I wanted to get a head start and try and get the most out of my True Stories Quoteexperience. As for working with Denver First, I heard Dr. Neil Gowensmith mention the possibility of some work opportunities for students, and I sent him an email saying I was interested. Luckily, I was selected, but I’m really glad I reached out to him when I heard about the opportunity. I would also advise others to set boundaries, in regard to personal time and self-care. Although I worked at A.B. Counseling and did the jail assessments over the summer, I maintained a fairly set schedule and didn’t overload my work schedule. I made time for me, as well as time for other people important to me. Psychology in general, but specifically forensics, is a field where burnout rates are high and self-care is extremely important. To this day, I find setting boundaries at work and saying “no” when I have too much on my plate to be very beneficial for me.

True Stories: How Grad Students Used Summer Internships to Launch Their Careers- Ashley

Hello grad students! We are excited to share with you our second installment of True Stories. The purpose of the series is to share DU student internship experiences to help prepare you for your upcoming summer jobs/assistantships/internships. Last time we featured Ben Lampert, a  master’s student majoring in sport and performance psychology who interned at Rivermend Health Wellspring Camps. In this installment we are showcasing Ashley Bartlett, a highly motivated higher education master’s student who completed two internships last year.

ashley bartlett

Intern: Ashley Bartlett, second-year master’s student in higher education

Employers: Arapahoe Community College: A two-year college in the greater Denver area  offering more than 100 degree and certificate programs.

Suitts Graduate and Alumni Career Center: Operated by the Daniels College of Business, this center offers opportunities for graduate students to explore career options, prepare for interviews, and advance professionally.

What she did

Arapahoe Community College (ACC): I worked at ACC as an academic advising intern where I assisted with database management and academic advising for scholarship students in effort to increase retention and persistence of these students.

Graduate Intern at Suitts Graduate and Alumni Career Center: I provided career coaching for graduate and alumni students of the Daniels College of Business that included resume and cover letter assistance, job search strategies, and networking advice.

How her internships helped her career

Due to my grad student schedule, I was actually able to accommodate both internships during the school year. My goal upon entering the Higher Education program at DU was to get a job in career services in the Denver area upon graduation, and I knew coming in that higher education in Colorado is a close-knit industry where everyone knows everyone. Keeping that inWordpress Quote (1)
mind, I was very intentional about seeking internships. I did informational interviews with directors at different types of institutions (community colleges, business schools, law schools, etc.) and discovered that certain types of institutions prefer you to have experience at an institution similar to theirs. That prompted me to seek out an internship at a community college so that I could diversify my resume. I also capitalized on my B.A. in business administration since so many business schools have their own career centers. Between each of these internships and my required fellowship, I was really able to take what I learned from the classroom into a real world setting. I also feel that my contributions in class were better informed due to my outside experience.

Advice she’d give to DU grad students

Grad school provides you with the unique opportunity to be in a position where people want to help you and develop you. Get out there and meet the key players in your field early on, and make great relationships with them. The more fans you have, the more opportunities will come to you. Also, be open to new and relatable experiences you may have not considered before. Advocate for yourself, and find ways to make new opportunities.

Lastly, my taking advantage of multiple opportunities helped to substantially grow my network in a short amount of time. This networking certainly paid off. I had options in my career search, and have even been able to secure a position prior to graduation.

Hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July! If you have any advice you’d like to share, please let us know in the comments!

True Stories: How Grad Students Used Summer Internships to Launch Their Careers- Ben

Ah…it’s summertime. After the madness that are winter and spring quarters, you’re probably looking forward to days by the pool, ascending a fourteener, or maybe just enjoying a little R & R. Or…maybe you’re gearing up for your next adventure: The Summer Internship. Summer internships are a wonderful time to gain real-world experience in your area of study. To help prepare you for this endeavor we have launched a summer series True Stories: How Grad Students Used Summer Internships to Launch Their Careers. We interviewed five DU graduate students and got the skinny on their summer internship experiences. Each post will focus on the specifics relating what they learned and advice they’d like to relay to you as you venture into your own endeavors. Our first student is Ben Lampert, who actually met his fiancé whilst doing his internship!

Ben Lampert

InternBen Lampert, second year master’s student majoring in sport and performance psychology

EmployerRivermend Health Wellspring Camps a weight loss camp for kids, teens, young adults, and women. Services include behavioral health experts, cognitive behavioral therapy, culinary and nutritional training, lifestyle management, exercise and physical activity, and continuing care.

What he did

I spent nine weeks on the campus of UCSD where I worked as a behavioral coach. I managed a caseload of 15–20 individuals and four groups of 4–6 individuals. I provided them with mental health counseling and performance-based interventions to aid in their journey to become healthier, more confident versions of themselves. The main objective for the campers was to lose weight and part of my job was to equip participants with habits that would transcend outside of the program. I also spent lots of time “putting out fires” and dealing with crises such as suicide ideation, cutting, fighting, running away, and anxiety/depression.

How his summer internship helped his career

My summer experience with Wellspring Camps was a dream come true. I had the opportunity to take what I learned during my first year as a master’s student in DU’s Sport & Performance Psychology program and immediately apply it in a real world setting. As a behavioral coach I was urged to use my evolving theory of performance excellence in conjunction with Wellspring’s clinical behavioral health model to positively influence and improve the lives of obese teenagers and young adults. One of the best parts about our program at DU is the applied nature of it. I have always been a “trial and error” kind of guy and my work at Wellspring, in conjunction with my formal learning at DU, allowed me to try different approaches and practice what I learned in a safe and supportive environment. Oh, and did I mention, I was able to play a part in what was the best summer of their lives for many of these campers?! After my internship I was able to then return to the classroom with great momentum.

Advice he’d give to DU grad students


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  • Apply Early: This opportunity came across our program’s listserv and I jumped on it right
    away. This allowed me to be in the very first wave of interviews a few weeks into January and provided me with the flexibility to choose my location.
  • Relinquish Control: Use a summer internship to step outside your comfort zone, embrace the unknowns, and further develop your own skill set while helping others at the same time.
  • Take a Step Back: Looking back at my experience, I realize I was in a bubble of sorts and it would have suited me well to pop the bubble and disengage from the go-go-go mentality of summer camp every now and then.

If you take one message from all this, I think it should be to be pro-active, ask questions, and see what summer internships/jobs are out there as early as possible (I did it over winter break). Allow yourself to do something new that’s outside of your comfort zone. If you do this, you can’t go wrong and you will find a satisfying summer experience that may even change your life! It sure changed mine…I’m marrying my fiancé this August, someone I met through a connection from Wellspring!

Resources for Finding a Graduate Summer Research Position

Summer Research Opportunities

Summer jobs aren’t just for undergrads. In fact, there are a plethora of opportunities that specifically request graduate students! By now in your academic career you’re probably aware of the benefits that come from temporary job training programs, but you might not know all the new opportunities that your advanced graduate school training can provide you. This summer is a great opportunity to build your professional network and gain some vital real world skills that will prepare you for life after your grad degree.

Tips Before Embarking

Prior to commencing your exploration you will want to beef up your internship searching skills. The tips below will make the search process much easier and potentially increase your discovery!

  • Don’t limit yourself to a single term– Graduate summer work goes by many names (associateship, fellowship, co-op, graduate internship, and so forth). Conduct separate searches for each term to increase your results list. For example, a search for summer education fellowship will give you different results than a search for summer education graduate internship.
  • Use quotes– quotation marks are recognized in most search engines and allow you to search for phrases rather than single words. Searching for “graduate summer fellowship” will provide different results than searching for graduate summer fellowship without the quotations (this is great for using with the search engine monolith Google).
  • Exclude erroneous results with the minus sign– If you’re receiving numerous results that aren’t relevant to your search, place a minus sign before the word you want to exclude. For example, if you’re searching in LinkedIn for graduate summer internship and you keep getting results for AT&T, modify your search to: graduate summer internship -AT&T and all of those AT&T listings will be excluded.
  • Set alerts for missed deadlines- Years fly by while you’re in grad school and before you know it it will be 2016! If there is an ideal summer internship that you missed, set a calendar alert for next year so it doesn’t pass you by next time around. While you’re waiting, you could spend the summer updating your skill set for that particular position to ensure that you stand out from the other applicants.

Visit Company Websites

One of the best ways to land the fellowship/internship/co-op/associateship of your dreams is to check out your favorite company’s website. Many of these entities provide summer internship programs, with many being targeted specifically at graduate students. Listed below are a few of the companies that target graduate students:

Tap into an Organization

Most likely you’re a member of a professional organization associated with your field of study. (If you aren’t, join today! Students receive discounted membership fees.) Listservs or email lists and websites for these organizations offer a trove of potential opportunities Many career services offices and/or universities send out newsletters with lists of upcoming internships and fellowships (keep your eyes peeled for the monthly GCS newsletter!). Various government, health, business, and education organizations also provide listings of upcoming opportunities. Check out their websites or follow them on social media to stay abreast of future opportunities. Here are some suggested resources you can take a look at:

Scrutinize Social Media

crimson-linkedin LinkedIn

Don’t let the “job” in LinkedIn’s job search deter you from utilizing this tool for locating summer opportunities. With this resource you can limit by location/industry/company and often apply directly from LinkedIn using your profile information.

crimson-twitter Twitter

The monarch of the microblogging world, is a wonderful place to cast your search net. Try following scholarship and intern matching websites and searching for specific hashtags to increase discovery.

Avail Yourself of a Job Board/Search Engine

Job search engines like Indeed are great resources for uncovering summer research positions. Play around with different search terms and search operators (discussed in the Tips Before Embarking section) to expand your search. For example try conducting separate searches for summer fellowship, summer internship, and summer associate. They will all produce different search results.

InternMatch is a resource that is targeted specifically for searching internships. This includes graduate internships, fellowships, etc. With this tool you can create a profile where potential employers can view your credentials. There is also an internship forum where you can post questions and an internship blog for your perusal.

And, of course, don’t forget good ‘ol Google. With Google you can browse through a vast amount of summer research opportunities. Due to the fact that Google is so comprehensive you might want to narrow your search by using search operators. A search for summer graduate internship site:.org will only include results coming from a website with a .org domain (which includes many non-profit organizations).

Once you land a summer fellowship/internship/associateship you will all set to rake in the benefits (such as directed guidance and mentorship and a chance cultivate new skills, fine tune your current abilities, gain real-world experience, and network with individuals in your field). And don’t forget, our career counselors can also help with this process. Good luck on your journey and please let us know about your favorite resources/tools/methods in the comments!

Image courtesy of Markus Spisk