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.

Sometimes, Social Science Grad Students Just Need a Place to Work. . . . a Place with Coffee, Chocolate, and Help


-By Glenn Koelling

Let’s say you’re a grad student in the social sciences.  Oh you are? How convenient! It’s the end  of winter term and your project is coming up.  Yeah, that one.  The one you just have to sit down and do.  Technically, you can work almost any place, but the question is what’s your productivity like?

Re/Write Studio is an experimental outreach program (hosted by the Research Center and the Writing Center) targeting graduate students in the social sciences. Three times throughout winter term, we’re providing a workspace for students to come, work on projects, and get research and writing help if they want it. The sessions last 3 hours, but participants can come whenever and for however long they want. Our final writing session will be March 3 from 2-5 in AAC 340 (the Loft).  People can register here for the last session, but drop-ins are welcome too.  We have consultants from the writing center *and* librarians who specialize in social science research available to help with quick questions or concerns. Don’t feel like you need writing help? There’s also snacks and coffee to help power you along during the writing/research process.

Why Write with Others?

For me, I get more excited about a concert if other people are excited. I actually care about football if I’m at a viewing party. With papers, if people around me are focused on their work, I focus better on mine. Groups influence us—especially when members have similar goals. But more than that, there’s a sense of camaraderie that can happen in groups. We’re all in this together, even if we’re working on different projects.

The best part about Re/Write Studio is that if you hit a block, there are people available who can help you move past it. Writing Center consultants are available to help participants with writing problems or even brainstorm ways to continue.  Librarians can help navigate the research world or help participants find new resources.

This group is designed to help students as they need it, so it’s looked different both times we’ve held it. The first time involved a lot of conversation about writing and research. The second time was mostly quiet with people hunkered down working. It’s hard to say exactly what the third time will look like, but so far, everyone has left further along in their work than when they came in. We’ve had questions ranging from organizing literature reviews to figuring out a tricky citation format. We’ve also had some productive research sessions where participants discovered ways to go further with their own work. And there’s been a lot of writing.

When the last Re/Write Studio happens, we’ll be looking for ways to continue to offer collaborative events like this. Please let either the Research Center or the Writing Center know if you’re interested in seeing more programs like this.  Hope to see you and your work March 3rd!

How the DU Impact 2025 Plan Will Affect Graduate Students

DU Impact 2025_Short

This month, the final draft of DU IMPACT 2025 plan was approved by the Board of Trustees. During the Respond & Refine stage, some graduate students voiced their concerns that graduate students weren’t represented substantially in the plan. After hearing this feedback from our graduate community, I decided to sit down with the Associate Provost for Graduate Studies, Dr. Barbara J. Wilcots, to get her thoughts on where exactly she sees the plan benefiting graduate students at DU. With graduate students making up 52% of our student population, I feel that it is extremely important that we understand how specifically we fit into the IMPACT plan. I’m excited to report that there are a lot of really exciting developments in the works that are going to directly benefit and support us. The overall plan includes four transformative directions each with several related strategic initiatives. Below are some of the highlights that Dr. Wilcots shared with me. They provide some more tangibility to the broad level directions and initiatives outlined in the plan. For example, in the next few years you can expect more dual degree opportunities, new curriculum, and graduate student career/professional support.

Transformative Direction 1: Students Learning and Leading in a Diverse and Global 21st Century

Through this direction, systems will be put in place to better help graduates meet milestones. These support resources include support for research preparation, advisor selection, and dissertation/thesis completion. There will also be additional support for preparing graduate students in their pursuit of academic careers.

More Financial Aid: In specific regard to Strategic Initiative 1, Dr. Wilcots informed me that the strategic plan commits to increased financial support for graduate students through upcoming philanthropic initiatives.

 Expanded Career Services Support: The fifth initiative under Direction 1 has resulted in a move of University Career Services and Graduate Career Services Office from the Office of Graduate Studies to Advancement. This move will result in continued and improved graduate career services that focus on global networking and initiatives to engage alumni and industry partners in creating internship and research opportunities.

Transformative Direction 2: Discovery and Design in an Age of Collaboration 

At first glance this direction seems to focus solely on faculty members, but after speaking with Dr. Wilcots, I learned that this also directly involves graduate students. The university will expand funded research and recruit internationally recognized faculty to strengthen the research culture that directly impacts the academic and professional opportunities for graduate students.  So much of faculty research involves graduate student research contributions, and Dr. Wilcots informed me that in the future we can expect to see DU make those contributions known in a more transparent manner. We can also anticipate more cross-school initiatives that will include new combined degrees that graduate students can pursue.

Chances to Make an International Impact: Get ready to pack your bags! The Office of Graduate Studies is now administering a fund to support international internship and academic opportunities for graduate students. Also, initiative 3 expresses DU’s commitment to engaging international alumni to develop internship and employment opportunities for students.

Increased Research Opportunities: Initiative 5, the Initiative on Social Policy Research, will facilitate the implementation of a new curriculum that will focus on social policy issues and practical application. It will also result in the establishment of “The Institute for Social Policy Research, an interdisciplinary hub to address pressing social issues” (p. 12). Through this institute graduate students will receive sponsorship for their research projects and a structured space for collaboration (p. 14).

Openings for Entrepreneurship: One exciting development from Initiative 6 was the newly implemented Project X-ITE.  Project X-ITE is a cross-disciplinary opportunity for students to get together and transform their ideas and research into “projects, products, and businesses.” The project will provide a bevy of new research opportunities and direct research application for graduate students. Have an idea to propose? Submit it to the program!

Transformative Direction Three: Engagement and Empowerment in Denver and the Rocky Mountain West

New Community Collaboration Possibilities: Initiative 1 under this direction will help graduate students forge relationships with the city, understand the city’s needs, and create opportunities for Denver’s community to work with DU. It will also result in increased support for the community work that grad students do through their practicums.

More Graduate Specific Events: Strategic Initiative 3- DU as an Open Door to Engagement and Vitality: As a result of Initiative 3, Campus Life will be offering more events that meet graduate students’ needs.

What Graduate Students Can Do

The overall focus of IMACT 2025 is One DU. That means ensuring that all voices are heard, especially graduate students’. Dr. Wilcots suggests that graduate students get to know who the responsible committees and co-chairs for implementation in their department are and ask questions about implementation and how it will affect them. The plan is charging each department on campus with implementing parts of the plan so this is a great opportunity to get informed about the plan and ensure overall accountability and transparency.

While the plan has been approved, departments are still determining a design for implementation that is inclusive and consultative. Also, if you see problems be vocal during this implementation phase. Here’s to cultivating our future as One DU!

Have ideas for plan improvement? Please comment below!


Stump Speeches at the University of Denver Over the Years

In light of Chelsea Clinton and America Ferrera’s visit to DU today we thought we’d compile a list of all the hopeful candidates and supporters who have visited our campus over the years. DU has had quite a history of high profile visits!

Madeleine Albright

madeleine-albrightWhen: October, 2016

First female U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, visited DU this month to stump for Hillary Clinton. Interestingly, she spent the bulk of her teenage years living near campus and her father taught at DU!



Vice President Joe Biden

When: Thursday, Sept 15, 2016

“For the first time in Korbel’s history, the sitting Vice President Joe Biden was welcomed to campus with over 700 people in attendance for the dinner, along with a student watch party held in Hamilton Gymnasium” (DU Clarion).




Chelsea Clinton & America Ferrera

Chelsea_Clinton_microphone_Philadelphia_2008  AmericaFerreraDIFFApr10 

When: February 18th, 2016

DU welcomed Chelsea Clinton and America Ferrera in the Anderson Academic Common’s Special Events Room where they stumped for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Bernie Sanders

When: June 20th, 2015

Last year, Vermont senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders spoke to 5,500 Denverites in Magness Arena.



romney obamaMitt Romney v Future President Barack Obama

When: October 3rd, 2012

While not a stump speech per se, DU hosted an exciting presidential debate in 2012. This debate garnered an impressive 67.2 million viewers; “the highest rated first election season debate since 1980” (Ostrow, 2012).


John_McCain_in_KyivJohn McCain

When: May 27th, 2008

Arizona senator John McCain visited the University of Denver to build support for his 2008 presidential run against Barack Obama.


Future President Barack Obama

When: January 30th, 2008

Four years before the Romney debate, future President Barack Obama made a campaign stop at Magness Arena.

President William J. Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton

When: January 30th, 2008

Former President Bill Clinton stumped for his wife Hillary Clinton the night following future President Obama’s morning appearance.


Official_Portrait_of_President_Reagan_1981Future President Ronald Reagan

When: April 8th, 1979

Before he announced his candidacy, future President Ronald Reagan visited the arena-fieldhouse at DU.


Richard NixonFuture President Richard Nixon

When: September 13th, 1961

DU’s Young-Republicans League sponsored future President Richard Nixon’s visit to the DU Arena in 1961.


Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments!



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!