How I Landed Internships At Amazon and Google
Here’s what it’s like to intern at the world’s biggest companies
Written by Sherry Yuan — computer science & economics student at University of Toronto, teaching assistant, gamer
- I interned at Amazon, Intel and Google. Here’s what I learned.
- Networking is important, but not as important as developing your own skills.
- Research and side projects are crucial starting points.
- Broaden your skill range first, and specialize later on.
There is no the ultimate guide to landing internships at big tech companies; everyone takes different paths and you need to find the path that works best for you :)
There were two things that made my growth path especially hard for me:
- Being a first-generation immigrant, I had no support from family and have to rely completely on my own.
- My university doesn’t have an outstanding co-op program, unlike universities such as Waterloo or McMaster.
Many other students face their own struggles, and I hope others who can relate to these struggles will take something away from my story.
The Path to Big Tech
I learned the importance of internships in high school, and have been working toward them even since.
I started with learning new skills online, then applying them to side projects. One of my side projects helped me land my first research experience, and the first research experience helped me land a job at astartups. This positive reinforcement loop moves on, and I eventually landed internships at Google, Intel and Amazon.
The main takeaway here is: none of your effort is ever wasted; they compound and make you a more valuable person.
This lead me to my first main takeaway: Networking is important, but not as important as developing your own skills.
At the beginning of my career, I was mislead by the concept of networking, and thought I could only get a job through networking. But this is totally wrong. Networking is only something that can potentially get your foot in door, but ultimately what matters is building up a foundation of skills.
I will skip the interview process, as the only recipe is preparation (e.g. reviewing course material, using Leetcode). There are no shortcuts.
- The culture is incredible: I got to participate in many cool clubs / events within Google
- Everyone is willing to help and very supportive
- The internal tools make learning about the team/code really smooth
- The culture enforces transparency and engineering excellence
There are tons of clubs within Google (e.g. anime, board game, badminton and many more). It is really great to have a place to have fun after work! Occasionally, each individual office also hosts events (e.g. I went to a farm in the summer).
The internal tools and the great internal documentation helped to speed up the learning process, which is very crucial in a short 12-week internship. Every pull request and new bug opened are viewable by everyone in the company. This emphasis on transparency is what I believe to be one of the most important things to have in a company.
- Learned a ton about creating efficient processes and what makes a big organization run smoothly
- Amazon Leadership Principles are applicable everywhere!
- Everyone on the team is always welling to help
- Internal tools are amazing
Many people have misconceptions about Amazon’s culture, so here’s my honest opinion from my experience. Everyone in my team was super willing to help (both career wise and technical wise) — those online blogs about “there are no friends at Amazon” are simply not true. We would collaborate during work, go out for lunch together, and even go karting together on the weekend!
During the internship, I had an assigned onboarding buddy and mentor. Amazon has dedicated a lot of resources to ensure your experience will be excellent. From my manager, I learned a lot about processes for improving efficiency and resource allocation. Upon learning more about these processes, I also learned that most right things to do (under any situation) falls under Amazon’s leadership principles. From my mentor, I learned a lot about how to build amazing teams, as well as effective communication techniques.
- The tech stack was completely new for me, and I got to learn a ton as a result
- There was so much cross-functional communication (between teams located in different part of the world), and I learned a lot about communication techniques as a result
- Taking ownership on the design and implementation of new features is important. Communicate with your team, dependencies and senior tech lead to ensure consensus.
- Don’t be afraid to jump into a new code base.
Despite holding a software role, the functionality revolved around FPGA which makes it a completely new stack that I learned from scratch. The different parts of the FPGA are built by teams from different parts of the world. This makes communication of design and division of tasks crucial in moving projects forward on the right track.
On some occasions, I took on the full ownership of a project, from design all the way to implementation. During the process I had to dive into other code bases and understand what needed to be added/changed. In the design phase, I got the chance to communicate with senior tech leads, and learned a lot from them!
This concludes my tips and experience at Amazon, Intel and Google. I hope you found it useful. Feel free to comment if you have any questions!
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