What’s it like to intern for Jeff Bezos?
Each week, www.internweekly.com features a new internship story from a real intern! This week, we’re featuring Amazon. Subscribe!
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Ever wondered what it’s like to work at a rocketship company? Jeff Bezos can answer that one: hard! Amazon’s internship program is segmented into 5 fields including Finance, Sales, Marketing, Engineering, and Analytics.
Is Amazon really the hardest place to work in America?
Let’s get diggin’, but first, here’s a pic of Uncle Jeff:
Beginning in 1995 as a simple online bookseller, Amazon has quickly grown to become the alpha dog of companies. Today, Amazon is now expanding quickly with over 500,000 employees, acquisitions (such as Whole Foods and Pillpack), Amazon Web Services, Amazon Studios, Amazon music, and a 49% market share for e-commerce. With over 2,500 interns for summer 2018, the Amazon internship is ranked the 7th most prestigious with a median pay of $6,100 per month.
Who is Kenan?
Hi! I grew up in central New Jersey, and I am currently in my senior year at Babson College studying business analytics and finance. I went into school following the investment banking path, but discovered (through an internship) that it wasn’t for me. I began finding interest in tech and preferably smaller companies. In my view, a great path after graduation is to join a big tech company in a technical role, and eventually find my way to a more strategic role inside a startup.
So, what did you do?
My role was Financial Analyst Intern for physical stores (think Amazon Go, Amazon books, and Whole Foods). Similarly to roles like data analyst and business analyst, I spent a lot of time crunching numbers, especially at Amazon where data is king. The internship is project based, meaning you receive a “launch plan” on your first day, and are pushed into the pool (hope you know how to swim). For the next 3 months, you work up to what Amazon calls a “6-page narrative” (your final report), which describes your findings in details, and is the document you present to leadership at the end of the summer (#returnoffer). My day to day consisted of organizing my own path to successfully completing my project and taking on additional initiatives. My first project was cost allocation for our stores and the second involved working on S-Team updates (reporting directly to Jeff Bezos) for physical stores to identify goals for the next quarter. No — I never actually got to see his beautiful face.
Can you talk about the work culture?
The culture at Amazon varies by team: AWS, Amazon Studios, and retail almost feel like separate companies. My team was one of the newest additions (since the Whole Foods acquisition) and yet to be completely established. Luckily, this meant my team had more space to be creative and fluid in what they were doing. Work hours were long — most were in the office for 10+ hours a day. As long as you get your work done, everyone is happy. At Amazon, no one will reach out to help you and hold your hand, but if you ask for help from your team, people will be very receptive. I also leveraged the Babson alumni network: they all were more than happy to chat over a coffee (which Seattle does best!).
What were your favorite and least favorite parts of the experience?
My favorite part of the internship was the exposure: I was lucky that my manager was a director, with over 12 years of experience at Amazon (which is very rare as the average tenure is a little over 1 year). I got to know the vice president of physical stores personally. My S-Team update project was above and beyond what the average intern could ever expect. On top of that, everyone is really smart at Amazon, and getting to work around brilliant people allowed me to learn from them.
My least favorite part of the internship was the lack of guidance. Non-tech interns didn’t receive any training, and since all our projects are different we were really left on our own. The other aspect I didn’t love is that I got to dive really deep into one tiny aspect of the company, but didn’t get the chance to see much of everything else. It’s hard to see what impact you’re having on the company.
Did you learn anything?
To be honest, I didn’t improve much on my hard skills (other than learning how to use Amazon-specific software). My biggest takeaway from this internship is the boost in confidence. I came in with the imposter syndrome, unsure on how to navigate an environment full of brilliant minds and questioning myself on if I was the right fit for the task at hand. By the end, I proved that I could overcome this feeling by accomplishing my goals and successfully finishing my project. This experience gave me the confidence and self-trust convincing me that nothing is out of my reach and that I have the skills necessary to do well in competitive environments.
Was the Amazon interview hard?
I did not find the Amazon interviews particularly hard. Interns don’t have to meet in person and only receive multiple phone calls. I was not asked many technical questions and was mostly tested on behaviorals. Interviewers essentially want to know if you fit within the leadership principles — Amazon’s version of the 10 commandments. The hardest part of the process was how interviewers are trained to frustrate you. Mine kept digging and digging on my answers until they had received all the details I possibly could give. You should expect to cover all the aspects of an example you give out in an interview.
Any advice for me?
Work as hard as you can to get to know the company you are interviewing for and earn the opportunity. There are two pieces of advice I usually give my friends:
1) Know what’s important to you: know where you’re headed,
because times do get tough. Amazon has ping-pong tables but no one is playing ping-pong. Your first experience out of school most likely won’t be easy and will require you to show your worth, embrace it. 2) Know when to be selfish: have your best interest in mind even if it may come up as selfish. To get hired at Amazon, they expect you to be better than 50% of the people already there.
When thinking about where to intern, talk to people who are currently at the company and find out for yourself if it seems like a fit. Go beyond the media and do your own research. Amazon has a bad culture reputation, but I enjoyed it.
Would you do it again?
I am returning full-time in February once I graduate for their finance rotational program, so I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t intern for Amazon again. I am going back because I know this experience is important to me. The best way for me to get to where I want to be on my own terms is by showing my worth in difficult environments and by learning from the best in the business. If there is one company you can learn from right now, it’s Amazon.
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