Part 1: Amazon Summer Internship Recap
Updated: Sep 24, 2020
Onboarding, intern project, takeaways, FAQ
My team at Agent99 asked me to write a learnings summary post for their blog on my last day. I loved the chance to reflect and synthesize immediately after the experience. So a week after the end date of my internship at Amazon, I put together an overview and learnings summary as a two-part outline of my most recent professional experience.
For 12 weeks this summer, I worked as a Marketing Specialist Intern at Amazon Web Services (AWS). I applied to the general marketing position and was randomly placed on the AMER Field Events Marketing team, organizing and optimizing events for the Sales and Solutions Architect organizations in the US, Canada, and Latin America.
Unlike the typical Seattle-based Amazon internship, 2020 marked the first remote, virtual cohort. I received two boxes containing my "desk" and learned my first lesson: working with a monitor changes the game. I now permanently see my laptop screen as minuscule and constraining...*sigh*
The hands-on experience began with a 2-week structured onboarding going over the culture, company processes, resources, and expectations. In the second week, I also dove into the library of online mini-courses for additional general training including SQL basics, introduction to Amazon's customized Salesforce interface, and a Marketo pre-certification series. The role-agnostic new information during the first two weeks made the kick-off feel a bit like school—comfortable territory for a current student.
During the third week, my manager introduced me to my peer onboarding buddy and mentor to help with role-specific training. Unlike the extensive, pre-prepared, general Amazon content, the Field Events Marketing training applied a learn-on-the-job approach. I began with organizational tasks (creating meetings, updating calendars, submitting event tickets, shadowing events and taking notes, etc.) as I learned the start-to-finish strategy and purpose behind the event series my team owned as well as the basics on the AWS products they promoted.
My Intern Project
At my 6-week evaluation, my manager provided performance feedback and presented my intern project. One of the main reasons I chose to participate in Amazon's internship program was the project-based structure, similar to that of technical internships. Every intern receives a project and presents their results to a panel on their last day.
My project plan combined team needs and my goals for the second six weeks. I told my manager I could leverage strong writing skills and wanted to hone my data skills.
Each event my team hosted had a post-event survey distributed to event attendees. But with 4-7 events per week across different series, my team didn't have time left over to sort through the data. For the most part, the survey data came in and sat unused.
Thus my project came to be: compile the survey data, find trends, suggest improvements, and execute 3 key initiatives (targeting 3 challenges identified in my historical analysis of all events since the April virtual switch). I communicated my findings via weekly written reports summarizing performance, recommending areas for improvement, and updating testing results around the 3 initiatives. All for the primary goal of improving the average customer satisfaction score (CSAT) used to gauge event success. The CSAT average sat way below target since the events transitioned online. As my team executed the high volume of events, I incorporated improvements through A/B tests, tracking the CSAT score impact.
A Typical Day
During the second six weeks, my time split into roughly 50% intern project, 25% team meetings, 20% other team work, and 5% networking to learn from other marketing teams. But the contents of each category varied every day. In past internships, I've learned a lot during the first month and then my days became repetitive once I got the hang of my assigned tasks. At Amazon, there was so much going on all the time, that I never settled into a "typical day." I kept observing new processes and picking up tasks for different team members and teams right up until my last day.
Big Takeaway Bullets
Goals. Unlike past internships, I wrote out my goals and communicated them to my manager during our first meeting. Throughout the first few weeks, I adjusted my targets based on how my individual goals aligned with my team's goals. Each weekly check-in with my manager included a goals section to ensure I tracked progress and modified as needed. During our midpoint meeting, my manager expressed how helpful my clear goals were for creating my project and sending relevant opportunities my way. Thank you Bella for teaching me the approach a few weeks before my start date (ps. do informational interviews for career-changing advice. I'm not exaggerating).
Company size. Initially, Amazon's massive company size concerned me. The experience revealed the expected bureaucracy and full stairway of management levels. But other than my limited access to certain software and databases, I didn't feel restricted to "intern-only" tasks or pushed down in any way. One of my favorite moments involved a Think Big session where the entire Field Marketing organization brainstormed large-scale program improvements to pitch for next year. I presented two of my ideas that received upvotes into the top 20 submissions. I got to actively participate rather than being limited to just observing, which isn't always the case for interns at other large companies. Although I could set some expectations based on company size, ultimately the specifics came down to company culture.
Data. Want to launch a program or initiative? If you have the data, go ahead. Reporting on an event? Link every sentence to the data. Data-driven is a major buzzword, but Amazon showed me the true meaning of taking data seriously; it's a great place to learn data's value and become proficient in its language and use.
A few people have reached out with Amazon-internship-specific questions. For those interested, see below.
Application timeline? I applied in November 2019, interviewed in March 2020, and received my internship offer in April.
Application process? Any tips? The application involved a standard section (resume, cover letter, fill-in-your-info) plus an essay component. I then completed an online assessment (1. multiple-choice responses to hypothetical scenarios and 2. critical thinking puzzles). Finally, I had two 1-hour interviews scheduled back-to-back. The interview portion was one of the most rigorous I've experienced. Frame all your answers around Amazon's Leadership Principles and practice your responses out loud beforehand.
Amazon intensity? Yes, Amazon has a rep for intense, long hours. My team lived on both coasts, so everyone was on ~8am ET to 7pm PT. I usually wasn't in front of my computer for the 14 hours, but I was expected to reply to messages and emails after I logged off. As my Amazonian informational interviews expressed: there's always more to do. If you want to work 24 hours straight every day, you can. So it's up to you to set a cut-off. My manager always kept my workload in mind and expected me to accurately identify how much I could do. Although tempting to accept every request and opportunity, I had to practice turning down mini-projects and meetings during my last month to maintain high-quality work and track towards meaningful results. In short: the reputation exists for a reason, but the application depends on you.
See part 2 for my learnings and continued thoughts.