Part 2: Amazon Summer Internship Learnings
Updated: Oct 10, 2020
Retentions from the firehose
I'll be honest, I wasn't overly excited about my event marketing placement for my Amazon marketing internship. I've held event planning roles in the past, and I worried I might not learn enough from a familiar role.
I've never been happier to be incredibly, totally, 110% wrong.
My experienced encompassed much more than event planning. My team demonstrated a top-notch streamlined workflow and skills beyond those needed to plan events. Also, my manager tailored my experience with opportunities to collaborate with neighboring marketing teams in the few cases I wanted to apply skills not needed on the active projects of my direct team (eg. I worked with Paid Media to learn about sponsored LinkedIn campaigns that supported registrations for my team's events).
Here's a little sampler platter of my internship's learnings, building blocks, and important parts— some specific about Amazon, some general.
Languages. My team covered all of North America, and the international collaboration meant I got to read French reports from the Canada team and Spanish reports from the LATAM team. Quite a moment of pride to finally put my language skills to use.
Outreach. People were too busy to extend help but willingly offered advice if I asked.
Ambiguity. Amazon's culture strongly promotes self-service learning. There’s a wiki page for everything and although people happily answered questions, I was expected to look for the answer and come up with my own solution first (eg. before asking which folder houses a certain report, go look). And once I found or learned what I needed, I then had to determine what to do with it (eg. the report mentioned XYZ challenge. Do I include it in my event write-up or not?). Both my intern project and more ad hoc contributions required me to manage my time and create a structure for myself within the ambiguity. To prioritize tasks and contribute meaningfully, I noticed the elements team members discussed in the team chat or what action items managers stressed during team meetings.
Information overload. Aka the firehose. The first few weeks of a job are actually some of my favorite. I have no idea what’s going on, I need to build relationships, learn the basics, create my goals, and generally take in a lot more information than I can process. Although I’m not the fastest or best at my job during the first 2-4 weeks, my rate of learning and emotional discomfort will never be higher moving forward. At Amazon, every day is Day One which meant the firehose never turned off, the emotional discomfort stuck around, and each week presented new challenges and learnings. I loved it.
Learning. When I had downtime (increasingly rare throughout), I’d ask to contribute to an unrelated project to learn a new dimension of the Field Marketing organization. For example, I worked with Demand Generation to create new customized digital event benchmarks. Unrelated to my project scope, but relevant and fascinating to learn.
In-company segmentation. My immediate team was 8 people and my overall team was 22. We collaborated across teams but 80% of daily communication was with my immediate team. I had to go out of my way to communicate with different marketing functions, unrelated teams, and other Amazon segments (Prime, Fresh, Retail, etc). The siloed teams optimized speed but at times increased difficulty accessing collective knowledge and expertise from other areas.
Initiatives. If you pitch a project or initiative with supporting data, you can execute it. If it doesn't need team resources or collaboration, just do it and present the results. I re-coded the standard survey template to reduce the manual post-event calculations. Made work easier for the the team without spending budget, so no permission necessary.
A/B testing. The informed trial-and-error process of A/B testing...so frustrating and exciting. Half my project involved running tests to improve the hands-on lab portion of events. I ran three tests without any statistically significant change. On the fourth week, voila— the score jumped to a near-perfect 4.5/5 score for the tested occurrence. I can't describe how satisfying the following successes for events trialing the same modification felt. The celebration came with the success but the learning occurred with each failure; negative results are just as informative as the positive and make the ultimate win all the more satisfying.
Just having an internship (or multiple internships) doesn't imply or guarantee significant learning. Outside of the 8 sampled specifics, I'm beyond grateful for the intense, informative 12 weeks at Amazon that taught me systems, software, stakeholder management, teamwork, experimentation, and more. I'm happy to temporarily return to the student life, but I'm looking forward to building on my professional learnings with my next role, whatever it may be.