Madhav Rathi, Engineering Physics, Class of 2020, shares his internship experience at Amazon, through an off-campus opportunity.
It all started back in August 2018 when the intern season commenced. Previously, I had been a part of the Google Summer of Code program for two years in a row, taking turns both as a student and as a mentor.
Little did I know that getting a Software Engineering Internship while being in a non-coding branch was not an easy task, and no one actually cared about GSoC. After randomly scrolling through the Resume Manager for a few days, I realized that getting an on-campus internship might never get crossed off the bucket list.
A few good companies did allow my branch but I never made it to the interviews. I contacted a few of my seniors and then started my voyage for an off-campus internship. I got an offer from Hackerrank after sometime and this remained the only offer I had until a week from the end semester exams of the 6th semester. Somehow, I managed to get a referral at Amazon and after clearing the test, I had only one online interview remaining which lasted for about 1.5 hours.
I got the offer but screwed up my end-sems. The trade-off was worth it though. The decision between Hackerrank and Amazon was tough but I decided to go with Amazon as it better aligned with my interests at the time.
Getting there (and back :P)
Amazon will take care of everything from flights to accommodation for you. I had my joining on 3rd June and I was given residence at the 5-star Oakwood Residence Kapil Hyderabad (only for 2 weeks though :/). Amazon also provides free of cost cabs from hotel to office for interns for the entire duration of their internship.
The first day is New Hire Orientation and this session was a lot of fun. All the new hires ranging from interns to managers attend this session, which was quite interactive. They introduce you to the culture of Amazon, 14 leadership principles followed at Amazon, a few fun stories from the early days, after which the interns are given their gear (Laptop, T-shirt, a bag and a few more things). There is also a photo-shoot for the ID card, which is given the next day along with some auto-generated alias. The alias assigned to me was ‘madrathi’, which was pretty badass.
Following this session, I met my team. Amazon pairs every intern with a mentor for the entire duration of the intern. The first week was spent in setting up my workstation. At the end of the first week, every SDE new hire attends an SDE boot camp. This is where they introduce you to the state-of-the-art technologies that Amazon uses internally.
From the second week onward, the interns are briefed about their projects, and are expected to start learning all the involved technologies through internal Wiki resources. My project had a few dependencies which got delayed and following this, my manager decided to change my team so that I can start working on a new project. This however required me to shift to Delhi office as the new team was based in Delhi. I left for Delhi at the end of my second week and couldn’t explore Hyderabad at all but it was good while it lasted.
The Delhi office was located in Ambience Corporate Towers, just behind Ambience Mall, Gurgaon.
Amazon doesn’t differentiate between interns and full-time employees, so don’t expect any hand-holding whatsoever. This does not mean that doubts are not entertained. Interns are required to propose multiple solutions for a given problem statement, which will be discussed in a design review. The design review meetings often involve senior SDEs too. My mentor prepared me well for this review meeting, where all of the possible approaches are discussed, and the best one is picked after weighing the trade-offs.
My project involved highly confidential data and some serious security measures were discussed in the meetings to handle the same. My final design was closed after three iterations of design review. My project was confidential as the features are yet to be announced officially so I won’t be explaining the details here. The team was highly supportive and I could always share my ideas as it would always lead to an informative discussion.
Once, I remember that I was designing a database schema and I got great tips on designing a composite primary key, and on manipulating pagination in DynamoDB for supporting my query from a senior SDE who wasn’t even part of my team! (was a member of a sister team). People here are extremely smart and very approachable. They are super fun and very closely knit, and I had the most amazing manager. He was very approachable and understanding. Amazon has everything built internally so you are provided with an internal Google, internal StackOverflow and an internal Wikipedia (all with different names though), and they are enough to answer any query one might have.
One thing I liked about Amazon is that employees are given complete ownership of their projects. They can name it however they like; they can use whatever technology they like as long as it helps in improving the overall architecture, and you're able to get it approved in the design reviews.
My team had projects named after Death Note characters like Light Document Extractor, Rem Document Uploader, Ryuk Document Querier, etc. I completed my project before the deadline and also volunteered for a side project which would be helpful for all the new hires in Amazon. So, if you're planning to join Amazon, do check out OpsConfigReplicator on their Wiki search.
Amazon has no office timings. Check-in and check-out whenever you want. Being physically present in the office isn’t even a necessity. If you can deliver from home, well, work from home then. For food, Amazon provides meal coupons worth Rs.1100 every month. The cafeteria serves good food with a bunch of options on the menu.
Amazon's office had a great play area having games like Foosball, Pool, Table Tennis, Xbox, etc. My teammates were so hooked on these games that they once resolved the dispute of seating arrangement at our new location by drawing fixtures of Foosball match.
My team went out to celebrate every little moment. I remember when India got knocked out of the World Cup, my manager took the team to Canvas Laugh Club to lighten the mood. The show somehow had way too many jokes on interns so it didn't help much in fixing my mood :P
One major takeaway for me was to think and discuss before implementing. Coming from college we usually value code more than the meetings and discussions, but while working for a corporation that has a huge user database, you have to be careful about everything. Prior discussion and meetings can align you better with the final goal and avoid pitfalls. I also gained more confidence while picking up new technologies and delivering the project within the deadline.
This internship was one of the most memorable time for me and it was way better than my average college life. I was a bit disheartened when it got over but Tony Stark said it right, “Part of the journey is the end”. Below is the workstation I left on the 2nd of August-
I would advise everyone reading this to stay motivated throughout the placement and internship season. This time can get depressing if you don't get what you want so please reach out to anyone who you are comfortable with, if you are feeling low. I had 2 internship offers and countless rejections, but in the end, I only remember the selections. You just have to make it once, so no matter where you are, never give up and keep fighting. Also, please be in touch with your seniors.
At times, we tend to ignore opportunities that could benefit us. I had a great set of seniors who guided me and kept me motivated throughout the intern season. So never be afraid to reach out.
I hope you all have a great experience in bagging those offers. Break a leg!