How I Landed Amazon's Software Development Engineer Internship

How I Landed Amazon's Software Development Engineer Internship

ATTENTION: This is a big article. One of a prospective intern’s biggest threats to success is time-waste. If you’re in a time crunch and prepping for a rapidly approaching interview, skip to the sections that are most relevant to interview preparation (Application, Cycle Structure, Prep). Good luck!

Prologue

Amazon has revolutionized the way we shop. I never really understood the importance of Amazon.com until I got to college and made a free Amazon Student Prime account. Since then, I realized why this company was one of the Big 4 of tech. I buy almost everything, even food during the coronavirus pandemic, through Amazon now. I knew for a while that interning at Amazon would be one of the greatest learning experiences of my life.

There’s no feeling like opening your email and seeing those first few words of the offer letter. Whether you’re currently applying or already in the pipeline, this article will help prepare you to maximize your chances of becoming and succeeding as an Amazon intern.

Application

There are multiple ways to apply to Amazon:

  1. Online application
  2. Employee referral
  3. Email a recruiter

I went with route #2. You’ll definitely want the referral from someone you know and not just someone you connected with on LinkedIn and never met. If you don’t have an Amazon employee in your network, option #3 may yield better results than option #1.

When you apply, make sure you have a solid resume. One way to improve it is to follow the tips on Nick Singh’s article for engineering resumes. A more general tip for both engineers and non-engineers is to have it reviewed by someone who has landed a role similar to your dream role.

Cycle Structure

  1. Online Application: Here's where you need to have an awesome resume. Even if you are unsure that you have enough prior experience, being able to frame your current positions and personal projects will go a long way in helping you get past this stage. I personally recommend this article for those needing help tuning their resume:
  2. Online Round 1: This was a 2-part interview.
    1. Part A (IQ Test): This is the part I disliked the most. You are asked a few dozen logic puzzle type questions. The key is to work through them quickly. These will be questions like, “X is next to Y, W is across from Z … who is sitting on the left side of V?", with more details.
    2. Part B (Debugging Code): This is definitely the more interesting part of the interview. You will be given half a dozen code samples with errors. It's your goal to debug and rewrite any lines that have errors. Try to step through the code in your head.
  3. Online Round 2: In this round, you receive two coding questions with 70 minutes to complete both. Though it's a HackerRank style interview, the questions will be LeetCode medium/hard level. I can't disclose the exact questions but had to implement a minimum spanning tree algorithm for one of them. Be sure to brush up on your Algorithms coursework!
  4. Final Video Round: This will be the only time you interview with another person.

Preparation

For the first 2 rounds, it’s a good idea to brush up on your data structures and algorithms coursework.

When it comes the final round, you will have 1 hard or 2 easy/medium programming questions. The focus here is clear communication of your problem-solving process as well as how your algorithm will work. You won’t need to run your code against any test cases, but will need to manually step through it and verbalize the algorithm’s steps.

In my personal experience, a website called LeetCode.com made a world of difference. They have a feature that allows you to filter questions by company. It will require purchasing their premium version. I did 2-3 questions from their Amazon list per day in the 20 days leading up to my final round interview.

If you need additional help structuring your interview answers, I’ve written another article on answering technical questions.

The Offer

A few hours after my interview, I received this email:

For a few minutes, it was a mix of emotions: joy, excitement, surprise; the list goes on. I couldn’t believe that months of preparation had finally paid off! After telling my friends and family the good news, I read the rest of the email. This was simply a congratulatory email. The actual offer came 3 weeks later. Here’s how Amazon’s SDE intern offer is structured:

  • Monthly salary for employees (assumes you work 40 hrs/week, no overtime),
  • Housing Stipend (corporate housing was not an option for me),
  • There is a survey for location preferences. I was able to get my top choice (Seattle).
  • The start date is set according to your school’s summer break. You can request a start date change after accepting the offer.

My only issue with the post-acceptance recruitment process is that I did not know my manager’s name until 5 days before starting. I also didn’t learn anything about my team or project until my first week at Amazon. This experience has been different for my other friends who interned as SDE’s here.

Intern Experience

From day one, I didn’t just feel like an intern; I felt like an Amazonian. During the first week, I went through SDE Bootcamp. My classmates included Engineering Managers and TPMs.

My team was amazing. We worked on integrating PillPack, which Amazon had acquired the summer before for $753 million. It was definitely a unique software engineering experience since we were building an entirely new product rather than modifying something already in production. In addition to being extremely knowledgable, everyone was very friendly. I ate lunch with my team almost every day. My manager was always supportive of me and often chided me for focusing too much on my growth areas during self-reviews. My mentor was my biggest advocate and fiercest critic. He made sure I could back up every design decision I made. It’s safe to say I would not have received my return offer without him.

As for my project, I built an RPC service in Java. It had a REST-like API that allows other applications to call upon it to get information on healthcare products. It’s called in the background when the user wants to look at orders that they’ve placed.

Campus/City/Lifestyle

I interned at Amazon’s South Lake Union Campus. It wasn’t until I explored the city that I realized how much of South Seattle is Amazon-owned.

Seattle has so much to explore:

  • Landmark spots: Space Needle, Columbia Tower, Pike Place Market, The First Starbucks
  • Tourist attractions: Underground Tour, Kerry Park, Lake Union, Waterfront, Seattle Great Wheel
  • Amazon offices, specifically the Amazon Spheres (pictured above)
  • Restaurants: there are too many amazing places to list. Try as many different cuisines as possible, utilize Yelp/Google Reviews, and visit chains that may not exist in your hometown!

This list has just a few places to get you started. I loved exploring the city. Most of my friends would consider this list puny compared to the number of places they visited. Even so, I had a blast!

Another thing I really loved about Seattle is how clean it is. In San Francisco, the streets can be pretty horrific, considering it holds records for amounts of human-waste per public square foot. As you get closer to the docks and more “touristy” areas in Seattle, this changes, but the streets around my apartment and office building were spotless and routinely cleaned. This also makes Seattle a very dog-friendly city.

Reflection

My SDE internship at Amazon was one of the best summers of my life. In one summer, I learned to live on my own, experienced a new city, and assisted a tech giant in entering a new market. I guarantee that you will have an amazing experience and learn a lot no matter where your internship takes you. Best of luck in your journey!

Bonus: Advice to Incoming Interns

These are the top 3 tips I would give to ANY Amazon intern, regardless of your role:

  1. Ask questions: My biggest regret from my summer at Amazon was not asking enough questions. Your first 2 weeks will be your “training weeks”. You may only spend a couple of days in boot camp but you should ask lots of questions during the entire period so that by your third week, you are comfortable working independently. Your mentor and manager will both be busy with their own projects so you want to get to the point where you work a full 8-hour day with minimal supervision.
  2. Project progress: It’s really easy to fall behind on your project. Since your contribution to your project is the largest indicator as to whether or not you receive a return offer, you’ll want to ensure you stay on track. Some mentors will be really hands-on about keeping you on track and others will step back. Be sure to meet with them 1-on-1 weekly (at a minimum). Discuss your project, where you are getting stuck/moving slowly, and how you can improve to work faster.
  3. Killer presentation: The thing I probably did best during my 12 weeks at Amazon was delivering an entertaining and engaging final presentation. If you need help, the tips from this article are a good start. The key here is to go above and beyond. For example, I was able to get my whole team (of 26 engineers) involved by asking lots of questions and rewarding volunteers with a piece of candy. It’s a simple (and honestly, childish) technique, but it works.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience! If you need any further clarifications or help, feel free to email me: