Duke Daytime MBA Student Blog
My Summer Internship at Amazon
I had no idea where I’d land after my first year at business school. Coming from the energy sector, I was optimistic about what seemed like the endless internship possibilities Fuqua could give me. But if you told me that by summer I’d be doing in-depth market research on how moms and dads choose strollers and cribs, I’d probably ask if you had the wrong person. Needless to say, that’s exactly what happened, and I couldn’t be more thankful for my summer experience at Amazon.
While Amazon offers a wide assortment of MBA programs (after all, it’s Fuqua’s top non-consulting employer), Amazon’s Retail Leadership Development Program interested me the most. Housed within Amazon’s retail business, the full-time, three-year programs allows you to explore and rotate through two different job functions in two different retail business units. At the same time, the program comes with more formalized training, career development, and exposure to senior leadership. Ultimately, the program builds general managers that are comfortable with ambiguity and excited to solve new problems in a wildly changing industry. Given the size of Amazon’s presence and the level of innovation it already brought to the retail space, I knew the scope and breadth of learning opportunities would likely be staggering, so it was a no-brainer to apply to the internship as a trial-run.
One application and four interviews later, I saw the word every MBA loves to see starting an email—“Congratulations!”—and by mid-May, I found myself touching down in Seattle for a 12-week internship. While you don’t rotate during the summer, you are promised real work, solving real business problems, at the level of a full-time participant. In my case, I was put on Amazon’s Baby Registry team and given a broad work prompt: figure out how we can evolve the Baby Registry customer experience through product curation and personalization.
I had no experience with baby products, professionally or otherwise, and I didn’t quite know what the words “curation” and “personalization” actually meant. But that’s what makes Amazon a potentially exciting employer; the company trusts you to make real business decisions, but how you make those decisions is largely up to you.
Despite the ambiguity of my work and the pressure to deliver something tangible by the end of 12 weeks, I was amazed at how much formal and informal support I was given. My manager, an MBA grad and a former intern himself, knew what my experience entailed and was always willing to answer my dumbest questions and gave me constant feedback on my progress. At the same time, I was given a senior manager as a formal mentor to help me better understand my progress, as well as a recent Fuqua alumna as a ‘buddy’ to provide support on a more informal level. I was also impressed by how easy it was to receive help from others; whether it was the coworker sitting next to me or a stranger in a separate building that was working on something I deemed relevant, I found that most people in the company were willing to give me at least 30 minutes of their time because they likely needed the same from someone else given the speed Amazon grows.
From a work standpoint, every day was largely driven by my own decisions on what tasks to prioritize. While the first half of my project focused more on combing through customer data and market research and scoping out my project’s vision, the second half of my internship was tailored to execution—what can Amazon do immediately to test and implement my final recommendations (even before I leave), and what are the requirements and next steps to see my vision get implemented long-term? At the end of my internship, I had to present to key stakeholders a six-page white paper that outlined everything I had studied over the summer, as well as detailed next steps to ensure my work kept momentum when I left.
Did I work a lot? Yes. But was I also in a super cosmopolitan city with a stunning mountain backdrop and a surprising amount of sun and bars and restaurants? YES. Seattle made the summer that much more enjoyable, and it also made it easy to later accept a full-time offer from Amazon.
Amazon’s headquarters are in central South Lake Union, with most of the city’s most desirable destinations like Capitol Hill, Pike’s Place, and Fremont only 10 to 15 minutes away by walking or car (or even public transit) and the Pacific Northwest’s lush playground for all things outdoors less than an hour away. With planned Amazon intern events and plenty of current Fuquans and alumni in the city, I had no problem finding opportunities to step away from work and recharge.
To learn more about my recruitment journey, and why I ultimately made the career decisions I made, read my other blog post. Amazon is not for everyone, and it’s important to keep an open mind when you start your MBA. Despite the cliché, it really is about the journey and not the destination. But if you find yourself up for a challenge and fascinated by the act of shopping (not just by what you’re buying), Amazon may be for you!