The Columns

Interns at Work: Jamie White ’17 Amazon, Seattle, WA

— by on September 5th, 2016

Jamie White '17

“This experience has reinforced my desire to be a software developer, and it has given me insight into what kind of work within the field I would be interested in doing.”

What attracted you to this internship?

I was attracted to the size of the company and the type of experience I would gain there. Last summer, I did web development on campus for the Ancient Graffiti Project with Dr. Benefiel and Dr. Sprenkle, so I was on a very small team and working on a relatively small project. At Amazon, on the other hand, I knew I would be among several thousand employees working on a number of large and varied projects, so I would be able to have a very different experience and get a sense for which of the two I preferred. The location also attracted me, since I would get to be just a few hours from home and because Seattle is really a beautiful place to live.

How did you learn about it?

Last fall, I attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, a three-day conference which features a career fair along with a database to which attendees can upload their resume. I uploaded mine before the conference and ended up receiving an email from Amazon about the internship, so I decided to apply.

What gave you an edge in landing this internship?

Getting the internship depended on a technical phone interview, and I think what helped the most was having a few failed phone interviews under my belt. Before my interview with Amazon, I had done around four others. Some of them hadn’t gone very well, but through those experiences, I was able to gain confidence in my ability to solve problems on the fly and to clearly express my thought process out loud, both of which are important in technical interviews.

Describe your daily duties.

My entire summer is devoted to working on a single project, so my daily duties revolve around developing the project. This includes researching the programming language and technologies I’m using, designing aspects of the tool I’m building, and coding. I also meet with my manager and other members of my team and learn about the additional duties of full time employees in order to get a better understanding of what life as a full time software developer is like.

What are some tasks/projects you’ve been working on?

My project this summer is to develop a user interface for internal use. The goal of the tool is to display event data in a more digestible and user-friendly way.

Have any courses and/or professors helped you prepare for this internship? Which ones?

Almost all of the computer science courses I’ve taken at W&L have helped prepare me in some way for this internship. Additionally, my experience last summer with Dr. Sprenkle was invaluable because it allowed me to bridge the gap between the concepts I had been learning in classes and the practical development of web applications. All of the computer science faculty members have also been very supportive throughout my time at W&L, especially Dr. Sprenkle and my advisor, Dr. Lambert.

What do you hope to learn by the end of your experience?

One of the difficult aspects of working in technology is that it changes so rapidly, meaning a language or technology being used today may be out of date in just a few years. So, by the end of the experience, I hope to learn not a particular skill within computer science, but rather to develop an ability to pick up new skills quickly and with a thorough understanding.

What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?

My favorite perk of the internship is an ORCA card, which provides unlimited access to multiple forms of public transportation in Seattle and the surrounding area. I was a bit worried about going an entire summer without my car, but now I can just hop on a bus and go anywhere in the city.

What did you learn from living in the city where the internship was located?

Living in Seattle, I’ve learned to take advantages of the opportunities I have around me while they’re still available. Only having twelve weeks here has given me a bit of a sense of urgency to make the most of my time here, and it has paid off. In the few weeks I’ve been here, I’ve visited so many beautiful parts of Washington which I had never gotten to see in the eighteen years I spent growing up here, and I’m very grateful to have had these experiences this summer. Running short on time is definitely on my mind as I head into my senior year, so after this summer, I feel even more motivated to make the most of my remaining months in the Shenandoah Valley and at W&L.

What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?

Aside from the skills I’ve gained with the programming language and technologies I’ve been working with this summer, I’ll be able to bring back a greater confidence in my ability to jump into brand new situations and learn quickly. I encountered a few challenges in my project, so I’ve also developed more persistence and creative problem solving as I had to find a way around those roadblocks.

What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?

I would tell any interested students to go for it. I learned a lot by simply going through the interview process with Amazon and other companies, and the internship itself has been incredibly worthwhile. I would also tell them to seek out help and advice from the older students in the department. There were a few CS students two years ahead of me at W&L who had gone through the interview and internship process before, and I really valued their support and their willingness to share from their prior experiences.

Has this experience influenced your career aspirations? How so?

This experience has reinforced my desire to be a software developer, and it has given me insight into what kind of work within the field I would be interested in doing.

Describe your experience in a single word.

Unforgettable.

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