This past summer, I interned at Amazon doing software development. I was supposed to be working on an Amazon Alexa team in Boston; unfortunately, with COVID, it got pushed to a remote internship. I was definitely disappointed, as I’d been hoping to explore the city and get a better sense of the company in person. However, I felt fortunate to still have an internship this summer, as I know people whose opportunities were cancelled, rescheduled, or shortened.
I was impressed by how well my team adjusted to working online and how much of a sense of the culture and relationships in the team even working remotely. We had at least one team-wide video call every day to check-in, and often many more. Furthermore, when I had a question about something (of which I had many!) I would often hop on a quick video call with a teammate so we could chat face-to-face. We also played virtual games as a social hour and had lunches together as well as many conversations about how people were adjusting and what could be improved. I definitely saw some benefits to working at home - people on my team traveled to different places to work from or stay with family, some got to spend more time with pets or young children, and it was easy to take breaks during the day to go for a walk or eat.
One wonderful thing about working at Amazon was how many Penn people worked there this summer as an internship and how many people have worked there in the past. When considering whether to take the internship, I spoke to upperclassmen I know who have interned at Amazon in the past to hear about their experiences; even if I didn’t know people personally, my friends were more than happy to connect me to people they knew who worked or had previously worked there. Additionally, about forty interns from Penn worked at Amazon this summer, and we had a group chat where we discussed our experiences and helped each other out if anyone had questions. Since it is such a big company, it was great to be able to get perspectives from all different teams and job roles.
Unexpectedly, a Penn alum reached out to me over the summer through my Amazon email to set up a time to chat! It was such a pleasant surprise as I didn’t know him, but he said a group of Penn alumni at Amazon had decided to reach out to interns from Penn and help share their experiences and answer any questions we had. We had a great, informative conversation over video call, and it reminded me that the value of a Penn degree extends far beyond our time as a Penn student. Wherever we end up, there will likely be a network of alumni where we work or where we want to work, in so many cities around the world, and people who are just a virtual connection away who are happy to share their knowledge with another Quaker!
Even without having graduated yet, I see this willingness to help among my peers - people reach out to others who have worked at places they want to work, studied abroad in a city, or even took a class they’re interested in, even if they don’t know the student personally. I’m often blown away by the sincerity and generosity students give of their time and energy to help another student however they can. There is a shared experience that brings us all together, even as we can’t physically be together these days. I especially see this in my fellow senior class these days. We all know and remember how much upperclassmen have helped us, and now with more experiences and connections under our belts, we’re happy to pay it forward to the younger classes.