Vishnuwardhan Srikanth from the Department of Electrical Engineering did his summer internship with Amazon Web Services. In an interview with Chennai36, he talks about life at Amazon, the selection procedure and the key takeaways from this internship.
Tell us a little something about your internship- work location, your work profile and the work culture over there.
My internship was based in Chennai and the profile was Software engineering development intern. The work culture was rather stringent with regards to punctuality, there were strict in-times and out-times. Although, as long as you get your work done, it’s fine. The team environment too was quite chill, they didn’t treat me like an intern, rather like a working member. Also, you’re free to have as much coffee and use the pool table to your heart’s content.
How is it like working with Amazon?
At Amazon, the thing is that they don’t baby-hold you, and by that I mean they just give you your project and expect you to get as much done as possible on your own. You do get a mentor, whom you can approach for doubts. Even the mentors expect you to get as much work done on your own to see how committed you are. For instance, there’s this Wiki internal to Amazon, you are at the very least expected to check that wiki out about the topic you have a doubt in, if that doesn’t resolve your issue, only then are you supposed to approach your mentor. My job was related to AWS- I had access to an internal Amazon account even without having to request for admin permissions, which isn’t usually possible for interns. So given this great degree of independence, they expect you to handle it with responsibility.
Please walk us through the selection procedure. Any particular background that they look for in the resume?
Okay so the procedure is quite standard- you go to the internship portal, submit your resume. I’m not very sure about the shortlisting criteria, I think there is a CGPA cutoff, other than that it isn’t quite clear what they look for in the resume. This is followed by a coding test containing 3 questions supposed to be done within 90 minutes. This quite the standard format for most CS core companies. Based on the performance in the coding test, they select 27 applicants for the interview. So the first round of the interview was pretty easy, they test your knowledge on basic coding and data structures like lists, arrays, stacks and stuff. The second round consists of more advanced topics like dynamic programming, greedy algorithms and slightly advanced data structures. There was no HR round for us; they announced the results right after the second round. Finally, they selected 3 of us out of the 27, so I’d say the criteria is pretty strict.
I don’t think they really look for any background in the resume. Prior to the end of my second year, I didn’t quite have much Computer Science related experience to show in my resume, except having done some competitive programming. So I think the main criteria they look for is CGPA because almost all the 100 applicants wrote the test, which means there wasn’t a resume criterion as such. It is pretty easy to be shortlisted for the test, but your performance in the test is what really matters. For securing the intern, at least two and a half questions are a must. For the placement, I think they require you solve al 3 questions.
Why do you think they selected you?
To be frank, my performance in the interview wasn’t way too exceptional, it wasn’t like I was answering questions on the fly. I did walk them through my thinking process though, like what data structure I would use to solve a question. After a while, they started helping me out, pointing out minor mistakes and steering me onto the right track. So this is how it went- I solved some questions on my own and some like this. You don’t have to solve each and every question independently, getting the interviewer acquainted with your thinking process in the first place is important.
Any fun/memorable experiences from this internship?
It isn’t work-related, but we once had a team trip to a beach resort, fully sponsored by Amazon. We went 2km out into the sea and had a half hour swim there. Also, we had business meetings at the beach resort, so we would be eating snacks through business meetings, which was pretty fun.
What were your key takeaways from this whole experience? Things to remember while applying at Amazon?
Let me put it this way. The process is pretty much the same while applying for any company- you read algorithms, data structures, you prepare for the HR round and you go in, but what you must bear in mind is that the work isn’t going to be necessarily related and you have to be willing to adapt when you go in. My work didn’t involve any data structures or algorithms, even though that’s the only criteria they apply to interviews. In fact, most of the people there don’t work on data structures and algorithms. So, this says that just knowing stuff wouldn’t mean you surely will excel there.
Author: Ishan Buxy (BT-CE ’21) and Sahithi Yamala (DD-CH’21)