As a third year student at Northeastern, I’m more prepared for the corporate world than most college students my age. I don’t value this advantage by a paycheck or résumé, but by the way co-op has taught me how to market myself, make connections and deal with the inevitable rejection any job hunt entails. Northeastern’s Cooperative Education program (co-op) is a six-month full-time internship in which students work at companies all over the world with full-time employees. Being able to work full-time without going to classes allows students to have a snapshot of their future in their desired field and ‘test drive’ their career. After completing my first co-op at John Hancock Financial Services in Boston, I wanted to seize the opportunity to live in a new place for my second.
I love coffee. This is what initially got me to look into co-op opportunities in Seattle, the coffee capital of the world (and home of Starbucks). Amazon, based in Seattle, has had enormous growth in the past few years and I wanted to be a part of their momentum. I am currently on co-op working with the Amazon Web Services Global Marketing Programs team assisting with data management. The reason I chose this co-op was the value that Amazon places on co-ops: we are given equal responsibility and expectations as regular employees and get to spearhead projects that actually matter.
The Amazon workplace is truly unique, but instead of trying to explain the self-proclaimed “peculiar” culture they pride themselves on, here are a few things I’ve learned in my month working at Amazon.
Don’t talk about how much you’re working
One’s expected to work hard at a company experiencing the growth that Amazon is – but it’s not necessary to talk about how much you’re working. At previous employers, the amount you talked about how much you worked directly correlated to your value to the company. At Amazon I’ve learned the quality of your work will show the amount of effort you put into it without having to brag about working late on a Friday.
Make it sexy
I thought I heard my coworker wrong when she said this, but it’s an amazing way to think about the work you do. When you have an idea or project, make it sexy: pull out all the stops, present it in the best way you can, and most of all make people want it.
Meetings are an integral part of Amazon’s collaborative culture (and usually comprise half of my day), but are unlike any meetings I’ve had at previous employers. My meetings are brain storming, training, and working on projects with small groups of people from different teams. One of my coworkers refers to these meetings as ‘knowledge transfers,’ as you are literally picking apart another person’s brain and learning everything they know in order to do your job in the best way possible.
Change the way you think of work
When I started at Amazon, I was surprised to find several e-mails coming into my inbox well after working hours. I asked a previous co-op (now a full-time employee) about this, she told me to think of working from home as homework: reviewing and working after leaving the office reinforces what you learned, prepares you for the next day, and shows your coworkers your commitment by taking your personal time to do the best you can do at your job.
Learn from your mistakes…then act on them
A couple weeks ago, I was part of a project that crashed and burned. A normal company would slap you on the wrist for making a mistake, but Amazon’s approach is different: I met with my team, discussed the root cause of the error, created an action step to ensure if would never happen again, then implemented the action step. So often we identify the root cause of our mistakes, but don’t act on a solution to prevent it from occurring again.
Seattle is an amazing city filled with some of the most humbly brilliant people I’ve ever met. Without Northeastern’s Co-Op Program, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work at one of the world’s largest companies at the age of 20. I’m looking forward to what the next five months will bring and am grateful to have this opportunity.