If you’re wondering whether an internship at Amazon might land you a job after graduation, just ask Luke Branam-Wenger ’19, an undergraduate at Clark University.
Branam-Wenger interned at the online retail giant’s corporate headquarters in Seattle last summer. As a double-major in computer science and math and a minor in economics, he brought a wealth of knowledge to his internship with Amazon’s digital software and video games division, where he focused on product keys.
After his internship, Amazon offered Branam-Wenger a full-time position as a software development engineer. He’ll start next fall, although he’s waiting to hear which city. The New York City native says he’s open — and eager — to move to the West Coast if need be.
Amazon has a history of hiring Clark computer science and math students for internships and full-time positions. Christian Rentsman ’18 interned at Amazon in summer 2017, and now works for the company as a software development engineer. Over the past several years, other Clark students have interned and worked there as well.
When he first came to Clark, Branam-Wenger didn’t even know if he would enjoy computer science, let alone work in the industry. But he fell in love with computer science when he began taking courses. Spending 12 weeks with Amazon coding and designing a project for the product keys team confirmed this passion.
Below, we asked Branam-Wenger about his internship and his Clark experience.
What did you do at Amazon?
The first couple of weeks were all about getting oriented, which consisted of learning how to code at Amazon specifically, and learning about the existing systems that our team already had in place. Once I got my bearings, I began working on a project to add a tracing tool to an existing toolkit. The tool I created can trace any product key through Amazon’s system and show where it’s been and when that happened.
The first part of the project was the design phase. I drew up diagrams on how I planned for my code to work and fit into the existing systems, and wrote a report on the background of the project — why it was important, and the technical specifications and technologies that I would use to complete it.
Once I completed the design phase, I began coding, which took up the bulk of the internship. At the end of the internship, I made a presentation to three levels of management and the extended digital software and video games team, demonstrating the tool that I had created.
What other projects have you completed at Clark, and how did that prepare you for working at Amazon?
In the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I worked on a LEEP project for the Computer Science Department. The project was a small-scale software engineering project that I completed with four other students and Professor Li Han, the department chair. It focused on improving and expanding the auto-grading system in the Computer Science Department. Our team created a system that automatically generates a test report that gives students a grade when they submit their code to the online server, and details which tests their code failed and why. This system is very beneficial for students in the department because it gives them a structured format to see where their code failed so they can more easily learn from their mistakes. This experience was also incredibly helpful in getting my internship at Amazon — I drew very heavily on this project during the interview phase.
How did your experience at Clark prepare you for your work at Amazon?
During my internship, I realized I wasn’t relying on exact knowledge from data structures and algorithms that I’d learned in class. Instead, I was applying the less tangible skills that I learned at Clark. I think my Clark education prepared me to learn new things about computer science and new technologies more quickly, which was very helpful. In addition, my experience as a teaching assistant has been valuable, as helping other students work through their code has helped strengthen my own understanding of coding and algorithmic thinking.
Tell us about your new job, and what you hope to do in the future.
My role as a full-time software development engineer for Amazon will be similar to what I had during my internship, but I may be working for a different team. In my internship, there were a lot of challenges for me in my first couple of weeks during the orientation process, including moving to a new place, coding at a higher level, and trying to enter into a system that was already so vast. But having gone through that process already will definitely ease the transition to working for Amazon full time.
Amazon is very good at allowing intracompany transfers, so if after a couple years I want to move outside the retail realm of software engineering and development, I can pursue that option.