Bittersweet Ending

I’m officially done with my internship, and it’s such a strange feeling. This summer was a lot of things: hectic, fun, overwhelming, educational, memorable, etc. I learned so many things in the 10 weeks I spent with Amazon, and I will absolutely carry those lessons into the classroom and through my career. I feel confident in my understanding of operations as run by an Amazon fulfillment center, although I’m positive I only know a small fraction of the overall operations. Now that it’s over, I’m ready to reflect on the many things I learned about Amazon, operations management, and myself.

The biggest thing I learned about Amazon as a company is that structure and guidance is virtually nonexistent. If you want to succeed within this company, you have to be able to speak up about what you don’t know, learn to go with the flow, and be willing to fail and learn from that failure. You HAVE to be proactive about this, too, rather than just drowning and not reaching out. Through my whole internship, my biggest feedback about the program was that I didn’t know what exactly what was expected of me. By the end, I realized that there was no specific set of things I was supposed to do. If I wanted to do something, all I had to do was ask one of my seniors if I could. The answer was *always* yes. This environment forces you to take initiative, admit when you’re wrong, and speak up. Otherwise, you won’t be able to move up within the company. Another priority I noticed in Amazon is their leadership principles. This isn’t something they hide; the leadership principles are posted all over the breakrooms, conference rooms, and everywhere possible in the fulfillment center. They use these to make sure leaders develop a full understanding of their strengths and areas of opportunities (rather than weaknesses) and adjust their leadership style accordingly.

This internship was my first experience in a legitimate management position; while I’ve been in leadership positions, it’s not quite the same. Every day I learned a new lesson about management from my own experiences as well as the other managers in my building. I learned valuable communication skills as a manager: go into every conversation with an open mind and a unique answer; honesty earns trust better than sugar coating; actions really do speak louder than words; seek to understand rather than punish; dish out positive feedback as often as negative, but don’t ever skimp on the negative. I also learned that managing people means forming bonds, connections, and friendships with them. Leaving my team was so difficult, and I cried on my last day saying my goodbyes. So many more lessons came from the operations aspect of this position. I was taught balance between departments, how to plan and adjust labor, when and how to communicate about labor share across departments, how to calculate and adjust throughput, what to measure for efficiency, what roles are considered critical, and so much more. All of these are lessons that cannot be taught without the experience, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity to learn firsthand in an environment where operations thrive.

More than anything, this experience taught me a lot about myself. I gained an understanding of my abilities, but I also found where my limits are and how to recharge once I hit them. There were a couple occasions where the work was overwhelming, I was confused on my expectations, the hours were long, and I felt so unqualified for what I was doing. I remember about 4 weeks in, feeling so lost and confused in the middle of shift and trying to figure out what in the world I was supposed to do without crying from stress. After who knows how long (5 minutes? 25?) of just walking around flustered, I sat down and wrote down a plan for what I was supposed to be doing. I browsed through the website that populates feedback, and wrote down a plan on how to do that. I consulted the Process Assistants (at this point I was still apprehensive to ask a manager for help) and finally just started doing the task. Once I did that, my reaction seemed so dramatic for such a menial task. I realized my barrier was not knowing the exact process. So from then on out, I made sure to have someone walk me through how to do a task when given a new one. It was also very difficult for me to ask for help at first, which is a pretty common setback. We all want to be perfect! Once I got over that, the internship felt so simple. Everyone was willing to help me, I just had to ask. I had a really great mentor, and she’d answer any question I could possibly think of…even when she was super busy. Again, all I ever had to do was ask. Issues like these helped me to understand my barriers and determine root causes, which I know will be helpful for the rest of my life.

This internship taught me so many valuable lessons and allowed me to grow both professionally and personally. Going in, I had no idea it would make such a huge difference on my life and perspective. And I definitely had no idea I’d be so upset to leave! While I am happy to be home with my parents, heading back to OSU soon, and finally sleeping in, I’ll be missing my Amazon coworkers so much. I know I’ll be spending a lot of time reflecting on this internship.

So, just like that…it’s over! Summer (almost), internship, blog, all done. As always, #GoBucks, but for anyone interested in learning more about Amazon and my experience, feel free to contact me: shreve.57. 🙂

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