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. šŸ™‚

First Weeks at Amazon

Hey guys! I just got through my first 2 weeks interning at Amazon. It was definitely a very interesting experience! I learned a lot about the culture, the expectations, and the people that are working in my fulfillment center. It was a great start to my 10 weeks here.

Amazon has a really great introductory week for its incoming interns and managers: Associate Experience Week (AEW). For the first week, we go around and train in the associates’ jobs at the fulfillment center. This is SUCH a great idea; I loved being able to develop an understanding of the roles that I will be leading. It was super informative and a great opportunity, but it was also exhausting! I’ve never done anything remotely close to factory work. The only “physical” work experience I have is waitressing. The associates work 4 days of 10 hour shifts (which I started after AEW), but I was working Monday through Friday and only worked an 8 hour shift that week. Being on my feet, moving, and lifting heavy things at high intensity for that long was pretty killer to say the least. I think this is a great process to have new leaders go through, because I earned even more respect for the associates. Those jobs are TOUGH and the rates at which they do them are so impressive! I enjoyed getting to know everything, and I relished a bit in getting paid for a daily workout, but I was definitely happy to see Friday come to a close. Over the week, I learned how to do jobs receiving packages from the dock, scanning them into the fulfillment center, stowing them in the aisles, picking them for orders, and packing them into boxes to be shipped. All these different roles are equally challenging, but the associates that trained me were all so encouraging and fun, making it lots easier.

There were a few more administrative things to get done in that first week, too. I learned how to drive PIT (Power Industrialized Trucks), and getting my approved PIT license was pretty fun. My trainer was really awesome and then embellished it with the OSU logo. Go Bucks, even from New England! I received my work laptop, which is nice but unusable outside of the Amazon network since I’m hourly. I was also able to meet the managerial staff, including my area manager (AM) and the other AMs, as well as the operations manager, senior operations managers, and general manager of the facility. Everyone was very friendly and accepted me with welcoming arms, which is a great feeling. Amazon is a very young company, which helps keep me comfortable. My AM, who I’ll be working with closely all summer, was an intern 2 years ago. In addition to everything else I learned that first week, I started to understand how the work day flows. There’s morning standup – led by the AM with general best practice tips, daily expectations, safety tips, and input from associates – first thing, a 15 minute break, lunch, afternoon standup after lunch, then another 15 minute break in the afternoon. Before each break and lunch, the AMs sync up with their process assistants and other AMs in their section of the fulfillment center (inbound or outbound). Days at Amazon are long and fast-paced, so it’s been difficult to adjust, but I really enjoy the challenge!

The second week was much more relaxed than AEW, but still long and demanding. Not to mention my first day in operations came with a power outage and the second day saw the last day of our inbounds operations manager. Yeesh. I began my actual schedule, which is Wednesday through Saturday, 7am-5:30pm. Amazon has pretty funky schedules: front half works Sunday through Wednesday; back half works Wednesday through Saturday; donut works Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday; and wrap works Friday through Monday. There are days and nights for each of these schedules, as the fulfillment centers function 24 hours a day. I’m on back half days to follow what my manager was assigned. In these four days, I was able to spend two of them shadowing an AM and the other two working on my project. As an intern, I am assigned a specific area to work on for my 10 weeks. I’ll be learning the area to develop an understanding of it then finding a way to improve its efficiency/flow/productivity. Once I develop my project, I pitch it to the upper manager staff at my fulfillment center and they decide if they want to implement it. Working on that has been quite the experience. I worked closely with associates, questioning them about processes that could be improved, eliminated, etc. They were super helpful, and I could feel them start to open up a bit more to me. Win-win! My project is still in the very beginning phases, as expected, but I like how well it’s going thus far.

Going forward, I’ll keep working on my project, getting to know my associates, getting a better understanding of the daily AM schedule, and trying to take it all in. As one of the senior operations managers describes it, it’s like “drinking out of a fire hose.” Regardless, I’m really enjoying getting to learn all of this and accommodate to the pace it takes to run a huge facility. I’m still enjoying the New England area and have used my three day weekends to take in some of the sights, so I might be able to put out a post about that fairly soon!

Go Bucks, and #BePeculiar šŸ™‚

Introduction, Moving, and Adulting

Hi everyone! My name is Audrey, and I’m an incoming senior at OSU majoring in Operations Management. This summer, I was offered an operations internship at Amazon, as an Area Manager Intern (job description here!). I was placed at their distribution center in Fall River, Massachusetts…slightly far from OSU and my hometown in Indiana. I’m super excited to start this adventure and share it with any Fisher students wanting to know the ins and outs of an internship at Amazon or just the relocation process!

My internship starts in less than a week, and I just moved in to my apartment for the summer. The move-in process was a biiiiiit of a bumpy road for me. Since Amazon is such a large company, they are able to handle all the relocation expenses for their interns. Which is great!! I scheduled a flight, will pick up a rental car at the end of this week, and was set. I left from the Dayton airport and had a layover at LaGuardia Airport in NYC before arriving in Boston. From Boston, I planned to take a bus for an hour ride to my apartment. This would’ve all worked out perfectly, until my plane was delayed in LaGuardia…ā€¦..for 5 hours. UGH. Between weather issues, wind changes, a maintenance issue, and a ground-stop in Boston, I didn’t land at the Boston airport until about 10. I should’ve been there by 5:30! I tried not to stress too much, but it was so late, my bus options were scarce, and due to high demand, it was a $200 Uber ride to my apartment. So in my first big adulting issue, I did what all adults do: I called my mom.Ā  I talked through options with her, she gave me a few ideas, and I made it all work! I took a shuttle bus from the airport to the South Station in Boston and picked up an Uber there, which was only $90, not $200. Still more than I’d hoped, but you do what you gotta do. By the time I got to the apartment, my landlord (who lives on the first floor) was already asleep. He’d left the back door open for me, and I hauled my 50-pound suitcase up the stairs. Not a great start to the summer, but I did it!

Today, I set out on a mission: find food! I didn’t have *any* groceries. I brought coffee and a pack of ramen, because I knew the last thing I’d want to do is walk around an unfamiliar city searching for food, starving AND not caffeinated! So after sleeping in much too late, downing my coffee, and eating ramen for lunch, I set out on a walk to the nearest grocery store. I got there in about 15 minutes….and didn’t even go in. The window said “Groceries! Cigarettes! ATM! Gifts! Some new, some old.” I then realized I had walked to a “grocery store” called Bizarro Food Mart. This is NOT what I need. So I looked up another store on my phone, another 5 minutes away and promisingly named United Grocery, and I set off. It was…slightly better. Still just a little food mart, but I needed food and nothing else was in walking distance. I walked in, got enough food to feed me for a couple days (aka, eggs and pasta), and left. On my walk back, I decided to try the convenience store a block away from my apartment, since I didn’t even have soap for the shower! As soon as I walked in, I regretted not starting with that. They had all kinds of food, bathroom supplies, cleaning stuff, etc. Why did no one tell me about convenience stores?! I grew up in a town of 6,000 people, so I get confused when there’s no Walmart. Sadly, I’m being pretty serious about that! Tomorrow I’m taking a bus to a real grocery store, so I can eat real food. Phew. Advice here: look more into stores before wasting your time going to them! Your phone does NOT know what’s best. Also, yay public transportation!

After a long day of confusion and resting from my terrible flight experience, I set out to make my first actual meal since lunch at the airport. Pasta! Thank you, United Grocery. I was all set, got it cooked, went to grab the strainer, and…..I don’t have a strainer. OH MY GOSH. Luckily I *do* have a spoon with slots, so I was able to drain my pasta and actually eat a good dinner. So far, I’d say I’m a terrible adult. But I’m learning! I’ve never lived by myself, so this is a whole new adventure. IĀ am feeling pretty good about how I’ve handled situations. I’ve only texted/called my parents about 500 times, too, so I’m really doing great. Kidding! I think this whole adulting thing will get easier as the summer goes on. Hopefully I can survive long enough to give a little more insight on this area of Massachusetts, my responsibilities with Amazon (including how I manage to wake up at 6am all summer), and living on my own. Wish me luck for my first week working! šŸ™‚