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Joel Kitching Engineer and creative mind

Amazon intern day 4: meetings

May 03 2011

Today was fairly exhausting, and chock-full of meetings around the clock. I think in total I had about two hours or so sitting at my desk actually doing semi-useful work setting up my workspace. (I still haven’t started the SDE Bootcamp, which my mentor, Chris, keeps asking me about!)

I woke up this morning, showered, had one of the bagels I bought yesterday for breakfast, and walked over to South Lake Union. It turns out that on my way, I started to cluster with bunches of other Amazon employees at intersections waiting for lights to turn. I didn’t bother attempting conversation though, as they all seemed very much in their own worlds.

I got slightly lost and had to consult my map to find my building. I had the impression it was closer to the lake than it was, and so I had to backtrack a bit to get there in the end.

Meeting madness

I made my way up the elevator and discovered that I was the first one to arrive in my area. Shortly after, Chris arrived, and we went off to our first meeting. It was utterly bizarre—a strange collection of people from different Prime teams sat in a conference room on call with someone in India. What was discussed was a bit over my head, but I think mainly the idea was to find out if all of Prime services were working properly and fast enough, setting up actionable work to fix anything if necessary.

The second meeting of the day, almost directly after that, was with my mentor, Chris, and my manager, Mark. They essentially gave me a very high-level overview of Prime and its technical back-end workings, as well as probing me for some of my own background and what I might be interested in working on. Mark tried to pin me down on whether I found working on back-end stuff or front-end stuff more interesting, and I think I managed to convey to him that it somewhat depended on the project, and that I might be okay with either (which, incidentally, ended up being his own opinion on the matter as well).

Following that, meeting number three. All of the engineers from the different Prime teams sat in a room and discussed some strange things with many technical terms and acronyms that I had no hope of understanding. (This meeting turned out to be a weekly one that I was expected to attend, and even after the bulk of my internship I still didn’t understand a lot of what they spoke about!) I was in the meeting as well, and people were encouraged to come down with Mark and Chris and I to the “tavern” after work for a pint or two (or, as was joked, a liter, and later on I corrected, a litre).

Lunch, and yet another gorgeous view

Then, another brief reprieve, and Chris and I headed downstairs for lunch in the cafeteria, after trying to convince two people from our sister team to join us (apparently there are varying opinions on the quality of the cafeteria food). I ended up seeing Josh there, whom I had met on the orientation day, and the three of us sat for lunch. Afterwards, Chris showed us the top floor of the building, where you could see an even more amazing view than from our floor of South Lake Union and the surrounding area. I’d love to go up there on a nice day for lunch, or perhaps even to see the sunset one evening!

Workstation set-up

After lunch, I had a bit more time to set my workstation up, and then there was a fourth meeting. It was for a sort of grassroots project, which from a high level, essentially optimizes for which Prime-related messages to show. It was very hard to make heads or tails of what was being said, but it is apparently one of the projects I might work on.

Finally (finally!) I had the bulk of my time to set up my computer, and I actually miraculously got (a) the Windows laptop that they gave us somewhat in a usable state, with Windows 7 graphics disabled and my keyboard layout working, and (b) I managed to munge abuse their Linux distribution enough to get xmonad installed, with some dotfiles from my personal laptop, to bootstrap to a somewhat familiar environment.

To the pub!

At around 5 PM, Chris and Mark and I headed down to the Brave Horse Tavern (the name of which is likely the reason for the previous use of the word “tavern” instead of “pub”) and got started on the pretzels and deep-fried cheese curds. Both were alarmingly good; especially the cheese curds. Beer was had, some people from our sister team came down, I got to know some people a bit better, and then at around 7 PM people faded out and we all left to go home. They were all kind enough to pay for my share of the food and drinks, which was extremely thoughtful (thank you again!).

Kerry Park

I returned home, went out briefly with Angela and our mutual friend from UBC, Grayson (who is leaving for China this weekend for an extended period of time), and we went to Kerry Park, where there is a gorgeous view of downtown Seattle. It is apparently the only place where you can actually see the Space Needle in the skyline—and so essentially that is the only place where people take photos of iconic Seattle.

After that brief trip, I tried out the hot tub in my apartment complex, and headed back upstairs, exhausted for the night.