Joel Kitching Engineer and creative mind

Amazon intern day 5: SDE Bootcamp

May 04 2011

I’m pretty exhausted right now and it’s already half-past midnight, so this may have to be a somewhat abridged post. Today was probably my most productive day in terms of not having zillions of meetings to go to, and starting the SDE Bootcamp that they keep telling me to work on.

This morning was sort of nice—I bumped into the Kindle guy on my way out from my apartment and we chatted all the way to work. Apparently he has only been there five months or so. And of course I got lost again and had to backtrack to find my own building.

Configuration and SDE Bootcamp

But basically my day consisted of continuing to configure my computers, signing up for a shit ton of internal mailing lists, setting up filters for said mailing lists in Outlook so as not to be constantly inundated with new and irrelevant mail, and working through the SDE Bootcamp (a document full of short tutorials on Amazon’s code repositories, build systems, etc.) to ramp up and learn how the heck everything works internally at Amazon.

I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. There are basically just custom-built systems for everything, from packaging to building to… well, conference room allocation. And each one has a strange code name (usually with an obligatory acronym), and interacts with other systems in a variety of different ways under different situations. Simple, right?

One-on-one with Mark

Two notable things today: the first was my one-on-one meeting with my manager, Mark. It was actually somewhat useful to tell him where things stand with my progress, and it was nice to hear him assure me that it was their priority to get me to have a good understanding of internal systems before forcing me into choosing a project to work on.

Also, I got a chance to ask him whether it would be possible to take a week of unpaid vacation off in the middle of summer. It sounded like it wouldn’t be a problem if it was up to him, but he said he would look into the proper procedure.

Lunch with Chris

The other notable thing was lunch with Chris. We went to the other building’s cafeteria and met his friend from Florida, Steven, who seemed pretty cool. Apparently this was the friend with whom Chris had built some machine learning system off of Digg data, which is how they initially got Amazon interested in hiring them. Now, Steven works on the category suggestions block on the left-hand side of an page when doing a search on Amazon.

Also, it seems he speaks some Chinese and travelled to China for a while, which was cool to hear, given my own interest in the language and country! While we chatted, I ate the fish curry, which was actually quite filling and not too bad.

Graebel offers an apartment

Today I received an email from Graebel, the relocation company, and they said that Aboda is offering a two-person place at Dexter Lake Union (Apartment Ratings). Based on looking at a map, it appears to be the same distance from the Amazon campus as my current apartment, but further away from the city and civilization.

So, after work, I walked over there to investigate, and boy am I glad I did. It is basically stuck in the buttcrack of two highways. As such, you can barely hear yourself when leaving (and I imagine when living in) the apartment. The walk to work looks like it would be extremely unpleasant, and might have the perk of two or three minutes walking along a grassy park area of South Lake Union if you go the right way.

In general, that area of town gave me a really bad impression, as it was almost entirely composed of loud, smelly highways, some industrial things in between, mixed with a dash of construction. So I emailed my Graebel contact this evening and told him that I would rather either (a) stay here or (b) find a place in Belltown or Denny Triangle. It is very useful to actually be able to refer to the areas of Seattle now that I know where they are.

Top Pot Doughnuts

After getting back to Belltown, I stopped by Top Pot Doughnuts [Yelp], and grabbed a maple bar to ease my nerves after so much asphalt. The last time I had visited Seattle on a road trip, my friend had introduced me to this wonderful place. The doughnuts are some of the best I have ever eaten. (Later on in my internship I ended up visiting the ridiculously popular Voodoo Doughnut [Yelp] only to be sadly disappointed by overrated, much-too-sweet doughnuts. I far prefer Top Pot.)

I sat down with my doughnut and opened up my laptop, but my internet didn’t work, which was perhaps for the best, so I sat there eating, drinking water, and staring around at their quite intriguing interior design, consisting of stacks and stacks of bookcases along the full length of the two side walls filled, with old bound books.

Finally, I got home at about 7 PM, and collapsed on the floor reading for a while. Then I somehow got into this weird sleepy state where I laid on the bed and half-fell asleep as the sun went down, and didn’t manage to get up until almost 10 PM. So now I am relatively awake considering the time, but I really need to sleep since I’ll be up in 7 hours!