The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed or suspended countless plans, but it hasn’t stopped a pair of Cal Poly Pomona seniors from gaining real-world work experience this summer with Amazon. Both landed valuable internships with the tech giant and are working, collaborating and learning remotely.
Computer science student Jordyn Sato is sharpening her skills while working to improve the “reminders” feature on the popular Amazon Alexa platform.
Samuel Kweon, who is studying computer information systems, has a two-part internship. He spent the first four weeks working remotely on the tech giant’s cloud-based internet solution, Amazon Web Services. But then he packed up and headed to Sacramento to help set up the computer networks of a new large-scale Amazon fulfillment center.
Both had initially planned to serve their internships as traditional, in-person jobs. Kweon was expecting to head to Seattle, and Sato was planning to work out of Santa Clara. But then came COVID-19.
With the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the internships’ format shifted online.
Sato and her team of 22 — including programmers, testers and others — are responsible for adding new software features and making sure Alexa’s “reminders” feature operates smoothly, she explained.
“Every day I’m learning something else about the software development process,” said Sato, who lived on campus but moved home to be with her family Sunnyvale.
The team’s work will eventually find its way onto Alexa devices. “One thing I’ve learned in my time at Amazon is that everyone is super smart. They give you challenging tasks,” she said. “It’s difficult in a good way.”
The hands-on learning process at Cal Poly Pomona prepared Sato for the internship and the lessons she’s learning at Amazon are a valuable component of her education.
“Since it’s virtual, it’s not the same as an in-person internship. It’s different, but I can tell they’re trying their best to make sure it’s the best it can be,” she said.
Sato said she was immersed in technology growing up in Silicon Valley. “In high school, I took an intro to Java class, and that kind of kick-started my interest in programming — the logic, the problem solving.”
Kweon, who did the first portion of his internship remotely from his home, spent his first four weeks maintaining and troubleshooting issues on Amazon Web Services, as well as shadowing and learning from experts at Amazon.
It wasn’t long when his particular skill set was needed in Sacramento to help set up the vast network of a brand-new, highly-automated Amazon fulfillment center.
From document sharing to storage solutions, computing is rapidly moving away from isolated computers onto vast, complex networks, Kweon explained. The trend holds true for both personal and commercial applications, from accessing music and movies to running international corporations.
“Cloud has been going crazy this year, and obviously, in the past five years or 10 years, but even more the past year,” Kweon said. “It’s been exponentially trending up.”
It’s particularly evident during the pandemic, when countless employees are working from home; their work is largely made possible by cloud-based computer solutions.
Kweon said his four years at Cal Poly Pomona helped him tackle the challenge.
“I like how the school emphasizes learn by doing. I think it really does help in the real-life field, thinking about the classes I took, and how each professor implemented learn by doing.”
Even virtual/remote classes during spring semester continued in that spirit, said Kweon. The Telecommunication Networks class he took with Professor Charles Bennett, was still “100 percent learn by doing.”