Whether it is called an internship or externship, opportunities to learn outside the classroom can be important for students. They gain professional and personal skills and knowledge. We recently asked two undergraduate seniors in Art to write about their experiences.
I am a senior at the UW double majoring in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts (with a focus in printmaking) and International Studies. For the past nine months, I have been the design intern for Amazon’s Expressions Program. The program aims to create a collaborative space in order to promote and showcase the creativity, community, and diversity of thought at Amazon. Further, the Expressions Program provides an analog, hands-on environment, where Amazonians can engage their creative mind in order to facilitate an increase in innovative thinking, problem solving, and creative exploration.
There is a physical lab that hosts workshops led by outside organizations such as Pratt and Gage, there are team building sessions, and there are open studios for Amazonians to come and work on their personal art projects. The Expressions Program also hosts an Artist in Residence program that features a new local artist each quarter.
My increased interest in design came to me during my sophomore year at UW, a bit too late to become a Design major due to the program’s strict course schedule that begins freshman year. However, the summer going into my junior year, I had an opportunity to intern with the digital team at a consulting firm, where I learned about the principle thinking behind design and taught myself Adobe design software. I have been lucky to have two internships now that have provided me with the opportunity to explore design as a profession, while having the privilege to learn a lot along the way. One of the main reasons I was curious to intern at Amazon was to learn more about the ways corporate cultures integrate art within their environments, especially at a company that has had such an expansive impact on our city. Further, I have the personal desire to breakdown the exclusiveness that exists in the art world. I think that the Expressions Program has the potential to engage individuals in not only artistic practices but also helps to cultivate the local art community, providing individuals with the chance to explore art who may not have had the desire to explore it otherwise. The way I got involved at Amazon was through a family friend named Tim Detweiler, who is the Expressions Program Manager. Tim had mentioned to my mom that they were in need of an intern with design skills, so I decided to reach out. After interviewing in spring 2019, I started interning there in June and have been there ever since. My work consists of designing marketing materials, calendars, informational posters, as well as promotional materials for our Artist in Residence program. My internship also includes leading workshops and facilitating team buildings, along with being available during open studios and drop-ins for any questions about the lab or projects people are working on.
I feel extremely grateful for the experiences this internship has provided me and the connections I have managed to make through it. The relationships I have built and the conversations I have had with various individuals at Amazon have been a huge highlight of my time there. The team I work with along with the past Artists in Residence have all imparted such meaningful wisdom to me that I will carry with me into my future career, whatever path I choose to take. This internship has shown me that I have the agency to teach myself skills that are necessary for a job, despite not having a degree in design. It’s also proved to me that creative work is imperative to my personal happiness and has shown me that saying yes to particular opportunities has the potential to create new paths of knowledge production and expose opportunities for the future.
The Center for 21st Century Liberal Learning (C21) appeared as an intriguing opportunity because its intentions were to allow students in liberal arts to explore career opportunities in large tech corporations like Amazon and Microsoft. I was browsing for opportunities online, came across the C21 Externships, and was able to find out more about it through their webpages.
Keeping in mind that it was an externship oriented towards connecting with assigned mentors and finding out about various career opportunities, the program serves its purpose well. However, for those with some background in the field they intend to work in, they may not find it greatly beneficial because it is oriented towards 'taking the first steps.'
Weekly meetings were held with a randomly assigned mentor and 4 to 5 other students at the corporate campuses. One of the most helpful experiences was bringing our resumes and having the mentor review it. The review allowed me to find out about what the potential manager of the intended position would be looking for and unnecessary sections that I could reduce.
As a student studying visual arts, it can be difficult to imagine working in corporations that may seem irrelevant to my current studies. However, the externship has taught me that there are new and unique opportunities that are suitable for those with non-tech backgrounds at tech companies.
I encourage those with uncertainty in career paths or who do not have much experience to apply for the externship because it will allow students to connect with a working professional and increase their professionalism.