From Coast to Coast

coast-to-coast

As everyone and their mom already knows, I spent my weekends venturing to San Francisco this summer. I fell in love with the city – its coffee, cafes and its people. While I wouldn’t have changed my summer for the world, coming home to an empty one bedroom apartment wasn’t always the easiest on days when I wasn’t too tired from work.

This was the summer where the majority of my close friends were spread from coast to coast. Some were conquering Chicago’s media and advertising hubs, while others were taking on the Big Apple’s publishing giants. And then there are the ones that enjoyed the beauty of Austin and all its glory.

Last summer, I interned in Austin – a city I know like the back of my hand. I paired up with some close friends to make Austin’s own version of the Intern Project. While it wasn’t as big as the San Francisco/Bay Area Intern Project, it made summer a lot easier after long days in cube land.

This summer, I found myself in the middle of nowhere California with a one-hour commute to civilization. The commutes were always long to San Francisco or San Jose, but the people I spent time with were some of the best people. I met more Michigan engineers than I ever thought I would meet. But as wonderful as they were, I couldn’t help but be envious of all of them. All their friends were there. Familiar faces surrounded them after a long day at work. Me? My best friends were scattered across the states – some even across the water.

Which brings me to another point: is this what life after college will be like? When we walk across the stage in a few short months, will our friendships be solely based on digital interactions on social media and FaceTime conversations? Until we’re less on the entry-level broke side of the income bracket, will we only be able to promise to book those plane tickets and make the couches to crash?

As I start to compile a list of companies I could see myself work for, I notice they’re all on the West Coast or Pacific Northwest. I always knew I wanted to get out of Texas after graduation. This summer was a test to prove whether I could handle being away from everything I knew, everyone I knew and all the comforts of home.

If this is what growing up feels like, then I thank the brilliant engineers for building digital tools to communicate with everyone that makes my heart warm.

#Internlife: the final countdown.

amazon_fc

When I first received my Amazon internship offer letter, I was informed the internship would be 10 weeks. I knew 10 weeks was short, but it didn’t hit me just how short until yesterday when I finished week 9 of the program.

After flying out to Seattle for the Planet of the Intern summit, I returned to week 9 and it was time to run the shift. Since week three of my internship when I launched KIVA Systems in our fulfillment center, I played the role of a process assistant while our actual PA was out. However, acting as an Area Manager was a new challenge that worried me.

Tues., July 15, I entered the FC at 6:30 a.m. ready to take on the challenge.

My manager had informed me he was leaving the second half of the day, which was fine because I knew I had the support of my associates and process assistant. However, an hour after he left, all hell broke loose. My PA had to leave because of a family emergency – I wouldn’t have wanted him to stay with that in the back of his mind.

To say I was stressed out would be an understatement. I was living off of two eggs in my stomach that I had eaten at 5:30 a.m. and my body was using what little energy it was getting from the cough drops I was shoving down my throat to survive. But for some reason, I did survive.

I can honestly say that that afternoon summed up my internship in a nutshell. It tested every ounce of physical and mental energy I had. On paper, it looks like I should have passed out and given up, but in reality, I actually got a thrill out of it. Why? Because I had support. Support from my team. When I say my team, I mean the associates. Yes, I did have the support of the other managers, but I don’t think I could have made it out alive if I didn’t have associates who trusted me to not mess up.

Amazon might be known as the world’s biggest supply chain business, but to me, it’s a people business. Learning how to communicate with this diverse team of associates has helped me grow from a timid and confused intern to someone who actually has the potential to be a manager.

As I enter my last week of interning, all I can say is I don’t regret this experience. Even with the walls I’ve hit, the road blocks that made me cry harder than at any other job and the lack of food that has caused my sugar levels to plummet – I don’t regret any of it. Whether or not I return as an Area Manager for Amazon or not, this is an experience I recommend to anyone who wants to build their management skills, build a stronger backbone, learn to communicate with a large team and overall, mature at a faster rate. You have to literally think on your feet and you have to think fast or you’ll surely get left behind.

#Internlife: fear.

image: tracker.come

image: tracker.com

Maybe it’s because I live in the middle of nowhere Farmville, CA. Maybe it’s because my parents called today and all I could say was, “I’m exhausted from the week, but I miss you so much.” Maybe it’s the fact that I’m about to run the entire shift tomorrow and a part of me still has no idea what I’m doing. Or maybe it’s because I think I might have rolled my ankle and I wasn’t supposed to run shift until week nine of my internship.

Maybe it’s a combination of everything I just listed.

I can honestly say this is the most mentally, physically and emotionally draining internship position I have ever held. Some days, I’m kicking ass, while other days, I want to curl up in a ball and question how someone could possibly think I was even remotely qualified for this position.

As I sit in my apartment typing this post after a peaceful mass with an amazing homily, I can’t help but go into extremely deep thought of why I chose to accept this summer opportunity. They say everything happens for a reason, but what was the reasoning behind me leaving everything I’m comfortable with in Texas to venture out to Tracy, CA to intern with a company that will both build you up and tear you down all within the same day.

I like lists a lot, so naturally, I made a list of reasons. Every reason brought me back to one main theme: challenge. I guess it’s the combination of experiencing a variety of obstacles from a very young age that has made me the type of person to almost lust after new challenges. When I get too comfortable in one place and have learned everything I need to learn, I tend to get bored. I chose this opportunity because I wanted a challenge and damn, am I getting one.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. In fact, I’m filled with a whole lot of fear that maybe, accepting this opportunity was a mistake, that I will simply fail and that this summer was a waste. But then I realize that when a challenge presents itself, I can either attack it at full force or I can let it win – I don’t like losing.

I have four weeks left in this internship, then I’m returning to the land of Whataburger, beautiful sunsets and y’all. Until then, I will use the fear that is buried underneath to push forward. Amazon has this saying that when you hit a wall, you better climb it. I already hit my first wall and climbed it. I hope that’s the only wall for the summer, but if it isn’t, I will surely climb it again.

#Internlife: 1500 miles and then some.

photo: questing california

photo: questing california

My family immigrated to America in 1997. We found ourselves setting our sights on Texas. While I’m not a native Texan, I have spent a healthy 18 years in Texas, which at least makes it socially acceptable to call myself a Texan. With that being said, I’m used the 8.25% sales tax, which helped with the transition to an 8.5% sales tax in California.

However, upon receiving my first two paychecks, a part of me died inside. I knew there was a state income tax outside of Texas, but damn California, you’ve done me wrong. But then it hit me, I’m 1500 miles away from home and I wanted to be here.

Growing up in a conservative, Vietnamese and Catholic household, my parents were very protective. They meant well – I don’t blame them for it. This wasn’t the country they grew up in and the concept of trying something new was a mild fear that they held. It didn’t make sense to me how protective they were when I was younger, until I became older.

My first time flying without my family to a different state wasn’t until this past October. I was 21, heading to Philadelphia for the first time. While parents seek to protect their children, I am under the impression that these lessons cannot be put to good use until we’re left out in the open world alone.

Since that first sans family flight back in October, I have flown alone to California and Arizona and damn, I love it. There’s something about putting yourself far away from home that tests your street smarts, common sense and wit. I had one goal this year: travel more, learn a lot and put everything my parents have taught me to good use. This includes pushing my limits and seeing if I can stay true to the morals and values they instilled in me. So far, I have.

I think the majority of what I have gotten out of my internship experience this summer is learning how to be a leader, while earning the trust of associates. Maybe it’s the southern hospitality that has grown on me in the past 18 years or the fact that my parents prepared me for it or both, but developing the trust and support from the associates has been somewhat easier than expected. I’m following momma’s model of, “Be nice, do your job really well and the trust will come.” So far, it’s worked in my favor.

As one gains titles such as “manager” or “supervisor,” there might be a lack of understanding what it means to be on the ground level, doing the direct functions, and being underpaid. My father taught me that no matter how grand your job title sounds, one must remain humble and know one’s roots. My father is the definition of “started from the bottom, now we here,” so it comes as no surprise that this is the greatest lesson he can instill in me.

I guess regardless of where I end up after graduation in the next year, this internship experience has taught me that all because I’m 1500 miles away, doesn’t mean I’m going to forget the basic principles that I will forever hold true.

#Internlife: But I’m from Texas

Amazon_Logo

Two flight delays, one long layover and a TSA search of my luggage later, I landed on California soil. Publicly, I acted calm, but inside I was terrified out of my mind. I must have texted a handful of people to inform them of my arrival and fear – all of which assured me that everything would be fine. They were right. I picked up my rental car, slightly embarrassed myself as I dragged my heavy luggage across the floor and headed to the apartment. Because of the delayed flights, I moved in later than expected. Thankfully, the apartment was about 99 percent set up for me. During my first day in Intern Land, I learned a few things about California:

  • There is only one decent country station
  • Saying y’all causes looks of confusion
  • An angry suburban mom is angrier here than in Texas
  • My washer/dryer is in an awkwardly placed closet on my patio
  • I need to hunt down a microwave
  • Motorcycles can weave in between cars like it’s not dangerous (when it totally is)
  • Speed limits away from large cities are much lower. Hello 55-65 mph
  • This city is really split between typical suburb and not-so-nice side of town
  • There’s a Starbucks and liquor store on every corner

My second day started with a trip to the local Catholic church for Sunday morning mass. For the most part, it was the same as mass at home. However, the amount of kneeling was fewer, which confused me a bit. Tomorrow I start my first day at work bright and early – 7 a.m. PST to be exact. It’s going to be a long week, but knowing that I’m going to learn a lot and end the week with Friday off to get to know some cool fellow interns keeps me going.

P.S. I’m the only girl, but these guys are pretty cool – intern brothers? Maybe.

For the next 10 weeks, I will document my experiences via the blog in a series called #internlife. If you follow me on any form of social media, you have seen me use this hashtag many times, so it’s only fitting I make it a series for my second major summer internship.

Hang tight, it’s going to be a bumpy ride, but adventure awaits.