These Aren't Your Dad's Summer Internships

The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)

July 7, 2014

Copyright 2014 Virginian-Pilot Companies LLC All Rights Reserved

Amazon.com, Microsoft and Boeing sweeten already-lucrative job offers in Seattle with subsidized, furnished housing. Transportation is covered from anywhere in the country, including airport food, baggage fees and taxis. There are free breakfasts and dinners, biweekly housekeeping and a private party with Macklemore and Deadmau5.

And that's just for the interns.

"We are all competing for those top students," said Heidi Dowling, intern-program manager for university recruiting at Microsoft, "and what can we do to make our program stand out and what is attractive for a college student to spend their summer with Microsoft?"

Their strategies are working. More than 3,000 students have brought their talents to Seattle this summer to work at those three companies.

Dan Masi is a Seattle intern veteran.

One visit to a career fair at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst was enough to make an Amazon internship in Seattle his first choice last summer.

A computer-science and mathematics junior hailing from a Boston suburb, Masi worried about the challenge of moving across the country, especially for only 12 weeks.

"I think the little things - finding my own housing, dealing with flights, dealing with relocation - would've just been really difficult," Masi said. "It would kind of push me to find something closer to home. It probably wouldn't have been my first choice."

But Amazon recruiters were clear: Relocation wouldn't be an issue.

Amazon and Microsoft both contract with ABODA, a Redmond, Wash.-based corporate housing company, to cater to interns. ABODA rents out rooms in more than 150 locations in Seattle. It also fully stocks rooms with televisions, bedding, towels, dishes, electronics and more. And it offers housekeeping and catering.

"It's basically turnkey," said Marci Abinanti, vice president of corporate housing at ABODA.

Interns get quite a break: Corporate housing generally is subsidized.

Microsoft interns who choose housing over a housing lump-sum stipend of about $2,500 for the summer have three options: a studio for $550, a one-bedroom for $900 or a two-bedroom with a roommate for $625 a month.

Lauren Kuan, a computer-science senior from Cornell University, chose to live in a two-bedroom apartment in Bothell during her internship at Microsoft. The 21-year-old interned at Goldman Sachs in New York City last year. There, she said, she received a small housing stipend but very little help finding a place to stay.

As a program manager intern at Microsoft, Kuan opted for corporate housing in part to have a roommate. She drives a rental car courtesy of Microsoft for the freedom of exploring the Pacific Northwest.

"It shows that they really do care about employees and interns and so on," Kuan said. "They want to make you very happy and make it very easy."

Amazon and Boeing declined to offer specific details about the costs of their programs. While Boeing has long offered a housing stipend and search assistance, the company this year also began offering managed housing in the Seattle area. Boeing contracts with Altair Global Relocation to furnish its apartments.

"We absolutely want to be competitive with the market," said Doug Cisler, global staffing regional manager for the northwest U.S. at Boeing. "There's a lot of competition out there that we compete with for this talent. We put in place the program that we have to be competitive with the market."

Boeing doesn't provide local travel to and from work, nor catering or housekeeping.

Andrew Wang, 21, accepted an 11-week internship in supply-chain management at Boeing. He opted for the housing stipend because he wanted to live in Columbia City, located between work in Renton and the nightlife of downtown Seattle.

"When I saw the stipend they gave out for relocation, that made a big impression on me," said the finance junior at Indiana University. "That was probably the biggest variable in terms of moving over."

Social perks are another draw in the game of intern recruiting. Masi said he's looking forward to Microsoft's annual intern Signature Event; last year, it was Macklemore and Deadmau5 performing for an audience of more than 1,000 interns. Masi also remembers when Amazon interns were taunted by Microsoft interns, who had received free Surface tablets.

"A lot of people say that interns are treated better than full-time employees, and I believe that's completely true," Masi said.

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