Starting at the bottom not so bad

Seattle corporate giants lay out red carpet for once-lowly interns

The Seattle TimesJuly 7, 2014 

Interns from Amazon charge in a paintball match versus interns from Microsoft last month in Monroe.

BETTINA HANSEN/SEATTLE TIMES

Amazon.com, Microsoft and The Boeing Co. 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’s free breakfast and dinner, biweekly housekeeping, 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-based corporate housing company, to cater to interns. ABODA rents out rooms in more than 150 locations in the Seattle area, including apartment buildings, hotels and spare housing at the University of Washington.

ABODA 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. About 60 percent of the company’s 1,600 Puget Sound interns choose corporate housing, with the rest taking the lump sum, said Dowling.

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.

“You were completely thrown in on your own,” Kuan said.

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.

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, and about 20 percent of its 1,000 Seattle-area interns have chosen that option. Boeing contracts with Altair Global Relocation to furnish its apartments.

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, 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.”

After Amazon flew Masi out to Seattle in May 2013 as a software developer, he settled into a room at the Springhill Suites in downtown Seattle, where he lived with about 100 other Amazon interns. For the first few weeks of his internship, catering for breakfast and dinner wasn’t yet available for interns in the hotel. So Amazon covered room service.

“It was a bummer when they started making dinner,” Masi said.

Amazon docked his $6,000 monthly salary by $500 for housing and food, mostly supplied by ABODA.Social perks are another draw in the corporate 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.

The Olympian is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service