Nivedita Enakonda, a native of Telangana’s Sirsapally village, vividly remembers the feeling of excitement and nervousness during her first visit to Amazon’s Hyderabad campus in December 2022. A first-generation learner, Nivedita had never stepped into a corporate office before.
“I enjoyed talking to Amazonians, and listening to leaders share life lessons. We took an office tour and I remember leaving the campus that day feeling inspired and resolving myself to work hard to one day make it to Amazon,” recalls this second-year engineering student, also an Amazon Future Engineer (AFE) scholar.
She wanted to keep the visitor ID issued that day so that it remains fresh in her memory. Cut to May 29, 2023: Nivedita owns an Amazon badge with her name on it. She is among 68 students selected for an early tech internship offered exclusively to AFE scholars. The internship gives students hands-on work experience while they're still in college and helps level the playing field for internships during their third year.
Creating pathways for women in tech
The AFE scholarships were launched in 2021 to support meritorious girl students from low-income families to pursue graduation in tech and related fields. Since 2021, 700 girls enrolled in computer science (and related) engineering degrees have received scholarships.
The scholarship, besides offering financial assistance over four years, also provides access to computer science bootcamps, mentorship, Amazon WoW (a networking platform for women engineering students), and career skills resources.
Coming from a small town and living in tough financial circumstances, securing this scholarship helped me pursue my dreams of a college education in Computer Science. The mentorship sessions under the AFE program helped me get familiar with new technologies and build my confidence and self-esteem. I am very grateful to be an AFE scholar.
Internships—a logical next step after AFE scholarships
India sees close to a million computer engineers graduate every year but about 90% don’t have the necessary skills when entering the workforce. Also, just 29% of engineering students are women, and that figure further drops to just 8% in top-tier colleges. Participation of women in top technology jobs is considerably lower than in other industries and those who come from low-income families are even more underrepresented.
Hence, the internship opportunity was conceived for AFE Scholars, all of whom are girls who come from low-income households.
While scholarships open up pathways to college education for students from low-income backgrounds, they are less likely to have had the kind of exposure and access to technology, as compared to their peers from more privileged backgrounds. To help level the playing field, we are opening up internship opportunities for AFE scholars one year earlier, and also ensuring that they are supported with the relevant skills and resources to help them succeed in a tech career.
The possibility of a return offer
The AFE internship program spans 8 weeks, with the first batch of interns onboarded on May 29, 2023. The 68 interns were selected after undergoing a role-fit assessment and were matched to job roles based on their skills and interests. They will intern as Software Development Engineers, Quality Assurance Engineers, Data Engineers, and Support Engineers and will have a chance to work on some of Amazon’s groundbreaking technologies and core platforms, like Alexa voice technology, Amazon Web Services, and the Amazon retail platform. The paid internship also provides the students the possibility of a return offer on completing their third year of engineering.
Vyshnavi Priya, a student at Indian Institute of Information Technology Design and Manufacturing, Kurnool, talks about a mix of nervousness and anticipation on her Day 1 as an Amazon intern. “My manager and team made me feel welcomed and guided me through tasks, encouraging my growth. The highlight was the Intern's Day program, filled with entertaining performances that brought our team closer. It is an incredible opportunity to work as an intern at one of the world's most innovative companies,” she says.
8,000 applicants in 2023
From 200 scholars in the first AFE cohort in 2021, the number of scholarships has gone up to 500 this year. This year Amazon received more than 8,000 applicants with an acceptance rate of 7% making it a highly sought-after scholarship program that attracts the best talents in the country.
AFE scholarship recipients are among the top-performing women engineering students, and now through the AFE internships, we would be able to tap into this talent pool while also championing the cause of bringing more women into tech roles at Amazon. Diverse representation in the employee base is critical for us to understand the diverse customer base of the business.
AFE has reached more than 1.2 million students to explore and learn computer science across more than 7,000 schools.