Audible, the Amazon company which is the largest producer and purveyor of audiobooks on the planet, this year expanded the number of high school internships it offers through Cambridge School Volunteers to 10.
The computer science internships began in 2017 with only four CRLS students. Last year, eight students enrolled in the the summer program, which combines career exploration with hands-on training and is available exclusively to Cambridge Public Schools students.
Nafis Rahman, one of the 2018 summer interns at Audible, spent his internship creating an app that sends a reminder by text. He relied on frequent consultation with his own individual mentor —an important component of the program—in the three weeks he spent at Audible. At Audible, “It was fun working with Alexa,” he says. The toughest part of the experience, though, was that “we were on deadline the entire time,” he says. Nafis had already learned some Java at CRLS, in AP Computer Science, before starting his internship. Nafis, who is interested in becoming a data scientist, plans to major in computer science at UMass Amherst, where he will be matriculating this fall.
After an initial week of “onboarding”— training that includes setting interns up with laptops for their work, showing them how to use LinkedIn, helping them build a resume, and providing them with information about the industry—Audible provides one-to-one mentors. For the next two weeks, the students work five hours a day at the Kendall Square Audible site. Interns are paid. The schedule is convenient especially because it follows the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program in mid-August.
Albert Liu, another 2018 summer intern from CRLS who continued to intern with Audible during the school year, stresses that it’s not an easy program. He likes the difficulty because it give an early preview of how to get a professional job in tech. “There are like five interviews that you have pass through to get employed” at Audible, he says. “It’s very competitive to get in.” Albert worked on a voice-controlled robot car during his summer internship. He is headed to a California university in the fall to pursue a computer science degree.
Nazari Tuyo [top photo], a junior at CRLS, volunteers at Black Girls Code. For fun, on her own time, she builds light sequences with Arduino. She says her Audible internship during the summer between sophomore and junior year “helped me establish that Computer Science is the path I wanted to choose.” How exactly did the internship get her to that conclusion? Her answer is that she found out directly that “collaborating is not as intimidating as I thought it was.” Nazari plans to major in computer programming when she starts college in the fall of 2020. “Working at Audible is a really, really good way to see if CS [Computer Science] is your thing,” she says. “You really learn how to meet deadlines and present your ideas.”
“I want to stay in the area after college, because there are a lot of good tech opportunities, says Nazari.
For Audible, the internship program activates one of its basic corporate values, to “activate caring.” The program draws from a tradition of hiring and mentoring youth at Audible’s Newark headquarters, yet in Cambridge, the program needed to be re-imagined. The Cambridge office of Audible, unlike headquarters, focuses exclusively on coding research and development, so the internship program had to tap students who could thrive in a technical sphere. Audible asked CSV to help design the program with them and to find students who might not otherwise have this type of opportunity in high school.
Matt Quinn, VP Software Development and Site Lead for the Audible Cambridge site, says, “Our high school internship program is one of the most important efforts in our office. It allows our staff to connect directly with students in the neighborhood where we work as ‘missionary agents of change’ to nurture a spark in computer science and love for listening and the spoken word. CSV has been instrumental in making it happen!”
Cambridge School Volunteers partners with fifteen companies in Greater Cambridge for various programs, including NetPals (in which Audible is also a partner), KeyPals, and Reading Buddies.