When Lukas Michelbacher met an Amazon employee at a tech conference in Edinburgh he was inspired to apply for an internship at the company’s growing Development Centre in Scotland’s capital city. Now he and his family are loving life in Scotland and have even discovered the joy of skiing in the Scottish mountains.
I studied Computational Linguistics, Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of Stuttgart and Trinity College, Dublin, majoring in Computational Linguistics. I also have a PhD in Computational Linguistics from the University of Stuttgart.
This is my first full-time job in the industry. While studying I interned at a company that develops speech recognition systems for luxury cars and also had a job testing video games for a global games developer. While I was studying for my undergraduate degree and my PhD I worked as a research assistant.
I heard about the Amazon Development Centre in Scotland at a natural language processing conference held in Edinburgh in 2011.
While I was there I met an employee from Amazon who suggested I apply for an internship. The opportunity sounded ideal as it allowed me to finish my degree before going into the industry and to spend the summer after graduation getting to know the business and the role, and enjoying life in Edinburgh.
The recruitment process
There were three steps to securing the internship. First I had an informal phone conversation with a team manager from Amazon when we talked about my research and skills, what the team was working on and the kind of person they were looking for.
This was followed by a call with an Amazon engineer covering basic programming questions. The third step was an on-site interview in Edinburgh, which involved a whole day of interviews covering different aspects of software engineering and also soft skills.
The interviews were relevant to the role and quite challenging at times, though everyone was very friendly. It was a valuable process that really helped me to understand the business and expectations for the role.
From intern to full time employee
The internship has certainly stood me in good stead for the role I now enjoy as a Software Development Engineer, which I started in April 2013.
I currently work in a team that creates various relationships between products in the Amazon catalogue. A lot of what we do is data analysis and experimenting with machine learning techniques in order to automatically improve our data quality.
I like that I get to ‘wear different hats’ and work on different things on a day-to-day basis.
My future career
What’s great is that I’m now working with real-world software systems, as opposed to isolated smaller programs in research as a student. The projects I’ve been working on have also enabled me to improve my skills in databases, object-oriented design and best practices for software development.
Amazon has well-defined career paths so I’m confident that at Amazon I can grow as a software engineer. I have regular reviews and conversations with my manager to ensure that we’re both on the same page in terms of our goals and how to achieve them. Plus I enjoy the satisfaction of working on projects that benefit millions of customers.
Living in Scotland
The move to Edinburgh was easy with support from Amazon, and my immediate family could join me, which was great. We’ve enjoyed the culture and even the skiing, which I didn’t know was possible here.
Overall it’s a friendly place to live and work. Something I’ll never get tired of is enjoying the spectacular view from Arthur’s Seat and the spectacle of Edinburgh Castle in the town.
Of course, the pubs are pretty good too!