Companies lay out red carpet for once-lowly interns

By Colleen Wright / The Seattle Times

Published Jul 3, 2014 at 12:01AM

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’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, Washington-based corporate housing company, to cater to interns. ABODA rents out rooms in more than 150 locations in Seattle, 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.

As a program manager intern at Microsoft, Lauren Kuan, a computer-science senior from Cornell University, 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, 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.

“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.”