Information School seniors David Gutierrez, Zach Camara, and Stephen Ramirez were all selected for internships at global-leading coffee giant Starbucks last summer. During their internships, the three carpooled to work together and became good friends. And after enjoyable, productive stints at Starbucks, all were offered full-time jobs, which will begin as soon as they earn their degrees.
Here’s what they have to share about interning at Starbucks, their experiences at the iSchool, what made their internships a success—and why they’re excited to go back to Starbucks and get to work.
When Gutierrez was a high school student in the Yakima Valley, he saw firsthand how people with limited access can sometimes struggle with unfamiliar technology. This made him interested in how people interact with technology. When he came to the UW, a beginning programming course introduced him to the world of Human Computer Interaction (HCI)—and showed him the direction he wanted to follow in his studies.
“I developed a passion to design things that ordinary people can use efficiently and effectively. What led me to the Information School was the wide variety of different focuses. Every class has introduced a new aspect to my thinking.”
Like many iSchool students, Gutierrez's first glimpse into his potential career path came at the iSchool’s annual Career Fair. After talking with several companies, his interaction with Starbucks recruiters stood out as a totally different experience.
“They were so down to earth and friendly. They had really good energy. Right off the bat it made me interested in working for them.” That initial impression continued after he was invited to interview for an internship.
“The interview process was not like any other company. It felt like the interviews were more of a talk, like a conversation,” he said. “When I was given the opportunity to do my internship there, I really jumped on it.”
Once he got to Starbucks, Gutierrez was pleasantly surprised to find the project he was assigned, to help design and develop user interfaces for a new internal software, was something that was actually going to be used by the company.
“I had to use my skills from informatics and my focus on HCI, and think about how a user would go about using this software, and any complications they may have. I was learning a ton of different things—the role of a systems analyst, how to lead meetings effectively, how to present to higher ups in the company, organizational skills, and leadership skills.”
During it all, he was deeply impressed by Starbucks’ “awesome vibe.” “Everyone seemed to enjoy working there,” he said. “It showed in the quality of everyone’s work, and that was something I really appreciated.”
At the end of his internship, Gutierrez gave a presentation summarizing his work—after which he was invited to return to a full-time position as a Systems Analyst.
“The summer was so amazing, all I wanted to do was return. I didn’t even want to take a look at other companies. And later, I was told that the portals I’d designed had been incorporated into the project.”
Now that he’s back at the iSchool, his focus is on strengthening his relationships with fellow students, working on a meaningful capstone project, and “trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can before I graduate.”
Advice for future interns: “Coming out of the iSchool, we all have similar skills. It’s how you apply those skills that really makes you marketable. Communication and your personality goes a long way.”
Informatics senior Stephen Ramirez put a lot of energy into sports and after-school jobs during his time at Kent, Washington’s Kentwood High School, and later at community college as a Running Start student.The iSchool senior still works part-time, as he has throughout his college career, but now puts his extracurricular energy into student government, as president of the Informatics Undergraduate Association.
When he first came to the UW, Ramirez’s passion for solving problems and working with software led him to think that Engineering was the path he’d like to follow. But when he saw the breadth of learning available at the iSchool, he found it more appealing than a tightly focused technology education.
Like Gutierrez, Ramirez's introduction to Starbucks came at the iSchool Career Fair. “I wasn’t actually thinking about Starbucks, but a friend of mine was standing in line waiting to talk to their recruiter, and I wanted to talk with my friend,” he said. “All of a sudden, I got to the front of the line. I was pretty prepared, but after I gave my speech, the recruiter and I ended up talking for 15 minutes. It was a really cool, one-on-one session. Starbucks is a company that’s very focused on culture. Even with their presence at the career fair, they gave everyone who came to talk with them their full attention.”
Soon after, Ramirez was offered an internship in Starbucks’ Business Intelligence unit, which focuses on turning data collected from a wide range of sources into useful information to back up new product and marketing decision-making.
“As an intern, I got a comprehensive view of the entire department, and was given three projects of my own to work on,” he said. “One was creating a comprehensive roadmap of the journey of coffee beans from farms in Africa to Seattle, and back out into the world again. It’s actually been published online.”
Ramirez said one of the unique things about Starbucks was that at the beginning of his internship, they made it clear that if he enjoyed his time there and made a solid contribution, there would be a job offer waiting for him. After his internship was complete, Ramirez was offered a position as an Application Developer. And while he did interview with several San Francisco tech firms, none could match what he found during his internship.
“My team worked together pretty much like a family. It didn’t even feel like working. Very supportive, very helpful, always excited about the work. Of course,” he joked, “that might have something to do with the coffee…”
Advice for future interns: “Working at a big tech company might be really cool,” he said. “But there’s a lot of opportunity in other places. You just have to know where to look.”
Camara, who attended high school in Redmond, Washington, originally thought he would major elsewhere, in Computer Science.
“Tech was always a passion of mine, but after taking calculus and not enjoying it very much, I decided to take a look at other tech-focused majors.” After taking the Informatics 200 course, he decided the iSchool was a potential good fit.
The new-student orientation cemented that impression. “There was a welcome ceremony with the dean and all the faculty. It really felt inviting, and gave me the small-school feeling I never had before. Before, I’d felt like I was just one of 40,000 students, kind of doing my own thing. Ever since that moment, I knew I’d picked the right major.”
As part of the first cohort in the iSchool’s Information Assurance and Cybersecurity track, Camara said he “was able to make some close friends and really connect with faculty,” as well as picking up valuable skills.
Those skills came in handy during his Starbucks internship, which started, like his colleagues, at the iSchool Career Fair. “Starbucks really impressed me when I spoke to them. Even though they had a huge line, they weren’t pushing me along like some of the other companies were. They gave me their time, even though other companies seemed to want to get through as many people as they could.” Not only that, they soon offered him an internship.
“I showed up to my first day of my internship, and I was so worried that I was not going to be prepared for whatever they were going to ask me to do,” he said. “But by the end of the first week I felt at home. And that was all because of everything I’ve learned here at the University of Washington in the iSchool. Even culturally, it felt similar. Because everyone was friendly.”
As a systems analyst, Camara was given three projects. “The main one was a blue-sky imagining of a cutting-edge, future state of contact center technology. They told me to let my creative juices flow.”
Tackling such a large and undefined process was a little nerve-wracking at first, but he started methodically, creating a work plan and outlining all the tasks he’d need to complete to get the job done on time.
“Those time management skills were something the iSchool taught me, so I was using what I’d learned immediately, which was really cool.”
Camara's project included one-on-one immersion sessions with business leaders from different Starbucks departments, 15 interviews on customer service with members of different age demographics, and even an hour-long phone meeting with a director in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at Oracle.
“I felt like a real businessman at this point, calling a director at another company on behalf of Starbucks,” he said. “But that’s part of Starbucks’ unique culture. It’s a very friendly, collaborative environment. There isn’t a feeling that since I’m only a systems analyst I can’t go talk to the director of my entire business unit. Everyone cares, everyone wants to do good work.”
Currently, Camara is finishing up his Spanish minor, focusing on a capstone project, and “first and foremost earning that degree.”
After that, he’s excited to go back to work at Starbucks. “I’ll be working with the same team, which is really exciting, going back to people who know me and encouraged me to develop professionally.”
Advice for future interns: “Start as early as possible looking for an internship or job. Opportunities come and go, doors open and close, and the sooner you start looking for something the higher chance you have to find something before summer or whenever you need it.”
He also has advice for students who might feel nervous like he did on his first day. “Feeling under-qualified first few days is a natural feeling. You have to remember you went through the interview process and they liked what they saw. As long as you do well at school, I honestly think Info. does a great job of preparing you for your career.