Interns on Internships

The work is hard, the hours are long, and best of all, there’s no paycheck. Seattle Met’s interns found the best free labor your sweat can buy.

With Danielle Zorn, Cassandra Callan, Katie Vincent, and Dameon Matule December 19, 2012 Published in the January 2013 issue of Seattle Met

Behind the Airwaves: KEXP
After six months on the (unpaid) job, University of Washington grad Graham Amsden chose to extend his KEXP radio internship by another six months. According to Brady Morrella, KEXP’s volunteer services senior coordinator, that’s fairly common: “Some interns have been here for years,” Morrella says. And Amsden isn’t even a DJ intern (though they exist)—he works predominantly with spreadsheets, spending 20 to 25 hours a week on administrative tasks like identifying open airtime that can be used for advertising and PSAs. About one in four applicants for KEXP internships gets an interview, and many see promotions to staff positions—some have even become DJs. And there’s definitely no Muzak in this office: “You’ll just be working away and then go take a break to listen to Ben Gibbard play some songs,” Amsden says. “Then go back to work.” —Danielle Zorn


Porcupine Paparazzi: Woodland Park Zoo 
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Whom does the zoo call when the porcupines need medical care? Its photography intern, of course. From 100 applicants, one shutterbug is selected to join Woodland Park’s staff photographer in off-view areas, during medical exams, and even during field conservation trips. Former intern Lauren LaPlante still reminisces about traveling to the Oregon coast to capture a mass release of butterflies and capturing images of gleeful kids at giraffe feedings. The unpaid internship is a good opportunity for shooters to develop candid camera skills—porcupines don’t pose. Intern images may be used in zoo media, and one of LaPlante’s pictures became a meme on the I Can Has Cheezburger? website. —Katie Vincent

The Gridiron Gang: Seattle Seahawks
The 2004–05 Seahawks intern class got quite the culmination to its 30-hour-a-week experience: a February flight to Detroit for the SuperBowl. More than 500 applicants submit applications when internships are posted in March, but only five to seven get a ’Hawks gig. The PR intern typically has the most exposure to players, escorting them to interviews during the summer training camp and transcribing press conferences. This program prides itself on hiring from the intern pool: Two Seahawks VPs currently on staff got their start as interns. —DZ


Star Children: 826 Seattle
This nonprofit writing and tutoring center—because it’s housed in the back of the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co.—has a copy of Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope web program. Imagine Google Earth, but for the whole universe: It’s lots of photos pasted together in a virtual model of outer space. A spaceship-like viewing booth built by 826 Seattle simulates a real space experience, and unpaid interns become the station’s astronomy guides. Besides demonstrating how to see a star or two, they motivate kids to devise stories about their adventures. Kathryn Steakley, one former astronomy intern, still raves about her interactions with precocious kids who were “strangely eager to learn about all the ways that the universe could kill them.” Thanks to her stint in Greenwood’s inner space, Steakley is headed to astronomy graduate school. —KV


No Pay, Free Beer: Emerald City Beer Company 
When Kaitlin Sellereit was hired as one of the first two interns at Emerald City Beer Company in 2010, the building was still in need of drywall. A UW communication major at the time, she wasn’t expecting to learn construction skills, but everyone pitched in to build out the space and open the new brewery in the old Rainier building. Sellereit, along with the two founders and one other intern, planned the label’s grand opening party. Their introductory lager and beer-boiled brats brought in over a thousand thirsty guests. She continued to get firsthand business and branding experience by attending beer festivals and, of course, taste testing the brews. Sellereit is now the operations manager for local Dry Soda Co., and she credits her internship for leading to a career choice. —Cassandra Callan


Kinecting on Campus: Microsoft Optical Engineering
Lena Wolfe was pursuing a double major of optical engineering and dance at University of Arizona when she noticed a flyer for Microsoft. Over a thousand interns swamp the Microsoft campus each summer, but anyone who stands out from the masses is likely to snag a full-time job. Microsoft’s intern program has a rumored reputation for having lots of perks: free Xbox consoles, BBQs at the Gates estate, and huge resume cred (well, that’s no rumor), but the program itself is meant to immerse interns into a real-life work environment. Wolfe had access to the optics lab and worked on the technology that the interactive Kinect machine uses to track game players. Not every leadership opportunity occurred in the office: Wolfe showed off her own dance skills by choreographing a flash mob (400 interns fist-pumping to the Black Eyed Peas) for the annual intern party. She now works for the Xbox Kinect division as an Optical Engineer. —CC 


On a Whale’s Tail: Orca Research
University of Miami undergrad Rachel Pausch spent two months of her 2011 summer with a dog that had a nose for whale poop. They cruised around Puget Sound looking for orca pods while she was a research intern for the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean; the UW-based group studies endangered whales around the San Juan Islands. The team’s black Labrador retriever would bark when it caught a whiff of orca poo, and the boat would move close enough to collect whale feces samples to analyze for stress-hormone levels. “Seeing whales every day was amazing,” Pausch says. “Every time I saw their dorsal fins rise to the surface it was like seeing them for the first time.” The internship was paid, but the biggest draw for her was working alongside a wide spectrum of research scientists—and getting up close to sea life. The rewards for Tucker the black lab were simpler: a ball on a rope and a profile in The New York Times. —Dameon Matule

Published: January 2013

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