Software Engineering Internship Story: McDonald's

 on the job photo

Ken Zou 

Software Engineering

What company did you intern with and where are they located?

I interned with McDonald’s at their corporate global headquarters in Chicago, Illinois over the summer of 2022. I was a Software Development Engineer (SDE) Intern and part of the first ever cohort of SDE interns at the company.

How did you identify and apply for your internship? Are there any specific resources you used to find the opportunity (i.e. Handshake, career fairs, other recruitment events)?  

Mr. Lovelace, my original advisor when I first switched into Software Engineering, sent out an email about the opportunity to everyone in Computer Science and Software Engineering. At the time, I was looking for internships and was applying to several companies from not only the career fair, but also through opportunities like this. McDonald’s quickly became one of my top choices out of all the internships I applied to.

What was the application process like?

The application process started off with an initial application where I answered a few simple questions and then attached my resume. Then, there was a considerable period of time in between the initial application and McDonald’s responding to me since McDonald’s hires interns in waves. Eventually, they got back to me, and I went through to the first round of interviewing, a video submission of questions. Things picked up after this. The second round of interview was with a HR recruiter and was a behavioral interview. I got a call back the same day of the interview informing me that I was moving forward to the third round of interviews. Before the third round, I had to complete a technical coding assessment. The third round took place over several hours and happened virtually. It started off with recruiters and teams coming in to talk to the students from all different backgrounds (not just software) about McDonald’s. The day concluded with three last interviews. For the potential SDE interns, it was one behavior interview and two more on the technical side interviews. We were then notified a few weeks after if we were accepted or not.

Tell us about your internship experience. What types of tasks and projects did you engage in? Was there a particular project or part of the experience you learned the most from?

My internship experience was phenomenal. Starting off with the work, each SDE intern was put on a separate team. I was put on the Accounts team which deals with the backend services with anything dealing with customer accounts for the Global Mobile App. My team consisted of about ten other members led by a senior manager. One of the team members was my assigned mentor. Everyone on my team was amazing and always willing to help no matter what. Throughout the internship, I did a lot of self-learning on tools that the industry uses which I thought was fun since these were tools that I never used in my classes. I was a part of three two-week sprints during my 10 weeks at McDonald’s and each sprint brought new things to learn from a different microservice that the team worked on. It was just amazing how much new technology that I was getting introduced to, many of which I had never even heard of.

As for the people aspect, everyone that I talked to around headquarters was incredible. From fellow interns to managers and recruiters, to even the CEO of McDonald’s. Everyone had a unique story to tell and was so down to Earth. I got the chance to be on the first ever Intern Leadership Committee and that provided even more experiences and people that I met. Everyone was willing to sit down and talk to you no matter their position and that was one of the best parts of the internship.

In what ways did this internship help you prepare for your next destination after Auburn?

The internship provided me with a wealth of knowledge about modern technologies and tools along with numerous connections from all areas of life. Seeing everyone work so hard at the company while having fun inspired me to better myself and improve not only in software engineering, but also life in general. This internship gave me a great glimpse into the real world and what industry is like which helped me decide that I want to start off in working in industry first before maybe considering graduate school later down the road. On top of all that, the internship also provided me with the opportunity to come back to McDonald’s headquarters after graduation to start as a full time Software Development Engineer 1!

In what ways did your coursework or other experiences at Auburn prepare you for your internships? Are there specific topics or skills you learned from classes that you put into practice on the job?

I would say that a combination of all my courses in software engineering helped with the technical part of getting the internship (especially Software Modeling, Algorithms, and the first two Fundamental Computing classes). Since McDonald’s is such a people’s company, I think being involved in various parts of campus life and having the experience of working at my parent’s family restaurant for most of my life helped with curating a unique story. It just seemed like McDonald’s was choosing a widely diverse group of interns (not only just in terms of the SDE interns, but all interns) that came from all different backgrounds.

Do you have any advice for other students looking for internships like yours?

Be yourself and do not sell yourself short. You are much more capable than you think. Try and give your absolute best effort in everything that you do even if you do not think that you are good enough because you will never know unless you put your best foot forward and try. Believe in yourself! Believe you can succeed, and you will!

Also, use the resources that Auburn provides. When I was looking for internships, I utilized the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering Office of Career Development and Corporate Relations (CDCR) for essentially every step of the process from resume checks to interview prep to offer negotiations. Take advantage of the resources that we have! Along with this, one of the most important things that you can do is take every opportunity you can to network and talk to others. Get to know others and their stories!