Starbucks Technology Center interns at ASU’s SkySong get hands-on, real-world experience at a top tech enterprise
For a team of 10 Arizona State University computer science and software engineering students, a Starbucks technology internship means considerably more than becoming a connoisseur of coffee — although that is part of the package. Being an intern at the new Starbucks Technology Center at ASU’s SkySong means an opportunity to get hands-on, real-world experience at one of the country’s top tech enterprises.
Starbucks, which built its reputation as a brick-and-mortar retailer, has become a leading force in digital engagement, providing consumers with seamless rewards, ordering and payment platforms supported by a state-of-the-art, enterprise-level “back end” that keeps it all running smoothly.
But staying on the consumer engagement edge requires finding partners, as Starbucks refers to its employees, who can lead digital innovation in the retail space.
The ASU students, who began as interns in September, have been working as teams in three technology areas: information security, application development and business intelligence.
“The Starbucks Technology Center was a natural next step in our evolving partnership with ASU; two organizations with common values around inclusivity, innovation, and excellence,” said Gerri Martin-Flickinger, Starbucks executive vice president and chief technology officer.
“Spending time with our STCStarbucks Technology Center interns and experiencing their compelling work firsthand, I am confident that we are achieving the goals that we set out to accomplish; bringing valuable experience and career opportunities to student interns while accelerating innovation and delivering exciting new experiences for Starbucks customers," Martin-Flickinger said. "I am proud to be a part of this team and look forward to our continued momentum in 2018.”
The information security team, comprised of computer science majors Anthony Pipia and Liam Lowrey, both seniors, and Caleb Schwartz, a junior, built a dashboard that details vulnerability across a range of systems, enabling data to be sorted by department rollup to determine instances of risk for specific teams, or the organization as a whole.
“In my last gig I felt like a lowly, part-time worker,” said Pipia, who is looking forward to continuing his partnership in the second half of his senior year.
“Starbucks is exactly the opposite — I feel like part of the big picture,” he said. “I have the opportunity to work in a collaborative environment with the team, whether we’re in different states or just down the hall, and constantly be engaged.”
The interns supporting digital products — computer science seniors Ross Carrigan and Diana Chen, computer science junior Michael Rojas and software engineering senior Aaron Musengo — worked on a variety of support projects for the Starbucks iOS app. A major project included improving the customer search function to return a more relevant list of items. The resulting app upgrade will deploy this month.
For Rojas, the importance and scope of work undertaken by the interns was surprising.
“I didn’t think they’d trust interns to become such integrated members of the technology team. Of course, they checked my code,” he said, laughing, “but I felt fully supported by the whole team.”