eBay’s robust, virtual internship program brings together students from 70 different universities and colleges this summer, fostering the future of ecommerce amongst our business, technology and marketing teams. Our Intern Spotlight Series features interviews with this latest class of eBay interns as they explore their future career paths.
Seller Community intern Sam Straus joined eBay this summer with one simple goal in mind: to learn. Having just finished his freshman year at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, Sam is eager to develop both personally and professionally.
“I’m looking to better understand corporate culture and the way people learn from each other in a professional environment,” he said. “Meeting more people has been a big part of my exploratory experience.”
Sam’s connection to eBay is not limited to his summer internship. He is also a Power Seller himself, having generated over $300,000 in revenue through more than 15,000 transactions since his first sale at age 14 — made from his grandmother’s account, which has since become his own.
We recently caught up with Sam to talk about the first month of his internship and the empathetic approach he brings as an eBay buyer, seller and intern.
What projects are you working on this summer?
My project on the Seller Community and Engagement team is to bridge the communication gap between eBay’s small-to-medium sellers and our vertical leaders. I am creating a “feedback loop” where we can pass on comments from these sellers about a variety of issues like category-specific website bugs and suggestions for improvements. This way, managers can make better informed decisions based on comprehensive seller data.
What motivated you to start selling on eBay?
I have been collecting coins since I was seven years old. When I was 14, I bid on eBay for a large collection of old silver certificates — and won. Once I realized how imprudent it was to put most of my money into something that would end up collecting dust in my safe, I thought, “What if I try to re-sell them on eBay?”
I sold the silver certificates for a small profit and before long was expanding my coin-collecting hobby into a business that generated $10,000 to $15,000 a month in revenue.
I still run the store today as a passion project. Not only am I making money, but I am also learning about business: how to establish a brand, how customer service and supply chains work, how to do taxes. Being a seller on eBay puts my coursework in business management into practice, so the learning opportunity continues to be my main motivation for the whole experience.
How has your seller experience informed your work as a seller community intern this summer?
After five years of selling on eBay, I am very familiar with the seller community. Obviously, I’m still learning, and that learning is never going to stop, but having a strong foundation in how the platform works has proven immensely helpful. It has been especially useful in meetings with sellers, because I already know the buyer and seller lingo and can relate to their experiences, since I have either experienced it myself or know someone who has. I can lead with empathy, putting myself in other sellers’ shoes to better understand how specific issues are affecting their day-to-day business operations.
How would you describe your first month at eBay in one word?
Empowering, in so many different ways. One thing that everyone at eBay seems to believe is that we win when our sellers win. Seeing eBay stand firm in its decision to be a third-party platform through which small businesses can thrive instead of competing against them and having employees here who are so dedicated to that mission is really gratifying and sheds light on why the company exists in the first place.
My team has also done a lot to empower me personally. eBay is a place where I feel like I can add value with what I already know. I am constantly being asked for my opinion while also being given the time to observe and learn from others — it’s been awesome.
What advice would you give to future eBay interns?
Don’t be scared to ask questions. It’s okay to need clarification. I myself am constantly messaging my recruiter and my manager on Slack about how things work or what things mean. There are so many channels to talk to people at eBay, so never let a question go unanswered.