What Amazon Seeks In An MBA Hire

Van Vorst Courtyard, a favorite summertime hangout for Amazonians in Seattle

Van Vorst Courtyard, a favorite summertime hangout for Amazonians in Seattle

More…Better…Faster…Cheaper…Easier

Every company recites this mantra. But how many really live up to it? Chances are, one company readily springs to mind – Amazon.

For many, Amazon conjures up images of hassle-free online shopping, a 21st century bazaar where you can order everything from DVDs to clothes to memorabilia. But Amazon is more than just hard goods. These days, you can join Amazon Prime and stream content or become an Amazon Web Services (AWS) customer and leverage cloud computing services. Amazon has seemingly branched into every key segment – and that makes them a competitor to most companies.

THE CUSTOMER COMES FIRST

That didn’t happen by accident. Amazon’s success is rooted in its true mantra: ‘The customer comes first.’ “Everything in Amazon’s culture starts with the customer,” says Miriam Park, Amazon’s Director of University Programs, in an interview with Poets&Quants. “If it doesn’t impact the customer positively, we tend not to do it.” As a result, Amazon focuses on the experience as much as the outcome. And that requires Amazon to continuously add, refine, and personalize. Whether it is search, checkout, or reviews, Amazon may not have invented it. Chances are, they’ve perfected it.

Launched in the dawn of the digital age as a bookseller, Amazon quickly outmaneuvered leading brick-and-mortar outlets like Barnes & Noble. But founder and CEO Jeff Bezos held a grander vision than simply becoming the world’s leading online bookstore. He shrewdly entered the music, video, gaming, and consumer goods markets. At the same time, he beefed up his customer service, and fulfillment infrastructure, along with investing heavily in data mining, CRM applications, and a state-of-the-art eCommerce platform. As a result, Amazon skyrocketed after potential rivals were leveled in the dot-com bubble bust. They had simply adapted their model long before conditions dictated it.

You can credit Amazon’s excellence to its customer-centric philosophy, expansive choices, and far-sighted investments. But they are often a step ahead for another reason – They innovate. With Amazon Kindle, they took a digital output and turned it back into a paper-and-ink format like a real book. With Fire Tablets, they redefined quality expectations for visuals, sound, and speed. Now, they are looking to do the same with smartphones and digital streaming. In the coming years, your order may even be delivered by drone. In short, Amazon looks ahead to figure out what customers will someday want.

Hallway in the Seattle office

Hallway in the Seattle office

Beyond leading edge devices and complex supply chains, Amazon has pulled off the most difficult feat in business. They have turned their customers into partners. Today, over two million sellers use Amazon’s platform to make a living. They are to eCommerce what Facebook is to connecting and Google is to advertising.

AN UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITY FOR MBAs

For an MBA, Amazon represents endless synergies. But it offers something deeper: A chance to do something rare, big, and memorable. “You’ll be working on what has never been solved anywhere before,” says Park.

And that’s the attraction of Amazon. MBAs step into a variety of leadership roles at Amazon, ranging from technical product management and business development to operations and rotational programs in retail and finance. In fact, an MBA can be a ticket to the c-suite, as Amazon MBAs include Stanford’s Jeffrey Blackburn (Senior Vice President, Business Development), University of Tennessee’s Dave Clark (Senior Vice President, Worldwide Operations and Customer Service), Harvard’s Andrew Jassy (Senior Vice President, Amazon Web Service), MIT’s Akash Chauhan (Vice President of Worldwide Supply Chain & Process) and Harvard’s Doug Harrington (Senior Vice President of North American Retail). Overall, Amazon looks at MBAs from many MBA programs (They were the top employer of 2014 Ross MBAs – and a traditional favorite of Wharton, Tuck, and Sloan grads).

Park herself is an MIT grad, holding MSc degrees in both management and materials science and engineering. She joined Amazon in 2012 after holding technical and leadership positions at Cisco, Honeywell, General Motors, and Unilever. However, Amazon has taken it to an entirely higher level for her. “I’m working with some of the smartest people in the world. If you couple that with some of the problems we’re solving – and the scale and complexity that no other company faces, that makes it interesting.”

Recently, Poets&Quants sat down with Park to talk about what it takes for MBAs to pique Amazon’s interest. Here are some of the firm’s expectations for incoming MBAs.

What do you look for in a resume and background that many candidates might not consider?

We want to know what you have done, particularly with your professional accomplishments. So it’s really important that when candidates prepare their resumes, they include what they’ve owned; how they’ve impacted their firms; and their accomplishments and to quantify them because the types of things we look for in candidates are people who take full ownership of projects.

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  • Jimmy Black

    Interesting that you say that Jimmy White. We had roughly 50 or so people get invited to the first round of recruitment with Amazon. The select few that made it through the second round and eventually got offers (in addition to myself) were all the types of people that I enjoy hanging out with at bars. I was very pleasantly surprised with who they selected.

  • CPO_C_Ryback

    Ditto. Good luck, pal.

  • Future Amazonian

    It’s pretty solid, It’s not quite banking or top teir consulting money, but on the higher end for tech and corp jobs. If you’re recruiting for non consulting and banking, you’ll be very happy with their offer.

  • Future Amazonian

    … You started by asking about the culture, and then answer as if you’re an expert… Ok? I’m done with this convo…

  • CPO_C_Ryback

    I hear, OK, not great.

  • CPO_C_Ryback

    He probably saw folks, working like dogs, and a chance at promotion @ 0.01%.

  • CPO_C_Ryback

    Sure. Prove 1,000s wrong. Can’t wait.

  • Future Amazonian

    No one coming out of an MBA program expects to work 40h weeks. But, depending on the team, it’s possible 50 = 60. I wont know for sure until I start though…. I’m just trying to ensure that the only comments out there aren’t soley hearsay from jaded ex-employees

  • CPO_C_Ryback

    Anyone who thinks 40 will get the same treatment as 60, needs a sanity check. Now. Today.

  • guest11

    What didn’t he like about the culture?

  • Future Amazonian

    I’ve heard its a bit of a mixed bag. First, if you go in as an engineer/CS or a PMT, i think the likelihood is much higher. Opps can be a tough schedule, but you know what your signing on for. When it comes to RLD, PM, and Finance I hear it fully depends on the team.

    What I’ve been told is there will always be more work to do, but face-time doesn’t matter. At the end of the day it will be your call if you want to work 45, 50, 60 or more… So all in all, you have to set your expectations pretty early on, and not feel like you have to work 60. This come from past interns and current employees. I’m not sure how accurate it is, but the people I spoke to have no reason to lie.

  • randommer

    know a Harvard MBA who worked there over the summer. His review was that the prevailing opinion about burn out shop was true. He also did not really like the culture. He is smart, sweet non socially awkward guy. He said he did learn a ton though.

  • guest11

    what’s starting pay at Amazon for new MBA grads?

  • vanaporn chonburi

    carry on.. happy for you..

  • Mike

    Jimmy,
    What roles did amazon hire from your program? Do they hire for corporate finance?

  • CPO_C_Ryback

    AMZN had a reputation of being a “burn-out” shop for everyone. Still the same? Anyone know?

  • Future Amazonian

    I am not an international student, not am I socially awkward. They do have their type, and I’m happy to be one of them.

  • Jimmy White

    Amazon took the most socially awkward international kids from our program for the past couple of years. They certainly have their “type”