What I’ve Learned Working At Amazon For Five Years
I am officially a “yellow badge.” If you’re not familiar with Amazon’s peculiar culture, that means that I have been at the company for five years! It also marks my five years a professional as Amazon was my first job after I graduated from Colorado State University. When I started at Amazon on June 16, 2014, I honestly had no idea I would make it to five years. I had only been to Seattle twice before moving (onsite interview and house hunting trip), I didn’t have any friends, and so many people warned me that the city was rainy and depressing. Seattle has been a beautiful surprise and I have learned and grown so much at Amazon over the years!
Here are the five things that I have learned over the last five years:
#1. Explore New Opportunities
My first position at Amazon was a Brand Specialist (Retail Vendor Manager I) in their Retail Undergraduate Program (RUP). This role taught me the true definition of ownership. Straight out of undergrad I was assigned Microsoft. I was responsible for an entire subcategory of their products which including inventory management, marketing, promotions, vendor relationship management, and new product launches. When I started in this role, I was so nervous but it was the most rewarding role that I have had. It built the foundation for my future roles. It taught me about retail and e-commerce. I learned what I liked, and didn’t like. This prepared me for the Instock Manager role and later my Product Manager role.
I have had promoted twice on two different teams and had three different roles, on three different teams, managing 5+ different product categories, responsible for $500M+ in revenue over the last 5 years!
Make moves and add new things under your belt!
#2. Be the Change You Wish to See
During my first couple of months in Seattle, I started to realize that I didn’t have a community with people who look liked me, or was experiencing some of the things that I was facing as a Black American and a black woman. There were things that I wanted to do and things that I wished Amazon did. Instead of waiting for someone to do the things that I wanted, I ran for a position within Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN) and was first elected as the Director of Networking and later elected as the President (current role). I am able to implement not only the changes I want to see, but also things that other Amazonians wanted! I worked on programming where Amazon collaborated externally more (ex: planned and hosted the first Cross-Company Black ERG Holiday Party), enabled ways for people to experience the culture (ex: Amazon x AfroTech 2018 engagement), and highlighted the work that people are doing internally and in the community (ex: BEN Startup Week, Black Excellence Gala).
In addition to BEN, I learned to just ask. I’m not uncomfortable with talking with senior leaders. In order for you to make things happen, you have to have confidence, data, and a strong case to make your request. To my surprise, I am not turned down often. knock on wood
Don’t sit around and wait for it; have a bias for action and make it happen!
#3. You Own Your Career
Sometimes we can get comfortable and rely on others to drive our career. It is your job to make sure you are happy and working on things that are developing you. You should constantly be thinking about what skills you want to gain in your current role to prepare you for next two roles. Each experience is a stepping stone for your career. While it is extremely important to live in the present and embrace your experiences, you have to think and plan for your future. Take full advantage of the company you are working for. If they are a leader in tech, you should be gaining tech fluency even if you are not in a technical role.
If you are not being challenged, talk to your manager. If your manager isn’t developing you or providing you with the experience/skills that you want, take action to find a better fit for YOU. Do not waste time relying on someone else to progress your career for you. It is YOUR career; you have to put the work in and know when to pivot if necessary.
My path is not your path; the only person that can push you is you.
#4. Networking is Key
I have connections within almost every organization across Amazon at different levels including our S-Team (equivalent to C Suite at other companies). I have been able to do this through three different things. #1, I building relationships within my current team. The people you work with now will eventually rotate to other teams/organizations. Once they rotate, you now have a connection in a new organization. #2, I take on projects that require cross-team and cross-company collaboration. This allows you to not only meet and work with new people, but you get to learn more about different teams/organizations. #3, I got involved. I was my team’s “Fun SME” so I became everyone’s go to person for fun (not a bad reputation to have). I also got involved with BEN. Affinity Groups bring together people from different parts of the company, and also bring together Affinity Groups from other companies which further increases your network.
A solid network will help you go far professionally and socially.
#5. Have Fun
One of my previous managers used to always ask, “Are you still having fun?” It took me awhile to truly appreciate that question. Everyday isn’t going to be fun at work, but the fun should definitely outweigh the bad. Work on products that excite you and put on programming that interest you (see point #3). We spend too much of our lives at work to be miserable. If you are no longer having fun it could be a sign that it is time for something new!
Never deprioritize your happiness!
I hope these learnings from my first five years as a professional are helpful to you! If you have questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below!
Originally posted here