August 20, 2015

INTERN REPORT My Transforming Amazon Experience

Eeshan SrivastavaMBA candidate, holds an internship position with Amazon in Seattle, WA.

I am completing the final week of my 12-week internship at Amazon in Seattle, WA. I have been working in the Identity Services team of the eCommerce Group as a Sr. Product Manager – Technical Products intern. I can say with complete confidence that my experience has been quite transforming. During these 12 weeks, I worked on a difficult business problem with some extremely smart “Amazonians," networked with MBA interns from the very best B-schools in the country and experienced the beauty of Seattle.

My intern project was to solve a business problem with the objective of balancing UX (user experience) with security on the retail website. It was an end-to-end product management job, which was initially quite overwhelming and it took me a few weeks to bring myself up to a level where I can barely understand what people were talking about. This was Amazon--fast-paced, rigorous, data-driven and most importantly customer-obsessed. I took enough time (around four weeks) to properly understand and define the problem, which I believe is the most important part of a PM Job. Once you get that, you can envision a clear roadmap of what you need to work on and with whom.

I worked with not just my team, but also with information security, fraud management, payments and UX teams to develop a solution that could provide customers with a great experience while at the same time maintaining security. The most difficult part of my job was to get everybody on-board with my proposed solution. It was difficult enough to get some meeting time with respective team/product owners but it was even more difficult to get them to sign-off on a single solution.

I had limited time and a lot of work to be done with people who were very busy. But as a PM, you also need to hustle to get the job done for your customers (I learned this the hard way in a weekly review with my manager). So I tried every trick in the book to engage with people – blocking time on the calendar, making calls, meeting in the cafĂ© and even in the elevator (I actually got to practice an elevator pitch – for my product!). You might know that the most important tools that employees use to communicate ideas and solutions are rigorously written documents (There are no PowerPoint presentations at Amazon). I revised and re-revised my document a million times before it was something acceptable. I had a great support network – my manager, a mentor (senior manager in my team) and a buddy (a senior manager from AWS). Another test of MBA interns is that of their ability to handle ambiguity and their ability to ask the right questions. At the start of the internship you are given an ambiguous problem to solve and it becomes a core part of your job to resolve the ambiguity by taking advantage of your support network and also by engaging with people outside it.

My final deliverable is a whitepaper (six-page narrative with unlimited appendices) that contains a business case analyzing the problem from a customer perspective, a hypothesis test to set up an A/B experiment, a threat model for analyzing security risks, details of compensating controls that ensure a balance in security and UX and ultimately a detailed roadmap for execution of the entire project. It will be evaluated at the end of the week by senior management and my fate will be decided at the end of the meeting.

Besides work, I had a great time meeting other MBA interns from top schools like Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Wharton etc. I am happy to have made some really good friends as well. Amazon provided interns with ample social events at various places in Seattle – The Aquarium, Space Needle, Olympic Sculpture Park, and the Asian Art Museum etc. Bi-weekly speaker series were organized on the Amazon campus where we got to attend talks by the senior management (the S-Team of SVPs), which were very interesting and very insightful. I loved living in and exploring Seattle, which has a very lively downtown, a great food scene and is very picturesque.

So that was my experience at Amazon and it will surely remain in my memory as an unforgettable one. I don’t know if what they said in the (now famous) NYT article about Amazon having a “bruising” workplace was true or not, but my experience was not even close to anything like that. Having said all this, I’ve been missing Cleveland a lot and I can’t wait to return and start my second year at Weatherhead!

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you had a great time bro ! Keep the momentum going :)