Ben is an Associate Partner Manager at Amazon. He studied Philosophy at UCL and was the London Editor for The Tab.
1. Tell us about your route into Amazon
At uni I was never 100% sure what I wanted to do. I was really in to writing and did a lot with The Tab which offered a nice looking route into journalism, but I lacked the raw passion for journalism that I saw in some of my peers. What I really enjoyed there was driving readership numbers and social media engagement. As a result, in my penultimate summer at uni I ended up doing some work at a virtual GP start-up that was super interesting and I was given a lot of free reign to come up with creative ideas to drive engagement with the student market. Fortunately, my CV then showed I’d been busy, but also somewhat entrepreneurial. I looked at consulting, but it wasn’t for me. When I went to the Amazon interview the office was super laid back and all the employees described it to me as ‘a start up on steroids’ which I’ve found to be completely true. It’s a massive company but all the teams are incredibly autonomous and the management system is very flat meaning you have all the benefits of a huge company without feeling too much like a tiny cog in a wheel! I did write a whole blog on this topic actually, you can find it here.
2. Talk us through your typical day
I usually get in around 8am and leave around 5/5.30pm. Some people choose to come in later and stay later, but we’re very much task-based so hours are pretty relaxed. I work in a team called Seller Fulfilled Prime which effectively means I help third party sellers to get the Prime badge on their products, and then leverage this to grow their sales on the Amazon marketplace. Therefore, some of my day will be spent calling these guys up pitching Prime to them, whilst other times I will be working with them to better understand their supply chain, their margins and their quarterly plans to ascertain how best to drive sales. When I started this took up most of my time and the idea is that you learn from the ground up how Amazon’s products work. That means that as you move up through the ranks at Amazon you are always in touch with sellers and customers and can better appreciate the business challenges. Now I’ve been there just over a year (it flew by), I’m working on a big project to expand our product – I can’t say too much about it but it’s got awesome scope and it’s something I feel really lucky to be working on at 22. This involves much more hands on project management with internal teams, which is awesome.
3. What do you enjoy most about working for Amazon?
Everyone on my floor will tell you the same thing: it’s the people. To put it in to context, my manager is about 27 and his manager is about 29. The average age on the floor is probably 25 so there’s always a laugh to be had and a good social scene. More business related, my family has always been a ‘Prime’ family, so I’ve grown up as an Amazon customer. Now that I work on Prime I feel lucky to have a job where I can directly see the impact of my work on a website used by all my family and friends. My girlfriend recently bought a cup from one of my sellers on Prime which was far more exciting than it probably should have been. I’d also reiterate though how chilled out Amazon is – we have all the tech company clichés of pool tables and table tennis, we’ve got an awesome open plan office with exposed brick and piping etc and we’re right by Shoreditch – the culture is awesome and as I’ve said before, you get a good mix of big company benefits with a slight start-up vibe.
4. What’s been the highlight of your time at Amazon so far?
We had a grads trip to Edinburgh a month after I started where we toured a fulfilment centre, a call centre and had a big meal etc up there. All the new grads from that year (probably around 50 of us) went up for the weekend and it was an awesome way of getting to know everyone quickly. The grad scheme generally has been good because it’s not too stringent (we don’t rotate or have a fixed ‘graduation’ period), you just get stuck in and do a couple of projects along the way. People tend to move roles in Amazon every 2-3 years so there’s plenty of opportunity for change if you need it!
5. What’s your top tip for prospective applicants?
I have one tip and one tip only (I cannot express the importance), and that’s Leadership Principles. I’ve spent time at companies who have ‘core values’ etc., but I’ve often found that it’s often for show. Amazon is genuinely driven by these 14 leadership principles: we get promoted off of how well we perform against them, we measure the success of projects against them and you will get hired against them. For my interview I had an example of a time I’d demonstrated every single one so I could tick every box. Remember that Amazon is a huge, data-driven tech company so showing good use of ‘Deep Dive’, even if only on a small scale, is as important as showing a time you ‘Delivered Results’. If you’re really serious and want to read a quick book on Amazon to really impress your hiring manager, I’d recommend Brad Stone’s The Everything Store – it was given to us when we started and highlights further the importance of these throughout the history of Amazon and looking ahead.
6. How do you see Amazon changing over the next 5 years?
One of the mad things about Amazon is that I genuinely have no idea. There will almost definitely be drones (it wasn’t just a PR stunt), Amazon Web Services will be even bigger (it’s growth is crazy), and I have no doubt that Amazon will have expanded in to markets we’ve not even considered yet. In terms of the actual website (Amazon.com), Jeff Bezos himself has a really good quote on this: “I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”
7. If you could be any superhero, which one would you be and why?
Wow. This is definitely the hardest question. I think Jessica Jones you know just because I really want to fly… who needs Prime Air?