Product Manager @ Amazon

The role of Project Manager (PM) at Amazon is wide – it ranges from managing customer facing products like the Kindle and Echo to internal products like supply chain optimization. The PM experience can vary across groups and products, but the PM position is typically a combination of technical and a general management as you are the mini-CEO of your product. Given this, Amazon looks to hire generalists – smart individuals who can learn fast and adapt to new situations.

Career Path

Though the Product Manager role is not a traditional rotation program, you have the freedom to switch projects after six months on your team. However, this process is competitive and the onus is on you find your next position. This makes credibility and a good reputation key. Amazon describes itself as a growing company with constant new product innovation. If you want to snag one of these positions, having a strong network and a string of successful projects will be crucial.

There is also an internal job board to find new opportunities. People tend to first meet over coffee to see if the new group is a good fit and then apply for the position. Throughout Amazon there is a high demand for PMs, so finding new projects is not difficult.

Moving on up

While there is no typical path, MBAs usually come in as PMs, after 5-years move to Principal or Senior Manager and around 10-years become Directors.

Measuring Success

Must LOVE to write: PowerPoints are out, writing documents are in! Amazon works on 6-pagers that are handed out before every meeting. PMs must be able to pick out the important information and present it to VPs in a quick, digestible fashion via the written word. Good writing is what separates good PMs from bad ones at Amazon.

Numbers are King: Amazon loves metrics. For one product alone, there could be over 100 different metrics a PM must track their product against. Once a week PMs meet with managers to go over each and every one. Being able to identify trends and offer clear, concise answers about results are crucial to the role. These meetings often take up an entire morning.

Personal Evaluation

You are personally evaluated on two points: 1. PM performance and 2. Upholding the Amazon’s Leadership Principals

PM Performance

Do you meet deadlines? How well does your product function? As a PM, people know you’re trying to get things done. It’s your job to find a way to make this happen without having direct authority. This requires you to build relationships, earn trust, and understand the priority of projects.

A few ways PMs are evaluated is by looking at:

  • Clarity of thought: Can you write clear documentation that communicates a lot of technical details and results in a product you want?
  • Ownership: Do you take complete ownership of your work? Are you a self-starter?
  • Influence: Can you successfully influence people that do not report to you?

Amazon’s Leadership Principals

I cannot stress this enough – know the principles. Sleep, eat, dream of them. Having these values match up to your own is an excellent way of predicting if Amazon is right for you.

Innovation

Amazon is a long-term strategy company. They are willing to move forward with ideas that may be loss

leaders in the short-term but excel over time. A great example of this is Amazon Prime which was initially a loss leader (and still is losing some money), but drives customer purchases 150% higher than a typical customer (or something like this). Amazon deeply believes in their mission.

Hierarchy

Typically, a Director or Senior Manager owns an entire product (think Echo) and a PM owns part of that product (think voice search).

For example, your product could the Prime membership where you would focus on what new benefits should be included in Prime in addition to the current benefits of instant video, free photo storage, etc. [Tip: In an interview, have an opinion on the prime membership and offer suggestions for improvement].

Other Fun Facts

  • Amazon is expanding internationally so there is a lot of support an appreciation for diverse backgrounds.
  • Quarterly meetings with Jeff Bezos who answers employee questions.
  • While mentors are not formally assigned, there is a job board to find unofficial mentors.

Recruiting

Amazon has a centralized recruiting process for MBAs – this means you apply to work in the PM or PMT role, not for a specific division or product. After you receive an offer, there is a career day at Amazon where you meet with various teams that have availability and then rank your top 3 choices.

Amazon’s stock description of their PM and PMT positions:

Sr. Product Manager: Senior Product Mangers at Amazon invent new products and features on behalf of customers (merchants and consumers). PMs work cross-functionally to drive ideas from conception to execution, develop business models and marketing plans, define and analyze success metrics, manage strategic projects, and own the product end to end. PMs ultimately become general managers responsible for running large business segments. Examples of organizations where PMs may work include: Appstore & Games, Digital Media & Marketing, Amazon Local, Kindle Content & Devices, Marketplace, Global Inventory Planning, Global Payments and Prime. This role is available primarily to our Seattle office.

Sr. Product Manager – Technical Products: The primary role of a Sr. Product Manager of Technical Products (PMT) within Amazon is to assume end to end product ownership over one of our technical product offerings. PMTs are expected to dive deep into the technology both from a product and customer’s perspective, working with software engineers and business partners to define, build, launch and grow new technology-driven products and services. These products might be hardware, software or technical services and customers often include developers, IT departments or CIOs. Examples of organizations where PMTs may work include: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Appstore & Games, Digital Media & Marketing, Kindle Devices, Marketplace and Prime. This role is available primarily in our Seattle office.

Online Assessment

The Cognitive Skills Assessment is set up to look like a virtual desktop where candidates are put in the role of a PM and provided difference scenarios with multiple choice options. This 50 – 90-minute-long assessment is designed to evaluated your personal decision making abilities (“your gut check”) and does not test topics learned in business school. It also captures career experiences and surveys candidates on interest in different Amazon roles.

The Writing Component includes 2 prompts and candidates can one to answer in 30-50 minutes.  Writing is central to Amazon’s culture.

The interview

Amazon’s interview has three sections: get to know you, behavioral and case.

Get to know you: This is the small talk section. They want to make sure your personality is a good fit for the team.

Behavioral: This section evaluates how well you uphold Amazon’s Leadership Principles (did I stress how important this is?). You should be able to tell a story that reflects these principals. Be prepared to answer pointed, prodding questions on your story. Interviewers will dig to understand the situation and what you did.

Case: Amazon’s cases look like traditional management consulting case, but ask you to solve a real Amazon question. For example, the interviewer could ask you what price Amazon should charge for its Prime services? How do you get this to number?

Tips: Have personal opinions on how you use Amazon products. 

Recruiting FAQs (from Amazon):

How do I apply?

Job description for opportunities across Amazon locations will be posted on your career center website. If you are interested, please submit your resume and cover letter to the location-specific job posting(s). Once selected for an interview, you will be sent a link to apply directly to the Amazon University Career site. You may choose to apply for multiple roles and locations.

What is the full-time interview process?

On-Campus Recruiting Event: The on-campus interview format has two rounds conducted over two days: the first day will consist of two 30 minute interviews; the second round will generally be the next day, with two 45 minute interviews.

Virtual Recruiting Event: We also conduct “virtual interviews” at several MBA programs with first round interviews by phone. In those cases, final round interviews will happen in an Amazon office or via video conference.

What is the interview process if I apply to more than one location?

Our goal is to ensure that students have four interviews, irrespective of the number of locations of application, when applying for the same role. Student applying to Amazon office in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, China and Japan are required to have business level fluency in the native language and will be assessed through an additional interview conducted by phone or video conference.

Do I need to have a technical background or prior experience in any particular field to work at Amazon?

We look for specific competencies rather than a particular degree or past work experience. A technical background or particular experience is not necessary to work at Amazon.

Do you sponsor foreign nationals?

Yes, we sponsor, qualified applicants for our US and EU offices; applicants for our India, China and Japan offices are required to have a valid work permit. During our interview process we will give you an opportunity to speak with professionals from our immigration team so that you can ask questions pertaining to your unique situation.

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