Amazon employees Austin Biehl '16 and Sam Reddy '17 prove that a liberal arts education opens numerous employment doors after graduation. Biehl, a recruiter for the international consumer and Kindle content team, and Reddy, a treasury analyst in the capital markets team, return to campus to discuss their burgeoning careers at noon on Friday at Reid Campus Center, room G02. A free lunch will be provided for the first 30 attendees. Biehl and Reddy previewed what they might talk about. Edited excerpts follow.
What advice would you give students interested in working for a company like Amazon?
Austin Biehl: The great thing about Amazon is that it is so vast that there are opportunities for a wide array of people with a wide array of skills. There isn't a particular path that students need to set themselves on to guarantee that they'll get into Amazon. That being said, there are definitely a couple of things I'd recommend. First off, try to get an internship at a large company, preferably one that has some name recognition. When you're interviewing for Amazon, it helps if you've been in situations where you have worked at a scale that is of similar magnitude to the type of work you'd be doing at Amazon. The name recognition will help your résumé get noticed since Amazon recruiters see thousands of résumés each week. It's fine if you don't do something like this (I didn't), but at the very least, get some sort of experience outside the classroom. Amazon values practical experience over classroom smarts. Second, take time to talk with Amazon employees about the culture and consider if it's right for you. I was sort of an overachiever in college, so the intensity of Amazon is super fun for me. Finally, write a thesis, if it's an option for your major. Having a body of work like that is extremely impressive for a recent graduate.
Sam Reddy: Identify your networks and start using them. Consider a wide range of roles. When in communication about a position, be prepared with specific questions.
How do the liberal arts and Whitman prepare students for Amazon?
AB: When Amazonians want to present an idea, they write a paper, using data to back up their argument. After this, they distribute the paper to the participants of the meeting who read, annotate and then critically discuss the idea. It's such a throwback to Encounters. I directly apply skills in research, data analysis and communication that were taught to me at Whitman. More than anything, Whitman taught me to think critically and not take information at face value. The ability to do this has, I believe, set me apart from many people I work with and is a large factor in the success I've had with this company.
SR: Whitman sets the stage for students to develop skills that will help them succeed at companies like Amazon. Being a self-starter, maintaining excellent communication skills and excelling at data synthesis and analysis are all nurtured by a Whitman education and are necessary to succeed at a company like Amazon.
What are the three best things about Amazon that most people don't know?
AB: Number one: There is a banana stand that offers unlimited bananas all times of the day. Number two: Dogs are allowed. There are so many cute, well-behaved dogs on my floor that like to run around and sit in my lap while I work. Number three: Fun insight into new Amazon products and projects. We get to use the Amazon Go store.
SR: Wonderful, engaged and supportive coworkers. Incredible opportunities to take on responsibility and make real, positive change that goes straight to the bottom line. Free bananas.
Whitman hosts an array of guest speakers and educators. Many also offer on-campus workshops or engage with students in the classroom. We ask them to give us a brief insight into their area of expertise. For more information on upcoming events at Whitman, go online to the campus calendar.