Nikil Ramanathan is a Business Analyst at Amazon in Seattle, WA as part of the Amazon Services Undergraduate Program. He has been working at Amazon for two months. Prior to this, he studied in the College of LSA at the University of Michigan, graduating in May 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.
There are two problems I often hear undergraduate students facing when applying for jobs. One, they have a difficult time seeing how what they are learning in the classroom translates to the real world. And two, they lack an understanding of what a typical job in an industry consists of. I hope I can provide insight to both of these questions by profiling my current job at Amazon.
Describe your role with Amazon. How long have you worked with the company?
I am a Business Analyst at Amazon for North American Sales. I was hired through the Amazon Services Undergraduate Program (ASUP), which means I work on the seller side of the business exclusively with 3rd party sellers. As a Business Analyst, most of my work deals with optimization of current operational tasks and heavy analysis of various business metrics for my team. I have been working at the company for two months now and so far it has been a great experience. It has definitely been a steep learning curve for those first two months, but I can also speak to a lot of achievements.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
One of the really cool things about working at Amazon is that no day is the same; every day you are doing something different. You are always working on multiple tasks and projects so time management skills and prioritization are critical. However, in general, I get in to work between 8:30 and 9 and my mornings are spent checking and responding to emails, working on ad-hoc requests, attending daily meetings and running any recurring operational tasks. After lunch, I usually do most of the analysis for my business-specific projects, which usually entails working knowledge of SQL and Excel. I usually am out of work by 6 and after that, it’s common for me to go to a happy hour or to grab dinner with some friends.
What’s the best thing about working for Amazon?
There are many great things about working at Amazon. My favorite part is the element of ownership that you get right away. Even though I have only been working for two months, I am already the owner of a number of projects on my team and I am the person people come to when they have questions about these metrics. I think this is pretty rare at other companies and really makes Amazon stand out. It also allows you to contribute to the business sooner as you are thrown into various tasks right out of the gate and thus gives you exposure to higher-level managers.
The culture of the company is also awesome. Dress is casual, even on the business side so it’s pretty sweet to be working in a t-shirt and jeans every day. Additionally, there are ping pong tables, shuffleboard, Beer 30s, among other things. It’s a work hard culture, but people like to have fun also.
What professional advice do you have for job-seeking graduating students? For students who are early in their college careers?
For students early in their college careers, I encourage you to explore a wide variety of classes and find out what you really like and what you feel you are really good at. The more transferable skills you can develop, the better. What I have found most useful from my classes are the skills, not necessarily the knowledge I acquired. Knowing theory might help you on an exam, but in the workplace you need to know how to apply that knowledge to get the output you desire. That was the biggest adjustment I had to make from college to the real world. Skills like time management and the ability to multi-task are some of the biggest assets I have.
For those who are seeking jobs, make sure you are thorough in your preparation for job applications and job interviews. When you are an employer, it is very easy to see who is genuine and truly interested in the company. Make sure you spend time on your resume and cover letter and individualize your cover letters! Having an unoriginal cover letter will not allow you to stick out from the rest.
Finally, even in LSA, you should be sure to take at least one writing class in addition to the requirement Almost any job in the future will require you to have strong communication skills – both oral and written – and being able to write and communicate well can be a huge plus. You should also take at least one analytical class that requires you to make sense of numbers and manipulate data. This is an incredibly useful skill and it is a highly sought-after skillset by employers.
What makes a candidate stand out to Amazon recruiters?
Amazon wants to see a well-rounded individual. Be different. Amazon wants originality. An Amazonian has a wide array of skills, but typically they are very analytical, driven, and customer-obsessed. It is important for candidates to show that they know about Amazon and its unique culture and that they would fit that culture. Do your research on the company and learn what attributes Amazon embodies and be engaged with recruiters throughout the process. People that are hired at Amazon really fit the culture of a true “Amazonian”.
I hope this sheds some light on what a job at Amazon entails and how you can hone skills from school and apply them to your daily job. I wish everyone the best of luck for the rest of their undergraduate careers and with their job search. And as always, Go Blue!