Technology giant Amazon is one of the biggest recruiters of MBA grads. Amazon hires more than 1,000 MBAs globally each year, both into senior management roles and into the Amazon Pathways leadership development program.
New recruits are trusted to manage big teams and deliver on multimillion dollar projects, often rotated across functions, company areas, and locations around the world.
While in the US and Europe, Amazon recruits are tasked with building on the company’s success, in the East, and in China in particular, Amazon faces a different kind of challenge.
Amazon in China is fighting against competition from major homegrown competitors like Alibaba and JD.com, as well as more boutique e-commerce platforms, in a battle for market space.
The question for Amazon is: What’s next? How can the company reposition its offering in China to serve the needs of a complex but lucrative market?
It’s part of Carly Xi Wang’s job, as a finance manager at Amazon based in Beijing, to find out.
Amazon MBA jobs
Carly is an alumna from the Tsinghua Global MBA Program, a collaboration between Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management (Tsinghua SEM) in Beijing and MIT Sloan. She decided to pursue the MBA after working in banking for three and a half years in Hong Kong.
Struggling with the choice of doing an MBA in China versus the United States, Carly was persuaded by her boss to explore a rapidly-growing country, she explains, where new opportunities are constantly opening up in areas like mobile payments, big data, and digitization. “It was time for me to open up and try something new,” she says.
Before joining the Tsinghua MBA, she applied to spend her second academic year at MIT Sloan in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to earn an MSc in Management Studies and therefore the Tsinghua MBA-MIT MSMS dual degree, getting the best of US-China knowledge, she says.
Carly came across the job at Amazon through Tsinghua’s Career Development Office while in the US, applying for a spot on Amazon’s finance leadership development program.
She went through two rounds of phone interviews before flying out to Amazon’s HQ in Seattle, Washington for the final face-to-face interview round. There, she says she was interviewed by three different groups, talking through a case study, and focusing on behavioral questions and Amazon’s 14 leadership principles.
“My MBA classmates prepared me well and shared a lot of their own interview experiences,” Carly recalls. “The MBA was definitely the most important step to get me into this new industry and different role, from banking and trading to e-commerce,” she continues.
“Tsinghua’s dual degree program gave me exposure to different cultures and Tsinghua itself is the school with the most famous name in China, which has a lot of history and weight to it.”
What does Amazon look for in MBA hires?
From her experience, Carly says, Amazon cares more about your personality traits and characteristics than whether your past experience matches up exactly with your prospective job. “They want people who are curious. They want quick learners who are ready to take ownership of their work and develop and grow,” she says.
Tsinghua tests MBA students with case studies specifically about Chinese companies—Chinese business culture and startup growth—that prepared Carly well for the role, she says.
In her Amazon interviews, Carly talked about the group work at Tsinghua—working with classmates on case studies and on consulting projects for real firms—which served as examples of her own leadership experience and willingness to learn.
Each year at Tsinghua, the school invites its advisory board—including huge names like Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, and Jack Ma—to a one day event, where business leaders talk about the latest developments in their industries. As class ambassador, Carly helped organize it.
“Tsinghua gave me a very good network in Beijing. The professors, classmates, and alumni; we all belong to this big family.”
Finance manager at Amazon China
As finance manager at Amazon, Carly oversees the company’s overall performance, digs into the data, and gets involved with high-level strategy conversations too.
“Every day is super exciting,” she continues. “China is the most advanced country in the world in terms of mobile payments—nobody here carries a wallet—so we get a lot of data on customer spending.”
In China, Carly explains, customer loyalty is especially key and people buy things based on other people’s recommendations. To compete in China, Amazon must adapt to local market needs and use its big competitive advantage to the max: high quality international brands at low prices.
What’s the best thing about working at Amazon in China? “For me, it’s super exciting to think big!” says Carly.
“We’re facing a lot of challenges. We need to experiment, change, and do something new, but we have huge potential. I see a bright future for Amazon here in China.”