Four years ago this fall, I was in your shoes, preparing to head back to school part-time and questioning whether I would be able to balance work, school, and life as well as whether the Smith MBA was the right place. If you asked me then, where I hoped to be after graduation, I would have probably said DC or Dallas (close to family) and probably named off a large consulting firm or bank. However, today, I’m cross country, working for Amazon, and living in a city (Seattle), I had never thought I would live. It’s been almost six months and its still feels a bit surreal, but overall it’s amazing and has been quite a whirlwind.
Reflecting back as I write this, I am so thankful for my time at Smith, the friends and connections I made, the professors and staff, and the in-class and extra-curricular experiences I had. I know for if it wasn’t for Smith and the experiences I took advantage of and leveraged, I would not be at Amazon. It wasn’t just the program coursework, it was the accumulation of many experiences, which I hope you all will take advantage of as well.
As you know, the coursework and the program itself offers a robust foundation to accounting, finance, marketing, supply chain, and whatever path you chose. From my 54 credits, the most important lesson I learned came from my Creativity for Business Leaders class and it actually wasn’t directly related to creativity. Rather it was the idea of getting uncomfortable and doing one thing that scared you. Thanks to this lesson, I took classes that challenged or scared me even up to my last semester, I ran for Part-Time MBA President, and also when moving across country and taking a position with Amazon presented itself, I replied “hey why not”.
I also can’t emphasis enough how much I gained from the extracurricular activities and network. It actually was one of these events that was the beginning of my journey to Amazon. Back last fall, I attended the Women MBA Conference in DC. I had looked at the list of employers and was really not interested in many on the list, however I decided to attend because it would at least be good practice and also because I wanted to see some of my co-hort mates. Amazon wasn’t on the brochure, but they ended up being there and I decided I might as well visit and chat with them. Ultimately, I ended up speaking with a finance manager, who ended up bringing me onto her team two months later. Exhibiting that you really never know what could happen.
Since then, my life in Seattle has had its ups and downs, but primarily up. Amazon is definitely a challenging and fast moving environment. The teams are very much interconnected, so you get a lot of diversity in work tasks, and a lot of ownership due to the fast-moving nature of the business. Within a month, I was looked on to make on-the-spot decisions and lead initiatives. The environment is also quite bizarre, yes dogs do roam the halls, managers wear sweatshirts and shorts to work, and people speak quite candidly. In some ways, it feels like an extension of my MBA, (+dogs) as there is still much to learn.
Good luck to you all and I hope you leverage and create as many opportunities as possible to make the most of your time at Smith. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.
Adrian Lee is a spring 2014 graduate of the part-time MBA program. During her time at Smith, she was part of the Smith SWAGers (aka the Tues/Thurs DC cohort), served as the President of the Part-Time MBA, and had the chance to travel to Brazil and South Africa as part of Smith’s short-term study abroad programs. She spent nine years in DC after college working for various consulting firms before moving to Seattle to take a position with Amazon. She currently works as a financial analyst in Amazon’s transportation division. In her spare time, she is enjoying exploring her new city, making new friends, sailing, and hiking in the PNW.