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Why … Data?

Product – What drives our business? An interview with Alexa Shopping leaders!

Piotr-cichosz-414542Being a Leadership Recruiter for Amazon, I have the privilege of working with some of our best and brightest business leaders.  I’m constantly seeking new ways to raise the talent bar here at Amazon and recruiting leadership level product talent is no different.  It’s an honor to support the Alexa Shopping team because I, as a customer myself, am astounded at the idea that I can say out loud, “Alexa, order me dog food” and it appears on my doorstep. 

In an interview with Jenny Blackburn, Director and BizTech Leader of Alexa Shopping, I asked what grabs her attention in external product talent.  “At Amazon Shopping we’re creating a brand new way to shop – there’s no tail lights to follow. We need technologists who are adept at operating in this highly ambiguous, blue sky space, who can identify the problems to solve and innovative solutions to those problems.  We love to see start-up experience, and diverse interests and backgrounds beyond the typical that show a candidate has insatiable curiosity and a self-driven desire to build something new.”

There is a significant difference between companies who develop products because they believe they can make money versus our Customer Obsession model.  We determine what our customers want and need through the use of data and then develop products from there. You won’t hear an Amazonian speak of competitors or what we want – it’s all about our customers and how we can make their lives better through the development of technology.

I had the opportunity to get the perspective of Vicky Gkiza, our newest Director of Product Management for Alexa Shopping.  She had this to say: “For me resumes that pop out the most are the ones of people with diverse background, where connecting the dots is not always obvious and their path is not linear. Candidates with such background have a wider range of experiences and as a result a more diverse skill set.  They show creativity and persistence, which are both core leadership qualities.”

As we continue to build out the Alexa Shopping experience, Abhay Saxena, Principal of Alexa’s Voice Shopping platform, provided the following perspective.  “When hiring product managers, I generally look for people with proven track record of delivering customer value. Has this person identified a customer problem, and a solution, built it, and launched it?  I find that the most successful product managers at Amazon show relentless focus on customer metrics to inform data based prioritization, and a bias for action to deliver features.  Lastly, I am looking for leaders.  Does this person have the ability to inspire a vision for their team?  Can this person be trusted by their team?  Will this person do everything, not just tasks in their job description, for their team to be successful?” 

As a Recruiter, I look for talent that uses data beyond what one would see in KPI’s.  How do you know what your customer wants and needs?  How did you determine that was the right path?  How can you automate product mechanisms by concepts like social shopping, personalization and recommendation systems?  And yes, we love product talent that has machine learning experience.  As a product candidate, you can be certain that you will probably get a question that goes something like this: “How do you solve business challenges through machine learning?”  Here, I’m looking for big examples that are outside of the box and beyond KPI’s.  How did you address economies of scale?  How is that idea big, complex and of magnitude? 


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