Category: MBA

Simon in Seattle: 5 Product Management Lessons From My Summer at Amazon

The following blog post was written by Mike Alcazaren, MBA Class of 2019

This summer I interned as a senior product manager on the Amazon Devices team. My summer project was to launch a new product feature for Amazon Dash Buttons. I had the opportunity to fully own the product launch, which included the financial modeling, marketing research, operations, and customer experience.

Love the office pups!

Love the office pups!

This experience was a ton of fun. I learned a lot and got a taste of what it’s like to be a product manager. After taking some time to reflect on my summer, I came up with five pieces of advice for those planning to intern at Amazon and/or interested in a career in product management.

Amazon’s culture is defined through the 14 Leadership Principles, so I’ve mapped each piece of advice to a leadership principle.

1. Find Comfort in Ambiguity. (Take Ownership)
No one has solved your specific project before. You’ll be given a lot of responsibility and you’ll need to learn fast. You own the success of your project and will need to ask the right questions to get the information you need. I spoke with 84 different people at Amazon to be sure I thoroughly understood the problem I was given.

2. Be Scrappy. (Bias for Action/Frugality)
Always ask yourself:

  • “What’s the value of the information I need to gather?” (Thanks, Professor Lovett!)
  • “Can I make a decision with less?”
  • “What data do I actually need?”
Cookies were a huge hit during user research.

Cookies were a huge hit during user research.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and design a prototype. A design-focused mindset is crucial for any product manager. I performed a 54-person user research test with prototypes that used old devices and paper to simulate an unboxing experience for the customer. I didn’t have budget to go externally, but was able to negotiate for budget for gift cards and cookies to entice employees to participate.

3. Write Early, Write Often. (Deliver Results)
Amazon uses a narrative-based approach to presentation, where your idea is fully captured within a six-page document and–surprise!–it shouldn’t be an unfinished document at your midpoint review. A product manager’s document is typically called a “Press Release and Frequently Asked Questions,” or PRFAQ. The approach to writing this document is called “working backwards,” meaning you start with the customer and work backwards to solve the customer challenge. (Check out this Medium article for more information on working backwards and PRFAQs.) You should aim to have your PRFAQ as close to final as possible at the halfway point.

It can be difficult to get your document in front of people for review. Find a support team that can give you feedback, such as alumni, fellow interns, or friends. One of my goals this summer was to write as concisely as possible. My mantra became, “Clarity of Writing = Clarity of Thought.” Remember to review, review, review!

4. Be Coach-able. (Earn Trust)
When you get feedback, listen. Most people want you to be better and improve. But don’t wait to get this feedback—seek input from people earlier, rather than later.

Photo of Mike with his Amazon colleagues.

Smart Home Intern Team 2018!

5. Have Fun! (Learn & Be Curious)
Take time to enjoy Seattle and the Pacific Northwest! Make sure to meet your fellow interns and enjoy a few happy hours. Your team has a ton of experience that you can leverage to finish your project.

Without the analytical skillset I acquired during my first year at Simon, I wouldn’t have been able to solve this ambiguous project, which ultimately resulted in an offer to join Amazon full-time as a senior product manager.

Thank you to those who supported me this summer: the Simon Admissions Office, Simon’s Career Management Center, my Simon Class of 2019 classmates–particularly those who would meet on their own time to talk all things product management–and my family and friends. I wouldn’t have had a successful internship without your help!

Worn out pair of shoes

These poor guys barely made it to the finish line.

My Summer in Seattle by the Numbers
Loving data the way that I do, I can’t resist adding in some fun data points from this summer:
233: Restaurants and sites visited in the Pacific Northwest
84: Amazonians I spoke with to complete my summer project
54: Amazonians that completed my user research
1,198,321 & 511: Steps and miles walked (respectively) during my internship
1: Totally worn-through pair of shoes

NYC Career Day Reflections — Raazgi Haidri MBA Class of 2020

The following blog post was written by Raazgi Haidri, MBA Class of 2020

There is something about boarding a bus at Times Square with suits on hangers!

Recently, 104 of us from Simon’s MBA Class of 2020 traveled from Rochester to New York City for the MBA Career Day. For many of us, this was our first time in NYC, and for most us it would be the first of many, as New York City is known for its finance, real estate, technology, and health care industries.

raazgi.haidriDuring Career Day, the Career Management Center hosted panel discussions with alumni and allies of the school who shared their insights into various MBA roles in different industries. We learned about diverse career experiences in consulting, marketing, product management, pricing, finance, and entrepreneurship roles. Panels also shared valuable advice about recruiting and interviewing for different jobs.

One of the main themes that stood out for me during discussions and Q&A sessions was the concept of “career exploration.” Our class is a vibrant mix of candidates from a variety of backgrounds such as finance, travel, consulting, education, non-profits, media, the military, and more. I realized that exploring various career options before embarking on a pointed career search was great advice, and the career panels were a valuable tool in doing exactly that. I particularly enjoyed learning more about the advantages and challenges of collaborative roles like product management and consulting. During Career Day, our class was also able to make meaningful connections with panelists and alumni. We are honored that they shared their stories and insights with us.

Armed with deeper knowledge of roles and industries, a better network, and great memories of NYC, we begin fall term this week. There surely is something special about walking the streets of Manhattan in business suits—see you again, NYC!

Advice from the Assistant Dean: How to Craft Your Best Application

The following blog post was written by Rebekah Lewin, assistant dean of admissions at financial aid

As we end summer and begin “back to school” season, you are undoubtedly preparing your check list for applying to business school if you are targeting 2019 entry. Here are a few factors to consider so you can put your best foot forward with the Admissions Committee:

  • Rebekah.LewinBe thorough. I don’t recommend waiting until the last minute or pulling an all-nighter to get everything done in the final hours before an application deadline. Many of the aspects of the application take time to do well, and the timelines of some are even outside of your control—especially elements such as transcripts. and Plan out your timeline early and take control of your application process.
  • Be original. Avoid the temptation to use the same essay template for more than one school. While the essay topics may look similar, there are usually some differences. It is obvious to the Admissions Committee if your essays do not fully answer the questions asked, or worse, if you accidentally reference another school.
  • Be resourceful. Do your research so can avoid reaching out to ask questions that can easily be found in an FAQs section on a school’s website. Instead, make the most of your engagement opportunities by identifying some thoughtful questions that will help to showcase your interest in the school. Admissions Committee members appreciate when you have taken the time to get a baseline understanding of the program you’re applying to.
  • Be natural. It’s difficult, but try not to overthink how you present yourself. It’s natural to want to be the “best you” throughout the application process, but also stay focused on being the real you. Schools are looking for candidates who are genuine and have integrity, and we really want to get to know you during the application process. Use the essays and interview to help the Admissions Committee learn about your unique capabilities and distinctions as they evaluate your future potential.

I hope this advice is helpful as you are working on your application, and I encourage you to check out our future webinars and blogs for more tips as you prepare for B-school. Specifically, this week’s webinar, “Preparing to Apply and Common Application Mistakes to Avoid” on Wednesday, August 29, would be great to check out as you make your business school plans.

We hope to see your MBA or MS application to Simon Business School soon!

Meet Our Newest Full-Time MBA and MS Students!

August is always a very exciting time of year for our community because it’s when our students settle into their new lives in Rochester and at Simon!

Before classes officially began, students got acquainted at Orientation. MBA students had the opportunity to participate in the Niagara Trek, where they experienced the best Western New York has to offer. They also conquered a ropes course at Bristol Mountain Aerial Adventures, went on a tour around the City of Rochester, and lent a hand in the community by participating in Flower City Habitat for Humanity’s “Framing Frenzy,” where they built frames for two houses in a Rochester neighborhood. Our MS students enjoyed a “Taste of Rochester” lunch, had a chance to take a bus tour of the city, and participated in the “Amazing Race”—an interactive experience where students worked in teams to move through 10 stations around campus. The team with the fastest time won some special Simon gear!

photo of two women MBA students at the Habitat build.

Two first-year MBA students at the Flower City Habitat for Humanity “Framing Frenzy.”

Teamwork is a primary focus of Orientation and one of the core values of a Simon education. Here’s a closer look at our new “teams” by the numbers:

Full-Time MBA Class of 2020:

  • 104: Students
  • 17: Countries of citizenship
  • 5.5: Average years of work experience
  • 35: Percentage of female students
  • 18: Percentage of underrepresented US minority students
  • 3.13–3.85: Middle 80% undergraduate GPA
  • 600–710: Middle 80% GMAT score
  • 28: Average age

Students in the MBA Class of 2020 have work experience at the following companies: Accenture, BlackRock, BNP Paribas, Citibank, Coca-Cola Refreshments USA Inc., Deloitte Consulting, Fidelity Investments, GEICO, JPMorgan Chase & Co., KPMG LLP, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Peace Corps, PwC, Southwest Airlines, Tesla, and the United States Army, among others.

MS students gather for a group photo after completing the "Amazing Race."

MS students gather for a group photo after completing the “Amazing Race.”

Full-Time MS Class of 2019:

  • 406: Students in the Class of 2019
  • 19: Countries of citizenship
  • 64: Percentage of female students
  • 3.04–3.8: Middle 80% GPA
  • 640–730: Middle 80% GMAT score
  • 22: Average age

Students from our four MS programs—Accountancy, Business Analytics, Finance, and Marketing Analytics—have work experience at the following companies: Apple Inc., Bain & Company, Bank of China, China Construction Bank Corporation, CITIC Securities Co. Ltd., Deloitte, EY, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co., LinkedIn, L’Oréal, McKinsey & Company, Morgan Stanley, Nike, PwC, The Coca-Cola Company, and Volkswagen AG, among others.

We are excited to see where Simon takes our new students, and we hope that you will be among next year’s incoming class! Get started—apply now.

Working on your application? Attend our upcoming webinar “Preparing to Apply and Common Application Mistakes to Avoid” on Wednesday, August 29 at 12 p.m. EDT. We hope you can listen in!