Current Time 0:00
/
Duration Time -:-
Progress: NaN%

How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
I guess the first thing is I could give you a little bit of a resume, but I always feel like I was super lucky. My first job after getting a master's degree in computer science was at Microsoft, and at the time, it was kind of the best place in the world to be, everybody got an office, I didn't have to wear a suit to work, they had free drinks and snacks, things like that so I felt very lucky right out of school and having a master's degree in computer science there weren't as many choices as there are today. So I think students that you're talking to you right now the world is at their feet in a lot of ways, there are so many different options. So I started working at Microsoft in 1995 and then, the main thing that I was trying to do was to gain experience. I always thought of my job or my path is like, How can you gain capability? And how can I learn and become more valuable to this company or to the industry in general? So I also thought of it somewhat selfishly in terms of what can I get out of this opportunity? And so I would typically go toward the biggest fires that I could find. What I mean by fire is something that is in crisis or that needs my help and it's something that I know how to do but I also see a big opportunity in that work. So I had seen upside it could be something that I could parlay into bigger opportunity later at I did that a Microsoft for many years I would find fire and I would jump in, I would solve that problem, build a team or build the tech for that thing, and then that would earn me a new opportunity to do a bigger job and I did that for 11 years there. Then I moved to Google, my last project was at Bing at Microsoft and Bing was awesome but I also realized that if I wanted to be where the action was on the Internet at the time in 2005 it wasn't at Microsoft. Microsoft still wasn't really understanding the Internet so I think that that is a part of a career journey where you have to make choices about where to go, and sometimes they're pretty dramatic like you have to leave your company or you have to leave the group that you're in order to go where the important things were happening. I felt at the time that Google really is understanding the Internet and distributed systems and was thinking about how to build applications on the Internet. So really thinking about the cloud and the importance of data and how to manage that? So when I got to Google, I realized that their infrastructure was probably a decade ahead of where Microsoft was at that time, it was a good decision for me to move there and there I worked on infrastructure database problems still, very much computer science focused but at that point I had become a manager and was leading larger teams, did many projects of google flu trends, which is probably a top of the one given growing the virus right now we would predict where flew was going to occur based on people's theories and trying to correlate those to the CDC hospital visits so we could pretty much predict, like how the flu was going to roll out. We had prediction models, and at some point, that project fell into disrepair and was killed off after I left Google but we sure probably could use it today, even a corona the but the kind of the last project I did at Google was this thing called Google WiFi, which was hardware product that with the number one selling master router or I think it might still be but the thing that I did there was really focusing on the customer so if I think in addition to kind of going towards opportunities that are really important are being selfish about investing in yourself, I think there's also like putting the customer first is really important and so if you look for things that will really change the world in some way sometimes they're things that people have already tried but have failed to do successfully. Routers, I would say was at that time, like three years ago, was an industry that had become very complacent and had stopped thinking about customers. I was inspired because I was watching my in-laws trying to set up an old router it was just a disaster so I convinced Google, and I almost kind of tricked them into doing it. I didn't really ask for permission, I just started a project with a few people and we developed a very rudimentary router and started to think about what would we do to differentiate it? We decided that innovation was really on the software side. So could we create a cloud-based controller? It would allow us to often lies the home router experience with WiFi to produce something that was genuinely different and much better, very easy to set up, very human-friendly and added a bunch of features on top that allowed people to do things that they couldn't do, like turn off the Internet during dinner time or be able to approve kids access to certain websites on the fly, things that router just did not do at the time. So, I think that's another component really putting the customer first and if you're going to innovate, find an area that hasn't moved. If you look at the world that happens all the time, like I would consider Tesla as an example of that, Tesla really did a car that was really novel and interesting. Like Facebook did it with social there are a lot of social at the time, and Facebook was able to come up with a twist on social, which was really interesting and different. Google did it with search, Microsoft did it with PC software. So where can you really change things are often where things are broken, I would say, and I've been attracted to areas that needed someone to help fix broken stuff and then when you look at the problem, you have to look at it from a new perspective, a lot of people, smart people have been there before you. So what are you doing that's going to be different that can really change the way that the solution and so that's where the customers come in is talking to them really understanding the main points and then trying to solve them in a novel way that hasn't been done before. I think that being an innovator is a hard path, after Google, I felt like I had done everything I wanted to do at Google with the router and that success on that project. And I moved to a small startup called Plangrid, which was building construction software, and I didn't really know anything about construction software, but they really needed me, and it seemed like an interesting area, and again it was one of these areas that is the construction which is very paper-oriented. What they were doing is moving plans onto the cloud so that literally everybody on a construction site could be on the same page so people will upload plans and then we would bring them down to a device, even a phone like an iPhone or a pad and then people could mark them up on the pad and those would be shared in real-time with the whole community looking at that one page. So we did virgin controlling a lot, it was a whole document version control product but the interesting thing there was that instead of trying to solve, how do people deal with more paper and plans on a construction site? The solution was, could we digitize all of them and use things like machine learning and new devices that were coming out to make construction cheaper, more efficient and easier instead of having people have to go every time they have a change and you can imagine on these big construction sites like you see a big building being built. Sometimes there are a dozen, maybe 100 different companies doing different aspects of those projects so there is a company doing plumbing and electrical and cement, and they'll step on each other's work and Plangird it allowed them to streamline that it was used at big construction sites, and it ended up that auto desk who makes CAD purchased them for $875 million about three years ago. So being an innovator that took eight years for the founders to get to that point on, I just joined the journey of the very tail end but finding those areas where customers really need you and solving a real problem for our industry is a good way to run your career, and it's kind of what I've tried to do. And then I came to Amazon and I've been here for two and a half years. I work in the brand advertising business, and so we are the number three advertiser in the world now, and we perform better than Facebook and Google, and we have a lot of insights into customer behavior, and we try to help customers find products that they care about and they're interested in, so using data deep learning, machine learning techniques that's kind of a high level of philosophy and a little bit of thinking about how I got where I did. And as I said, some of its luck and some of its serendipity of being open to opportunities and then jumping on them when they exist. I think that's a part of it like being ready to really change and do something quite different with yourself when those opportunities come up and listening to that instinct inside of you that says like there's a better thing for me, there's a better match, there's more interesting for a project that I could go do, I think it's part of the challenge. A lot of people don't do that, but they play it safe, they stick with what they know, they kind of work in the same area for a long period of time and I think that it has its benefits because you become an expert but I also think that you can get neglected as an employee in that situation because you're like the person who's been there. I don't want to be at a company where I've been there for the longest amount of time and knows more than anybody. I always want to be learning and feel like I'm changing the way that it is rather than maintaining if that makes sense.

What are the responsibilities and decisions that you handle at work? Discuss weekly hours you spend in the office, for work travel, and working from home.

Based on experience at: Vice President Ads, Amazon
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
The Vice president of ads means I manage a part of Amazon's ad business so the ad business is large at Amazon. There are different groups, I manage what's called brand advertising and I am in the performance advertising group. So we focus on things that help people buy a product and so the responsibilities that I have, I have a number of programs that I run. One is called sponsored brands so when you go to search and you search your product and you see the very top slot is probably the most valuable pixels in e-commerce that sponsored brands and what we do is we try to pick a product that is very relevant to the customer's query, something that is going to be interesting to them because we only get paid if someone clicks and so we have an auction that we run, which has sometimes thousands of participants, different advertisers who are bidding for you as a customer, and we use a bunch of attributes like how interested would you be as a customer to click on that? How relevant is that product for you? How relevant is that in the query that you just ran? And we try to make a prediction that you'll find that ad interesting enough to click on it then we tune that model over and over again, using deep learning and machine learning techniques, and we train it with literally thousands of attributes and let the machine kind of sort out like, what's the most important thing that will predict whether that customer will be interested in that product and then we reinforce it with user behavior so again, we put the customer first because without them and without having something that's highly relevant and valuable, we can't make any money and neither does the advertiser. So it doesn't do us any good to just put random advertising up in front of people. We really do want to help the advertiser and the user, the shopper to find the products that they want to. So I have a team that's in three different sites that do different things, mostly in Seattle. We also have ah site in Palo Alto. and we have a site in New York City at Hudson Yards. Hudson Yard is also built using Plangrid, which is a kind of interesting that there are buildings now that was built by my previous company's product. I typically spend normal office hours, except right now, actually, everybody at Amazon is on work from home, So I'm at home and everybody in the company is working from home because the Coronavirus outbreak was right in our area. It's about a mile away from where I live is where the epicenter of the whole thing is so Amazon had everybody head home. So we're testing out how, this virtual work situation will fly for literally 30,000 people, so it'll be interesting. But typically, I spend a normal amount of time like I would say, 9 to 6 or 9 to 5. I try to have time to think so I think the main thing isn't how many hours you work, but how you spend your time and so more and more I'm focused on having time to think about the future and think about what I'm doing and it helps me get clear on what's important and not important because in a job when you first get your job, you're going to be busy all the time and I think it's really important to not be busy. It's important to do smart work and to put your energy in the right places so a company can drive you crazy with the number of different things it wants you to do and the amount of time they want you to spend on things and I think it's really important for an employee to step back and say, like, I actually need to think you hired me to be an intelligent human being here, So I'm not going to pack my schedule up with meetings, I'm not going to spend all my energy running around. I'm going to spend my time thinking and doing so think about the beginning of the week, I tend to think about what am I trying to accomplish this week? What are the things that are coming up in the next months, in the next six months, that I really need to start working on and then way have a lot of mechanisms that help us stay on track so setting goals, aligning teams to those goals, making sure they understand what we're trying to do. The other thing, I tend to try to live near where I work, so I don't have a long commute when I worked at Plangrid, I had to commute for 45 minutes each way on, I found that to be exhausting. Now I live about 15 minutes from work and I work from home rarely, I mean, during this Coronavirus thing, I'm going to do it for over a month but I tend to go into the office because I think that face time with people and being able to see them and talk to them in the hallways is very valuable so teams that work in a distributed way like our teams in New York and Palo Alto, I think have a need a little bit harder time than teams that work altogether. But even teams that work in adjacent buildings have the same issue of communication so I think you just got to get out there and meet people and make sure your present, I do try to be in person wherever whenever I'm in a meeting, I try not to be on video. As far as working from home, I do that sometimes. I think you can work yourself to death if you do that too much and so I have a family, I have your kids that are all into different things, and I need to spend time with them to have dinner, so there are family dinner nights, and so I think to have a balance between your work and your family is really important and there should be time set aside for both of those not just to work yourself to death and nobody is going to give you an award like I actually get a post on Linked In about this that I posted my ratings at Google for my whole 10 years, it was like it exceeds expectations or strongly exceeds and once in a while, I would meet expectations which is fine. It's like there's nothing wrong with meeting expectations then I put that side by side with a picture of my family. If I think about the value of those two things side by side, my family is infinitely more important than whatever I was trying to achieve in terms of my reputation or in terms of the scores that I was trying to do, now fine you have to do well in your job and you want to make money and you want to be recognized for those things and you may want to get promoted but on the other hand, long term those things there are going to be very fleeting and the most important thing or the relationships you create and that you feel supported that's just one learning after doing this for 25 years, that the short term work is a lot less important than the long term relationships that you build.

What are the job titles of people you routinely work with inside and outside of your organization? What approaches do you find to be effective in working with them?

Based on experience at: Vice President Ads, Amazon
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
I work with all different titles but my peer group mostly are Director, Vice Presidents but I meet with a lot of teams, and I do a lot of group meeting and group meetings where sometimes I'm the most senior person there and where I'm leading or responding to the things that are being said, and sometimes I'm a participant in those, and sometimes my boss's boss is leading those things. I would say, I have to switch gears quite a bit as a leader from being a participant to being a leader sometimes, a lot of it I have to do on my own like I have to be a protagonist within the company to get things done and so one thing I do is I will consciously set up meetings with groups where we're having trouble. So the first thing I do is I try to have a relationship with the other leaders first so in general, you want to have a relationship with people before you fight with them before you have conflict and so I think it's really important to introduce yourself and to be a known quantity to them so they trust you at least they know who you are. Then, if we have conflict, to stage that conflict in a way that is beneficial and so that people don't feel defensive or threatened but we're trying to solve something together and in a large organization like Amazon, there will always be conflicting priorities and conflicting resources that are going to be applied to something that's just the way that I've always seen things go in Google and Microsoft. You have a lot of people who are trying to do the right thing, but they need someone to help them make a decision and so that's a lot of what I try to do is help solve problems like that conflict between teams, disagreements around priorities, around the timing of things so the way that is most effective is I like people to solve their own problems if they can, and so that might sound like a stupid idea by going back to this whole idea of ownership you want to empower people to solve these problems because, with that, they'll gain experience and build confidence that you can go and solve a bunch of problems that you thought that I needed to solve. I don't need to solve the problems, you can do it on your own and we're developing leadership in people who can do a lot more for the company if we do that and so a lot of what I try to do is to balance stepping back as a leader to allow people to solve the problem on their own and when I do need to give clarity, what I do is I consciously do it by starting off with, like, a straw man proposal so all write up my ideas and I'll say this is just a draft, it's just a straw man, now I believe that these ideas are correct and I'm very open to hear and debate about them so let's have the debate. If you have alternative ideas, we can talk about those things, but this is what I think we need to do and then people will come in and they'll say, Well, what about this? And you haven't thought about this enough, then I think part of being a leader is also integrating that feedback in and so it's not just about telling people what to do that never works like it doesn't work for me. I try to treat people like I want to be treated like I want my opinion to be asked, I want to have my opinion considered and so a lot of it is speaking about the strategy for how to solve these things. So how do you convince somebody? The best way to do it is that they feel like they're a part of the solution, they either came up with the idea or they were collaborators on that idea. Even if you came in at the beginning and conflict, you exit with them feeling like they could contribute to that problem. So, ideally, that's what I'm always shooting for and it takes a lot of work actually to get good at that, I would say at first, I was very conscious of how to do it, but I couldn't do it unconsciously, I couldn't do it by just walking into a meeting and kind of reading the room and being able to do it, I would have to think through, What's my strategy? How am I going to talk to people about it? Who are the people that are going to be really negative towards me, who are going to be positive, and now it's much more natural but it took a long time to do it and I think it's something that you've got to practice and it's something that you should try to put yourself out there and fail at it and learn, the more decisions you make, the more you try to get people to agree or to align, the better you get at it

What major challenges do you face in your job and how do you handle them? Can you discuss a few accomplishments?

Based on experience at: Vice President Ads, Amazon
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
I would say the major challenges are to set very aggressive goals at Amazon so we're constantly trying to invent the future and I think if you put your mind in that place, it's a hard challenge because you're having to not only convince people of a new idea, you need to go and do it. So being a pioneer is hard and I think it's a harder job than if you're just doing straight forward execution like if you're coming in and you're incrementally building on somebody else's idea, it's a lot harder if you're pioneering and you're going and you're trying to invent something new. I'm more attracted to those problems, I like those types of challenges better. I mentioned a couple of accomplishments earlier, I would say, going towards projects where you think that they have a big upside so look for the diamond in the rough, look for the start-up that seems strange, but has a massive upside. So like Plangrid, that was an interesting company that was in the construction business and it's like I'm a computer scientist, Why in the world I just built a router, why in the world would I go and work at a construction software company? because the problems could be solved with software and if you thought about the problem differently and you thought about it in terms of how you could innovate, I was drawn towards that type of problem, something that was quite different. So it's an abstract way of answering your question, but I would say that's how you can find some of the biggest wins in life if you go towards the things that are misunderstood and you could bring clarity to them or they're not well developed and you can come and build something that's better. So Google Wifi was an example of that where the router industry was just plastic, they would take plastic and they would put it around a chip. It was the same firm where for decades they were shipping, they're all vulnerable to software, to security problems, they're hard to set up, they're named after weapons of mass destruction, they're all very masculine name devices like the predator and all these things and they look like spiders from Mars, could we build one that really changed the game and, yeah, we just need to think about it differently and by just taking a different spin on it, I think we were really successful and caught customer's imagination that there is a better way to make a router, there's a better way to make construction software, there's a better way to do almost everything and so the trick is like, how can you find problems that you can solve so, as I look at a lot of problems through software, Can I solve that problem through technology? If yes then let's take the problem that currently is a manual problem and turn it into an automation problem either using new techniques like deep learning or machine learning or using big data, How could we automate that problem away? So hopefully that makes sense.

How do you inspire and motivate your team members? How do you foster creative thinking? How are ideas shared and implemented?

Based on experience at: Vice President Ads, Amazon
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
I think the first is like, how do you inspire and motivate your team? I would say the most important thing is that you are passionate about it yourself if you're going to lead other people or you're going to try to convince other people to listen to your idea, I think the most important thing is for you to be passionate because if you're passionate, you're going to attract people around you that are passionate as well. They will see your passion and they'll get excited and they'll bring their own motivation to the program and work even harder. What I do is I try to tell the story, like, why what we're doing is important, how it's connected with the customer, how it's connected to Amazon, what we're really doing to change the world, what we're really doing to change the customer experience. I think if you connected back to something that is tangible for people like the impact that we're going to make either financially or the impact that we're going to make in helping people find the things that they wanted to buy which sounds trivial but, I mean, we all have necessities, we all have things that we're trying to do, and we don't want to spend a lot of time hunting for things and searching for things, we want to make it simple, fast, elegant. and it's that sweating those details is what makes a winning team and winning product successful and people who don't sweat those details, I think you end up with a lesser product that is not as good so I think to put the customer first and really caring about what you're doing. If you look at anything that Steve Jobs talks about, he'll say the same thing the passion that you care about it and you bring your passion to it. Fostering creative thinking, I mean, my thought is that it's the same thing about family and work-life balance like what you have to do is just make time to always be thinking creatively. If you think of it as a dichotomy between doing my job and being innovative, you're probably going to fail, I don't think it's a dichotomy, it's not two separate things it's like your job is to be creative and your job is to innovate all the time, and there are different times when a lot of innovation is necessary and when execution is required. But in general, I think the way I foster is I just create an environment where creativity is always welcome and change is always welcome so we do things like hackathons, we make it clear to everybody that everybody's an innovator and an owner so one thing to think about is you take your first job, your second job out of school, you want to find a place that treats you as an owner, you're not just an employee like I go into work, and I think my own my part of Amazon completely like without me it's just not going to happen and I want everybody on my team to feel that sense of ownership as well, and when you feel that sense of ownership, you're kind of paranoid all the time, you are kind of like worried like If I am moving quick enough?Am I getting enough things done? Am I being creative enough? Am I thinking enough about the future? I think the environment has a lot to do with it so we try to create an environment where people are owners and always feeling able to do creative thinking. We also have a concept that we call one-way doors and two-way doors, it gives people the freedom to explore ideas. One way door is the door when you cross through it, there's no way to come back so when you going to make a decision like that, you should be more careful that those things are like, where you burned the bridge once you cross it, things like that which will have significant changes required in order to get there or it's difficult to roll back the change once you make it so a one-way door is something we should talk about and think about. However, 99% of things that we could do really are a two-way door that makes it easy to revert if required or find ways to make it simple, innovate and implement ideas. There's a whole section of thinking on this like what an MBP is like a minimum buyable product or minimum lovable product is also one that people use. A friend of mine has a whole series on Linked In and he talks about Predotyping, how to make it really, really simple to test that ideas without having to spend a lot of investments on that having slow failures but how can you fast fail really quickly and so one of the ways that we work on these ideas and we talk about them and we debate them. An interesting thing about Amazon is that most ideas start on paper, and some people will write up a story about their idea. It's called a PRFAQ or a press release frequently asked questions. So a press release is its kind of like you're writing a story about your idea in the future and you're writing it about how the product was successful and while writing that document you think about like, What do I need to be successful for this product? So it's a way of kind of getting your mind around what kind of success do I want to see? And then the FAQ part of it is kind of details about what would I need in order to get this really done? And then we look at these PRFAQ's and we debate, we have meetings where we talk about them and ask questions, and literally, people will bring print outs or look at it online but the first 20 minutes of the meeting will be to read the PRFAQ and then we'll have a discussion about, What are the things that we need to think about on this idea? Is there another way to think about it? An implementation is often the last thing that we talk about, it's often thinking about the idea itself and the impact of that idea. Is that idea needle moving? We will really change the game in some way and then we look at the practical aspect of it, so, like, how would we implement it and how would we do it? But the vision and coming up with the idea is probably the most important thing and the reason why Amazon focuses that way because a lot of times what you can do is if you focus on execution first, you could get stuck in a very incremental mindset so you end up building only what you're able to build, and sometimes you need to break out of that mode and really think quite differently so that's how we do those things.

How do you set targets for your team members? How do you measure their progress? How do you incentivize them to meet their targets?

Based on experience at: Vice President Ads, Amazon
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
We have a very good planning process at Amazon, it's probably the best that I've seen in my career. So at Google, I would say we were driven kind of by passion and leadership and we weren't really good at setting targets or setting dates or things like that and we could get away with it because we're making a lot of money on ads and things like YouTube we waited a decade before we figured out how to monetize it and things like that but Amazon is much more intentional and I think is better at goal setting and that's one of the reasons why they move a little bit quicker in some things, I'll give you some examples, we do bottoms up and top down planning so teams will think about where they are, and they'll think about what's possible so an example might be, we want to show more brand content on Amazon, so brand content is really important because it conveys trust and authenticity in a product, it's not just an image of a product but it tells a story behind a product, and so it allows an advertiser to express the value, for example, Adidas, they sell their product right now and the main message they want to get across is girl empowerment in sports so if you look at the Adidas messaging, it's a young girl playing soccer, and it talks about leadership. Another message that they push is about the ecology, so they talk about the Earth and about clean oceans and about how they use recyclable material in their shoes so they've done their research and they know that these ideas and that these messages are important to their customers, and probably every brand that you interact with has some cause behind it that helps you feel loyalty towards that brand. So they're investing in a cause, or they were made in a way that it's more friendly towards the environment, or it's just better at doing the thing that it's supposed to do than the other guy. One of our targets is like, how can we get brand content to appear more on Amazon so that customers can see the value of those brands and that's a very big goal so we're talking about like changing the way that people shop and so we'll set off with a kind of like a top-down vision like we want to change the way people shop on Amazon and then teams will hear that and then they'll translate it into, here's what we can do to meet that goal and they'll come up with a bunch of things and then we'll debate them. So my team has anywhere between 20-30 goals at any time and we do them on a bi-annual basis and they're broken up into multiple tears and so one tear is they are visible to the very, very elite people in the company so they're called the esteem members and those are people like Jeff Bezos, so these goals will appear on their list of goals and then there are senior vice president goals and those will show up on my boss's report and then there are vice president goals that show up for me and then there are team goals that show for my team, as you go up, we only have one esteem goal for my whole group, which is a large group and is just represented by one thing, it's about trying to get brands to be more present on Amazon and then we figure out, Well, how would you measure that? A lot of time will go into making it in output goal so what that means is their input goals and output goals, an input goal might be that everybody's going to work really hard to make that happen or you're going to get a lot of brand contents that you can show on the site but the output goal is is usually customer-focused or revenue-focused that customers are going to see a lot more content. We try to make output goals so that the effect, it's clearly documented and then once you're clear about the effect and like what the output is supposed to be, I think it gives a lot of clarity, like how realistic is this goal? So you go back and forth between top-down and bottom-up planning until it's settled somewhere in the middle. How do we incentivize? Well, we don't incentivize with money, I mean, it's incentivized through ownership so people feel a strong sense of wanting to do the right thing for the business and then making sure that those goals are meaningful, meaningful to the company, meaningful to the customer, meaningful to the business as a whole and if that's true, then people will work really hard, and you don't have to monetarily incentivize. Now there are certain groups that do monetary incentivization like sales and things like that because they're based on commission but people who are like in computer science and we're doing product development generally our incentives are to make things better for Amazon and the customer. It's not about trying to pay people, then we reward people through promotions and through recognition. We have a lot of programs, we have a thing we call coffee kudos, for instance, where you give people a Starbucks gift card if they did something good, that's kind of a small thank you, you'd be surprised how meaningful that is like, Hey, you did a great job, thank you so much for what you did. Then there are more formal ways, we have a thing called high fives where we send out a public recognition and name people by name, publicly, like these are great things that you've done. So there's a lot of ways to incentivize people, but I think the main way is just to have goals that really are meaningful to the business.

What qualities do you look for while hiring? What kind of questions do you typically ask from candidates?

Based on experience at: Vice President Ads, Amazon
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
The qualities that we look for in hiring, I think at Amazon you could go and look online actually if you're interested in how Amazon does its hiring, which I think is we call it peculiar, it's different, but they call them leadership principles. A lot of our hiring revolves around those things so leadership principle or things like that you write a lot, you correct often but write a lot also means you're able to integrate new ideas into your thinking when you're wrong and so how do you ask somebody a question about that? I did it just the other day to a candidate, we try to look at historical answers to the question. So you give me an example of a time where you are wrong, and you were able to change your mind or you had a very strong opinion about something, and then you received new information that was in conflict with what you believe and you came up with a better answer. Other things like thinking big is another leadership principle, and that one is also about asking questions so, like, I could give a scenario of something like we're trying to increase the number of brands and their presence on Amazon. How would you solve that? What are some ideas that you have? What would we do to make a new router that would change the game? Or how would you reinvent the laptop? So thinking big and I think the way that I would answer that as a candidate is to take the lead of the interviewer and think of it as a game, really watch the other person and talk about your creative ideas, try to think about how to break them down and know who you're talking to as well, know what the company cares about. So the first thing I would do is I would see what available research existed like how much we talk to customers, like how much have we thought about the different segments of customers and what our customers really looking for in a router? So if you're interviewing at Amazon, there's a thing called leadership principles, you can go see them and there's a bunch of example questions and answers as well. Google was slightly different, we didn't have a structure of a method to interview people, but we would interview people based kind of on sheer intelligence and so is this person creative? Is this person smart? Is this somebody who would work well on our teams? At that time when I worked at Microsoft, it was very similar. It was less structured, but it was more about trying to test for general intelligence and creative thinking, problem-solving and so giving scenarios where there are open-ended questions and it's about your creative thinking. So back in the day, we would ask crazy questions like How many stadiums were there? How do you estimate the number of sports stadiums in the United States? How would you think about doing that? The kind of things that you want back are some questions, clarifying questions like, Well, the first thing I would want to know is what do you mean by the stadium? Do you mean like, a high school stadium or are you talking about like, a professional sports stadium or are you talking about an arena like does that include hockey or just outdoor stadiums,? Then talking about like what assumptions you're going into and laying those out and then talking about your methodology for solving the problem, here's how I would tackle it, I would go and I would look at a few big cities and think about their population and think about what is the population density by stadium so that I could figure it out but would that really work because there are a lot of people who live in rural areas, and they don't have an even distribution of stadiums. So maybe it's about looking at larger cities. Anyway, I'm just explaining like getting into a dialogue where you're exploring your thinking and exposing that to the interviewer. I generally ask questions like that and like I don't know the answer to it, is okay sometimes but if it's a very open-ended question, we're looking for exploration and thinking I would go for it and ask clarifying questions until you feel comfortable.

What is a typical hiring process for a job like yours? What are the titles of people who interview? What questions usually get asked and how to handle them?

Based on experience at: Vice President Ads, Amazon
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
The hiring process for me, it's long for a vice president. I have to talk to people that are senior to me so typically, I would meet with a jump level person so somebody who is one or two levels above. I would talk to my direct manager there is usually an advocate though for me as if they've screened me as a candidate, they want me to come in, they've already set it up and they're hoping that the interview confirms that I'm going to get hired. So one thing to know as a candidate is that a lot of times like the team is rooting for you to get hired, they're not there to filter you out but they are trying to filter you in so having that mentality when you go in is really important. When I got hired at Amazon, I typically was interviewed by six people. They each had a set of questions that they wanted to ask me. HR was a part of it, my peers were there, manager and then a senior manager and the titles were things like the Senior Vice President, Vice presidents, the head of HR for Amazon and then peers so either directors or vice presidents and the questions that I got asked were all over the place literally things like tell me about your past and what I would do is have a story for everything that you might get asked, so just be prepared for those types of questions and go into it knowing that you're going to get asked about Why did you leave your last job? What was your relationship like with your manager when you left? What do you consider your biggest accomplishment? Tell me you're when you failed and what was it like when you failed things like that? I knew that I would get asked those questions, and I would go in prepared with at least a starting answer and you may get that question multiple times during the day but every time that you get asked those questions, you have to answer them as if it's a fresh question and bring the same enthusiasm to it. So not only are they looking at the answer to your question but I think they're looking at you from a behavior point of view like, Do I want to work with this person? Is this person able to answer questions in a clear way? Are they smart? So that's the other part of the interview, people are animals and they're going to judge you based on the way you present yourself.

What are different entry-level jobs and subsequent job pathways that can lead students to a position such as yours?

Based on experience at: Vice President Ads, Amazon
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
The first job I had out of high school was delivering pizza for domino's so that was my first job. I wanted to have money to go on dates and to go to movies and take people out so I got a job of delivering pizza but the first professional job I had, I was lucky because it was Microsoft and it was an entry-level developer job, and I loved it so much that I would have done it for free, it was a lot of fun. I like the people I work with and it was writing code, and that's what I had been doing so I think find a job that you really love and they'll pay you to do what you like to do and I know that's hard to do sometimes, I had a choice there were three different groups that were interested in me. One was Lockheed Martin and they are defense contractors, where I would wear a suit and I work in a cubicle, it was somewhere in Los Angeles and I thought I don't want to wear a suit at work whether I was stupid or not, I don't know, but that was one entry-level job. The second one was at a small company called Design Science that made I don't know if you've done in your coursework complicated formulas in windows, if you built complicated formula, like an integral sign so a company called Design Science made that product and they don't exist anymore. When I went to go interview with them, they had all of these chairs, like, stacked up in the corner and I was like, Why are all these chairs in the corner? And they said, Well, we let go all of our sales team because we just created a deal with Microsoft where we get a revenue share every time they sell a copy of windows so I thought, Well, that sounds awesome, but it sounds like the end of your company because like, what's the incentive to continue to grow or to invent new features? I thought, like, instead of working at design science, what if I worked at the place that bought them, and I just I called them. So one of the things you could do is sending in a resume you're going to have like we get 1,000,000 resumes in a day, everybody gets a 1,000,000 resume in a day. How do you differentiate yourself? You do it by talking about your creativity like what are you interested in? What other things do you do outside of work? Why should we hire you and what are you going to be good at? I talked to a mentor because I had written up a resume and it was terrible and he was like, you don't really have any experience, so instead of writing like an experience statement at the top about what you're good at, why don't you write a summary of what you want to do about, why you're an interesting person? I thought about it, and I was like, I really love creating software and building technology and solving problems with technology and interestingly enough Microsoft's whole business model was built on that so it resonated well with them. You can also do research and try to tailor yourself to that but I mean the entry-level jobs for me were all engineering jobs. There was also a product management job, an entry-level product manager, and I failed that interview completely. There are a lot of failures I would say and I have switched jobs quite a bit inside companies, and probably about every three years I look for a new job to do. When I first interviewed, you're just faced with a lot of failures, and that's okay, my strategy was always that I'm going interview with the companies that I don't really care about first so that I could really get into the mindset of interviewing well and so, like, I would go to these places and not really care that much about getting the job, but try to do really, really well in the interview so that they gave it to me anyway, knowing that I'm preparing myself for the job that I really want, and then I would schedule the one that I really wanted a little bit later so that by then I had already been exercising my interviewing muscles and was really good. So getting an entry-level job, I think it's tricky. There are a lot of candidates that are going to be hunting for the same jobs but I think differentiate yourself by your creativity and what you're going to bring and find something that you're really passionate about and then show them how passionate you are about it. So another thing that I did is I brought some software that I had built to the interview and I gave it to them. I had built a bunch of games and things like that and when I look back at it and it's embarrassing, but at that time people were like, Okay, this guy could do something, he's willing to go and try things like if you're going to get a job as a writer, give them some of your stories if you're going to get a job as an artist or a designer show them your designs and like what you can do. So don't be afraid to do more than your resume, try to show who you are.

What were the responsibilities and decisions that you handled at work? What major challenges did you face in your job?

Based on experience at: GM/Senior Engineering Director, Google
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
It really depends, I mean, 25 years is a long time to be doing work and so it changed quite a bit, depending on what era you're talking about. The decisions and scope of those decisions have changed generally, they went from, when you first start working, I think you end up with a smaller ability to make big dramatic changes because they don't know you that well and you don't know what you're talking about and that happens to me today. Like my SVP the other day was telling me, Well, you're the new guy, in advertising, It's like I've been here for two years. What does it take to be the the old guy or the experienced person? In the business that I'm in, maybe it's eight years or something like that. So your is the ability to make big decisions and is all about trust so I think earning trust is really important, and your responsibilities will follow that. Take the responsibility you have and try to parlay those into bigger and bigger challenges. The major challenges that I've had in my job are this one might sound strange, but it's like reinventing yourself, so convincing people that you could do something different and so I became really well known for being someone who could come in and execute and fix things but at some point, that's not useful and they want strategic thinker, they want somebody who's innovative, especially a senior person. I had to literally work on who I was and what I was good at and those were probably some of the biggest challenges that were inwardly facing. The stuff that I face in my job, it's a lot about where to spend my time, because they tend to be fairly chaotic things that have a lot going on so the major challenges are around, How do I move the mountain and not get stuck in a world of incrementality or small incremental changes? How do I really get the big thing to happen and not just focus on the small little things? and that's about time management and just having judgment. So those are the major challenges and it's funny because sometimes you look at it and you go, well, those are challenges for the job but really, they're challenges that are inside of you, like how to respond to the challenge because that craziness is going to happen without you so there are things that are going to happen in your job, which has nothing to do with you, and you can get caught up in them and you can take them personally or you can step back and have objectivity and say like, Hey, that's just craziness that's happening in this project. How should I respond to? It is really the only thing that I can control or how I think about the problem and what I do about it like I can't control other people, I can't make this go away so how do I cope with it myself? So reframing things, I think is a challenge, when you feel down or you feel tired or you feel like something's impossible. How do you reframe the problem in your mind so that you could take action on it and you can move forward? I'd say those are and it might sound abstract, but I think that's the best advice I can give is to really focus on how you respond to a problem and how you think about it.

What were the responsibilities and decisions that you handled at work? What major challenges did you face in your job?

Based on experience at: GM/Senior Engineering Director, Microsoft
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
As a general manager at Microsoft examples, there were somewhat similar I would say. I managed the team of probably about 300 or something people and in multiple different sites and I was still learning how to do that job. I would say my challenges were How do I scale myself? What are the techniques I would use in order to be able to communicate with people and let them know where I stood on something when I can't meet with them all individually? So earlier in my career, I meet with everybody and tell him what I thought and then, at some point realized like you can't meet with 300 people every week, you can't even meet with 300 people every year, if you met with everybody once a year you hit him all and then you're starting again. So you have to go to written communication, meetings, thinking about other techniques so that people can understand where you stand on something and then how do you enforce your decisions and goals like How do you build and place mechanisms that allow you to scale that because running around and trying to figure out whether all the right things were happening is also not possible. So you have to figure out, like, how do you get people in place that you can trust and get them to be thinking about looking around the corners and managing the team so I would say that was my learning there.

How did the school prepare you for your career? Think about faculty, resources, alumni, exposure & networking. What were the best parts?

Based on experience at: BS, Computer Science, University of Arizona
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
 I tried to focus on learning fundamentals, so taking a little bit of the harder path when I was there, writing a lot of software was what a part of their curriculum so you would write an operating system, you would write a user interface, you would write a 3D model, framework and so you would actually build an operating system, you build a user interface from scratch. I love that because now I fall back on that all the time like I know how things work, and I think that's really important. So if you can find classes where you can learn the fundamentals of like, how does a hash table work? How does an operating system switch processes? It's like those are things that you can gloss over, but they will come in handy later. I would say it was all about doing that and also just exploring everything, I took a very eclectic course because my dad was a professor there and so I took many random classes and I was just curious about learning so that's what they gave me, a degree but they also helped me to understand that I have a curiosity and passion for learning.

Would you like to share something that is not on your resume? This may include your passions, facing setbacks or adversities, a unique experience, or an unexpected help.

Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
I would say one thing that's not on my resume, I am an artist so I love to do painting and drawing. I am also interested in tech so I love to do things like working on a telescope, learning how to do astrophotography anywhere where I can kind of dive into hardcore tech with three-D printing things like that. I also write code all the time just for fun, I wrote a drawing program, a distributed drawing program so just like we're talking over VC, it allows you to do a drawing with people just like this so I could be drawing and thousands of people could see what I'm doing of course not thousands of people have used that program, but I thought it was an interesting way to learn how to use message queuing so I'm just curious about tech, and I'm always trying to learn new things. Having a bad manager, it's a pretty big setback so choose your managers well, and if you end up in a situation where you don't have a good relationship with your manager just know that the employee typically is the one that's going to move and not the boss so picking a fight with the boss is a bad idea. The good news is that I've had a lot of really great bosses but the ones that have been bad have been very bad and I've tried to move on quickly when that's happened. Also stay happy, when you're faced with some of these setbacks like, let's say you get fired or your boss doesn't value you the way that you believe you should be those things happen all the time. I think that the trick is like, How do you dust yourself off and get back on your feet as quickly as possible? Because any wasted time, that's your waste of time that's the time that you could have been spending getting another job. There's no reason to be unhappy about these setbacks, they happen, and sometimes it's business, sometimes it's chemistry there are lots of reasons why these things go badly but I would say like just don't let those things get in your way and focus on how you think about the problem and how you want to react to it and be positive and move forward.

Do you have any parting advice for students hoping to get to a position such as yours? What 3 dos and 3 don'ts would you suggest?

Based on experience at: Vice President Ads, Amazon
Summarized By: Jyotsana Gupta on Mon Mar 09 2020
Well, I think it takes a long time and a lot of luck to become successful at anything. I think it's 50-50, I would say that people are important, so who you know, what relationships, so that would be one of my do's, is to meet people, try to create relationships with them, try to nurture those them over time. Another one do is stay positive about the future and about yourself. You're your best advocate, nobody is going to help you as much as you help yourself. Nobody is going to talk about you as well as you talk about yourself then I guess a corollary to that would be like have a myth that you want to create about yourself and a myth is not a lie, it's a heroic tale where you are the hero and what I mean by that is like be able to express what you're good at, what you're not good at in a way that's positive towards you and try to tell that story to people so that they know what you're about. If you don't tell people that mythology, they're going to create up a story anyway, just like you do and I do. You meet somebody, you think you know what they're about, you think you understand them, but you don't really until they really tell you about who they are so, help fill people's minds with what you're good at and what you do when you talk to them, I think that that is a way for them to understand and help you in the future. Don'ts, the big don'ts, be positive, I think is a key one so that the anti of that is don't be a negative nelly at work like don't be negative. Look for solutions, don't be somebody that makes things complicated and be somebody who simplifies things that makes things more streamlined. Don't get into conflicts that are unnecessary like don't pick fights and cause trouble where you could solve it a different way, think of the long game. The long game is like the team is happy, the business is working and you think ahead like Okay, well, that's really what I'm focused on day to day I may run into problems with people, I may get into arguments, but I want to fix those quickly and apologize when you have to, make people inspired but be positive in thinking about the future, I think is one of my big do's and there are a lot of don'ts that are not worth even saying, but it's just that think about the long game.