The tech giants have been rivalling traditional employers such as investment banks. Only consultancies hired more MBA graduates than Amazon at London Business School and Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in California last year, the Financial Times (FT) reported.

Amazon was the biggest recruiter of MBAs at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business (US) in 2016.

Miriam Park, a Master’s in Management graduate from MIT Sloan School of Management (US), is director of university programmes recruitment at Amazon. Her team last year hired MBA graduates “in the high hundreds” across the world. She declines to give a precise figure, but says the number of new entrants at MBA level was about 30% higher than the previous 12 months. She said she does not expect the growth rate to slow down any time soon.

Starting salaries at Amazon range from USD 137,000 for a programme manager to USD 180,000 for a senior product manager, including signing bonuses, according to Transparent Career, a tech company that aggregates self-reported data in first jobs from recent MBA graduates. This compares with an average for consultancy positions of USD 165,000, and USD 170,000 for those taking jobs at investment banks. Ms Park says:

What we find with the MBAs is that they want to create, they want to build and they want to take risks. They’re fairly adaptable, they have a high level of what I would call ability to deal with ambiguity. Couple that with MBAs who have a great analytical bent and it’s the perfect pipeline.

Such skills are prized at Amazon, according to Ms Park. Amazon does something called working backwards from the customer. This requires people who are good at analysing.

The retailer appeals to MBAs over other recruiters, according to Ms Park, because of the extent of its global reach, with ecommerce operations in 11 countries and customers in 185 nations.

Amazon’s interest in MBAs is partly a reflection of its evolution from a 1990s dotcom start-up into one of the world’s largest companies by market capitalisation. As such it needs people who can develop strategy, manage project teams and create new services. But its size today attracts criticism. Amazon has adopted an MBA graduate hiring model in the same mould as banks and consultancies, according to Bhavik Trivedi, managing partner at Critical Square, an applicant advisory service.

They bring in highly talented people, churn and burn them in two to four years, and keep the cycle going, Mr Trivedi says. Some will stay and rise. The rest will be replaced.

Ms Park rejects the suggestion that Amazon does not care about developing new hires, noting that the company operates several fast-track management development schemes, such as its Pathways programme, which prepare MBA graduates for general manager, director and vice-president roles.

Hiring MBA talent is a natural next stage in the development of Amazon, which is as much concerned about improving large-scale logistics for delivery from its ecommerce site today as it is in finding analysts to develop new services, according to Ms Park.

Amazon also has fans, such as Susan Cera, a director of Stratus Admissions Counseling. A big attraction of Amazon to MBA students, she says, is that it combines a start-up mentality in developing new online services with the security of a multinational business. This means that a new hire can hope to work there long enough to pay off their college debt. Ms Cera says:

Amazon is constantly entering new markets, which provides opportunities for a newly minted MBA to learn about being an entrepreneur in a low-risk environment with established infrastructure and support systems in place.

Most MBAs we counsel don’t view Amazon as a pure tech company because much of Amazon’s success is due to smart financial management, she adds.

Source: The Financial Times