photo of Marco Cagna

The MBA from the eyes of a hiring manager at Amazon Web Services

By Betsy Ream

Whether you see your MBA as a step toward switching careers or moving up a rung or two in the field that already fuels your passion, the job you land after graduation is one tangible measure of the return on your investment of effort, time and money. To put that ROI in perspective, 2019 Berkeley Haas grads earn a median starting salary of $140,000.

The posts in this occasional series highlight some of the employers who benefit from graduates of Berkeley Haas and share insights into the skills and traits those companies look for when interviewing for interns and MBA hires. 

“In terms of tech jobs, we have seen the center of gravity moving north from Silicon Valley, and Berkeley Haas graduates have definitely benefited from this,” notes Abby Scott, assistant dean, MBA Career Management Services and Corporate Partnerships. “They have had greater access to some of the larger technology employers and to smaller start-ups for more frequent coffee chats and company visits.”

Here, we feature Amazon Web Services (AWS), a world leader in the cloud-platform space. Marco Cagna, MBA 16, a principal PMT-ES (product manager, technical–External Services) with AWS, spends his days working on AWS Global Accelerator, a service that improves global application availability and performance for customers using the AWS global network. He has an important side gig hiring future interns and employees among current Berkeley Haas MBA students. We asked Marco a few questions about his experience and how he looks at recruitment.

Answers have been condensed for brevity and clarity.

What does AWS look for when recruiting MBA candidates?

The Amazon Leadership Principles help us make decisions every day at Amazon, and we specifically use them when we interview candidates. We want to ensure everyone we hire understands that every decision we make starts with the customer and then works backwards. Ownership is another leadership principle we focus on during interviews. We look for people who can take ownership from day one, who not only can find problems, but fix them as well. Another trait we look for in MBA candidates is their ability to invent and simplify. This principle relates to the kind of design thinking encouraged at Berkeley Haas.

In many ways the Haas Defining Leadership Principles overlap with the Amazon Leadership Principles. Learn and Be Curious, for example, is much like being a Student Always. It is very fulfilling to interview students when they are able to cite examples that are relevant to the leadership principles at both Amazon and Berkeley Haas. I’ve noticed for internship positions, Berkeley Haas students are very well prepared for their interviews. They come in with a good degree of confidence but are not overly confident. This is consistent with having Confidence Without Attitude.

What makes an MBA candidate stand out from the crowd?

When we look for candidates, specifically for PMTs and other technical positions, we know these roles require a STEM background, either academic—for example, a degree in engineering or computer science—or relevant job experience in technology. And then we layer on the skills that all tech and non-tech product managers need including rigorous analytic skills, problem solving abilities, good communication, and leadership skills.

The farther you progress in the interviewing process, the more important it is to demonstrate that you can dive deep into a topic. We look for people who can tell stories and give pertinent examples that speak to the Amazon Leadership Principles, as well as other job requirements. We want to know how comfortable a candidate is with analyzing ambiguous problems with a structured approach.

What specific roles do Amazon and AWS, specifically, recruit for in which an MBA is essential?

Amazon recruits MBA students to a wide variety of roles across the company including program management, product management, and product management technical—as well as leadership development programs in Finance, Operations, and Retail.

In AWS, we continue to expand the opportunities offered to MBAs. This fall we introduced a new role option specific to AWS— product manager, technical-External Services—which partners exclusively with AWS’ external customers and is actually my current role.

When does AWS recruit at Berkeley Haas?

Teams are on campus in the fall to give information sessions and meet with students. Interviews for full-time positions for second-year students  kick off in the fall and run through early spring. Our fall visits give students the opportunity to think about different jobs and companies before interviewing for summer internship positions in January and February. 

We’re also involved with Berkeley Haas much more broadly beyond the recruiting cycle. Amazon sponsored the 2018 Haas Tech Challenge, and I was pleased to be involved in organizing the event. It was a terrific way to get to know some of the students better, and I am really happy to give back to the school that has been so much a part of my career development. 

There also are a number of Berkeley Haas grads at both AWS and Amazon overall. I myself was recruited by one: Alex Dunlap, MBA 07. The idea of going Beyond Yourself, another Haas Defining Leadership Principle, is common among the alums I know here at Amazon and among my classmates. That feeling of community is another important aspect of the ROI of an MBA from Berkeley Haas.

Read more about the Berkeley Haas career advantage

Read more from the From the eyes of a hiring manager series:

Topics: Product Management  |   Career
Betsy Ream
Betsy is Associate Director of Employer Relations in the Haas MBA Career Management Group. She has nearly 15 years of experience in the MBA world as an MBA recruiter with Booz Allen Hamilton and a career services professional at Haas advising employers on building their brand on campus, how best to connect with students and leveraging their alumni engagement. She also enjoys the student facing aspect of her job in helping students navigate the increasingly networked job search we see in today’s technology space.