A little more than 23 years ago, I was working at a bank when I got a call from a friend that would change my career. He told me to come work at a company called Amazon. I didn’t know much about it, and he wanted to know if I was interested in working on the help desk—an area I had no background in.
That would begin what would turn out to be a common theme over my now 23-year Amazon career: just saying yes.
I am currently a director, leading the Small Business Insights team. I have lived in Seattle and Luxembourg. I have held roles on the corporate help desk, deskside support, technical account management, and across the Customer Experience & Business Trends team—all without ever leaving Amazon.
I worked myself into each new role—almost never being familiar with or having a background in it. Sometimes, I enrolled in night classes, other times I peppered teammates with questions. Each time I took the learnings and skills I developed on the job and brought them with me to the next, even if I was unsure how they would apply.
Below are my top tips for making the most out of new opportunities, no matter how unfamiliar they may seem at first.
1.Learn new skills (even if you’re not sure how you might use them)
I have collected skills like someone else might collect shoes. Each time I was offered a new opportunity, it came at a time I didn’t expect it. I think that was because I have always focused on my current role, and gaining as many new skills as possible. You never know how they might be used down the line.
When I was in tech support, I focused on troubleshooting. That made me more curious and a better problem solver. When I got an opportunity to join the Customer Experience Business Insights team, I didn’t think my tech support skills would translate, but they were invaluable for identifying customer experience opportunities in digital products and services.
2.Learn a little from a lot of people
One mentor won’t have all of your answers. Instead, I have cultivated a network of many people for honest feedback and advice. I have never worked with smarter people in my life and everyone has their areas of strength. So, learning a little from as many people as possible can make you a much more well-rounded individual.
3.Just say yes
When I was offered my first role on the Customer Experience Business Insights team, I didn’t even know what it was. A former colleague on the team told me a tech support background would help, and I decided to take the plunge.
I didn’t worry about all the reasons—and there were plenty—that I wouldn’t be good at the role, or that I wasn’t ready. I just did it and focused on what a great chance I had in front of me to learn something new. I have never regretted that.
4.Work into your job, and be comfortable with feedback
Then there was the first doc I ever wrote. Amazon is known for its heavy writing culture where we narratively structure six-page memos instead of PowerPoint presentations to structure meetings. I had never written a six-pager before, and as a new member of the Customer Experience Business Insights team, this was going to be a focus of my new job.
When I got it back after an initial round of feedback, it was more red with markups than black. But I kept practicing, writing more and more, and learning from others’ feedback and support. I learned to write simply and concisely, getting to the point quickly without flowery language.
I questioned myself going into the role, asking if I could really do this. But I knew with practice and support, I would improve, and today I am a much better writer than I was before, which is the whole point and what has made my entire career so amazing—the chance to grow and be challenged all the time.
Learn more from leaders at Amazon:
- I'm an Amazon VP who's grown with the company for 12 years. Here are my top 5 leadership tips for managers.
- I’m an HR executive at Amazon. These are 5 lessons I’ve learned about leading successful, inclusive teams.
- I'm a leader on Amazon's Last Mile Delivery team. These are 6 lessons I've learned in my career.