After 14 years working in education, Mary Kate found herself at a career crossroads. She had always maintained at least two jobs to provide financial stability, but when she suddenly lost her main source of income, she was in uncharted territory. “I’d never not had a job. I was lucky to have some money saved up, so I wasn’t in a bad place, but I knew that money would eventually run out.”
At the time, all she could see were challenges as she looked for new jobs in Texas. But as she drove along Interstate 35 near San Marcos, a city between Austin and San Antonio, what she didn’t anticipate was that unemployment would lead to a career change—and less worry about her health care options and costs.
“I was driving down 35 while out dropping off resumes and doing interviews when I heard a commercial for Amazon,” Mary Kate said. “They were hiring in San Marcos, I was just two or three exits away. I went down, I walked into the hiring event, and I was pretty much hired on the spot.”
A fresh start and a new job at Amazon
Ahead of her first day, Mary Kate attended an orientation where she learned more about the job. She was happy to learn her pay would be higher than what she’d earned while teaching. But what really caught her attention were the health care benefits—far better than she’d had before. She knew her father would be excited to hear about those.
“Right after the orientation, I called my dad and I said, ‘You're not going to believe the benefits,’” she said. “I remember hearing him laughing and getting choked up a little bit. And it was at that moment when I realized that my dad was really worried about me, and he had been ever since I was off of their insurance. Amazon was able to bring peace of mind to my dad, and also to me.”
Before Amazon, Mary Kate made $10.10 an hour and worked two jobs. In 2018, Amazon announced a national starting wage of at least $15 an hour. In Texas, more than 3.5 million people earn less than $15 an hour.
Five years into her career at Amazon, Mary Kate said the benefits still provide peace of mind to both her and her family.
“Before Amazon, I had insurance but I couldn’t really afford it—I used to have to really think about it if I wanted to go to the doctor,” Mary Kate said.
“My benefits have allowed me to live better,” she added. “I've been able to seek treatment for a problem that I have had for a good 15 years but wasn't able to do anything about it because I didn't have the insurance. I also make enough money now to pay for a co-pay—though the insurance is so good that I don't even have one most of the time.”
While she’s at Amazon, Mary Kate enjoys the work she does, as well as the people she works with.
“It is hard work, but I think there has to be a certain amount of challenge to make a job rewarding,” she said. “I’m always delighted to walk into that building, because over my five years, I've made some very good friends and I'm always excited to see them. Every time I walk in and hear the sound of the conveyers, I think, ‘I love this place.’”
Flexibility and hope for the future
Mary Kate is also enjoying a better work-life balance because of her security and stability at Amazon, something she didn’t have much of before she started at Amazon.
“I was just thinking about how this is the first time in my life where I’ve only had to have one job,” she said. “I used to teach and babysit on the side, and I didn’t have a work-life balance. My favorite thing about Amazon, is that when I clock out, Amazon's fine. No one's going to call me, and no one expects me to work overtime without pay.”
Spending less time focused on work means Mary Kate has more time to focus on her first love—dance.
“When I dance, the world melts away,” she said “I go into that studio and it's just me in the movement and my body. Working at Amazon has allowed me to come back to dance because I actually have time to do it. I don’t feel guilty about dancing and taking time for myself.”
She’s also considering exploring additional benefits offered by Amazon now that her role offers more resources and free time outside of work.
“Amazon just announced that they're paying for 100% of a bachelor's degree,” she said. “I already have a bachelor's degree, but I was thinking maybe I should go back and learn something new. It's free, why not?”
Things are certainly different for Mary Kate than they were just five years ago, and she looks forward to continuing her career journey at Amazon.
“My future is bright,” she said. “All I wanted was a job. I wasn't expecting benefits. I wasn't expecting friendships. I feel like I am respected, I'm safe, and I look forward to moving up.”