I started my career in the U.S. Army in 2016 and worked as a transportation management coordinator in Orlando, Florida, while attending Polk State College. My role in the Army was very similar to my role at Amazon today. I facilitated and supervised the movement of cargo and personnel by air, sea, land, and railway.

When I learned Amazon was hiring at their Air Hub in Lakeland, Florida, my hometown, I was excited at the opportunity to learn and grow within the company. I was hired in 2021 as an entry-level employee to sort packages on their way from the air hub to line-haul trucks and eventually to customer doorsteps. But I had my heart and mind set on becoming a manager.

Recognizing the people and skills behind Amazon’s technical roles on National Skilled Trades Day.

I learned about Amazon’s university recruitment program online, applied, and was accepted. I was about to become an Amazon area manager responsible for managing a team of employees. Now what?

Based on research and feedback from employees, Amazon recently launched Leadership Liftoff, a new onboarding program specifically for area managers who are new to the company or new to management. I was one of the first new managers to take part in the program. Over seven weeks, our team of area managers did not manage direct reports. Instead, we focused on learning the skills necessary to build needed capabilities, retain talent, and foster lasting connections to Amazon and with each other.

An Amazon employee goes through Leadership Liftoff training.
Cedric Harris receives his graduation pin and swag bag at the Leadership Liftoff graduation ceremony.

Amazon's Leadership Liftoff uses four phases of sequential learning to transition new leaders from onboarding to learning, with key milestones and moments that matter. Here’s a snapshot of what the seven-week program looks like:

Phase one: It’s always Day One

During our first week, Leadership Liftoff brought me and a few hundred new area managers to Seattle for a face-to-face learning experience. We were broken down into smaller groups to learn about Amazon’s history, peculiar culture, and leadership principles. The atmosphere was encouraging, and being a part of a group made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

An Amazon employee goes through Leadership Liftoff training.
Cedric Harris poses with fellow Leadership Liftoff participant Hal Rutter Blasdell.

Phase two: Learn the associate experience

After our first week in Seattle, we returned to our respective sites to experience the roles of the employees we were to manage. This week of learning helped us to fully understand the employee experience and roles.

Phase three: Become proficient in operations

Over the next four weeks, we continued to stay connected to our cohort through social channels like Chime and Slack. We were able to dive into our Operations training on site and learn more about Amazon's core fundamentals: safety, employee experience, and operational excellence. For example, the team prioritizes safety during Leadership Liftoff with a new Safety Operations Annual Refresher program using realistic, scenario-based training to evaluate and enhance safety leadership competencies.

Join Learning Area Manager Hassan Davis for a peek inside an Amazon fulfillment center in San Marcos, Texas, and then find out how to tour a facility near you.

Phase four: Ready for liftoff!

Our final week brought us back to Seattle where we were able to share our experiences and role play through situational leadership in a safe place, free from judgement.

I returned to my site, ready to lead a team and equipped with the skills I needed to be successful. This program taught me how to engage with employees, how to develop them, and how to have the sometimes-necessary tough conversations.

I learned about empathy and built life-long connections with other area managers. This program has also showed me the investment Amazon makes to develop a great leader and inspire confidence, competence, and connectedness.

Learn more about Amazon’s Upskilling programs.