Amazon is currently hosting many service members through the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program. Over the next few weeks, we will feature many of these service members on this blog. First up is Aaron Guaderrama, a transitioning Army Officer who is currently working on a fulfillment center maintenance team.
Q: What are the biggest similarities and differences between your military career in the Army and the work you are doing today as a corporate fellow at Amazon?
A: It’s actually very interesting that a lot of the folks on my team are Navy, Coast Guard, Army, and Marine veterans. Most of the managers I work with regularly retired from the Army or the Marines. A lot of the values instilled into service members are reflected in the Amazon leadership principles. I appreciate that leaders in both organizations aren’t afraid to get down to the lowest level to get a better understanding of how their decisions affect everyone. The biggest difference is the mission focus. Amazon serves the customer and delivers packages. In the military, our product is sustained readiness to deploy and defend the country.
Q: Why did you decide to join the military? How long did you serve for and where?
A: I was a freshman in high school when 9/11 happened. That event was a turning point for me in deciding to serve. Three years later, I was applying for colleges and got an acceptance letter from West Point. I was commissioned as an Armor Officer in the U.S. Army in 2009 and later changed career paths into the Civil Affairs Branch. Over the last eight years, I’ve served in Fort Hood, Iraq, Fort Bragg, and now here in Western Washington at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Q: What do you do as a corporate fellow with Amazon?
A: I’m working with the maintenance teams at the fulfillment center in DuPont, WA. Over the course of the fellowship, I’ve been learning about what it takes to maintain the equipment that helps get every customer their packages. I’m also working with Amazon Pantry to help standardize processes for their team. There is a lot of expertise here that we want to capture and maintain.
Q: What skills or experiences have you picked up in the military that help you in your current role?
A: A lot! In the military and at Amazon, leading teams and organizing projects is key. A lot of the organizational skills that I have picked up from leading and planning operations really help me in the fellowship today. Both organizations really focus on constant improvement through gathering metrics and requisite information.
Q: What are the biggest challenges involved in making the transition from military service to civilian life? What advice do you have for other transitioning service members?
A: Understanding the point-of-view of civilian hiring managers is huge. Coming out of the military, you have a lot of experience, and you might assume everyone knows what that is but they don’t! If I said I was a platoon leader in charge of four Bradley fighting vehicles and 10 Humvees, and we did maneuver operations, that doesn’t really make sense to anyone outside of the military. You need to boil it down to language that more people understand. I would translate my experience by saying that I managed operations and planned and executed projects. Also, I would tell other transitioning service members not to be afraid of accepting help. There are a lot of programs helping veterans transition these days - don’t be afraid to reach out to those resources.