At Amazon, Tiffany Nida (HBS MBA 2012) leads a fifteen-person team in her current role as Senior Manager, Product Management, in one of the company’s frontier business segments, Amazon Transportation. Her five-and-a-half year tenure began, as it does for many Harvard MBAs, with an internship between her Required Curriculum and Elective Curriculum years.

“My hypothesis,” says Tiffany, “was that I’d enjoy it.” Having arrived at HBS with an interest in technology, she had hoped to find an environment in which she could apply her non-technology background to the pursuit of innovative technology developments. In one respect, however, her expectations were incorrect.

“I didn’t enjoy it,” she says. “I absolutely loved it. I had come from a consulting background where I was constantly blown away by the people around me. Amazon exceeded my high expectations; I was surrounded by high-caliber people. It’s a company that’s impatient on behalf of its customers. There’s a bias for action that doesn’t like the status quo, but is always looking for ways to innovate.”

The feelings must have been mutual. In July 2012, Tiffany began full-time employment in Amazon where, over the course of more than five years, she has had three different roles, each more challenging – and with greater responsibilities – than the last.

Deep support at every transition

Tiffany began as a senior vendor manager in Amazon’s grocery division. There, she had “P&L ownership from day one” for three product areas with tight margins: pet food, baby food, and beverages.

But with great responsibility came great support. “We got a couple weeks of intensive training, plus ongoing training” over the next eighteen months, Tiffany says. Further, she was paired with both peer and senior management mentors.

After a year-and-a-half, Tiffany was rotated into a new role within a product management team in Amazon Home Services. This time around, there was no formal training, but, Tiffany says, “I created opportunities for myself through external reading, and by finding new mentors.” Yet there remained “tons of internal support” from her company. She engaged in additional internal training authorized by senior management, and Amazon leadership ensured that Tiffany could find appropriate mentors, “even if they were outside my current network.”

Her current role came nearly two years later. “This transition came about from a mentor who has been extraordinarily proactive in my career,” Tiffany explains. “The scope of my new assignment challenged me to grow; I would manage a team of about fifteen people, more than I had ever managed before.”

This time, there was no training for the transition, but Tiffany was encouraged to apply the same entrepreneurial spirit to her development as she would bring to her management style. “I identified the areas I wanted to grow in,” she says, “then solicited mentors on how to manage larger teams.”

“I came over to Transportation for the leadership team and the opportunity,” says Tiffany. “It’s another start-up business in a space I love, where technology interacts with physical processes. We get to define the customer experience end-to-end. I can work globally to launch something big and impactful. Here, I continue to grow because they keep giving me responsibility.”

Reflections on the right fit

Surveying her career at Amazon to date, Tiffany believes she has found “a special place” that’s particularly suited to her ambitions. “They encourage people to move around a lot, both functionally and across different lines,” she says. “Amazon wants leaders to be experienced in many issues, within both start-up and established businesses.”

Further, she notes that, “They know how to accommodate MBAs in this environment. Amazon has formal programs, and cohorts for training and mentorship - a group that watches your career and the milestones you should be reaching.”

Most importantly, Amazon has “an environment in which ‘general athletes’ can succeed. We switch hats a lot, and we’re cross-functional owners - that’s why my MBA is so effective here.”

To MBAs who wish to “move up and around” within their organizations, Tiffany concludes her observations with practical advice. “Articulate what you want to accomplish and what you need from your company to make it happen. Framing your requests is the hard part: you want to make your needs actionable by the people you’re talking to.”

For employers who wish to recruit and retain HBS MBAs, Tiffany believes that Amazon can serve as a model for effective professional development. As a metrics-driven organization that gives leaders “tons of ownership,” managers “can see their critical KPIs every day. I love it – I get to see the impact of my work every day. It’s all fair; you’re not measured on things you can’t control. The things you can control, drive you.”