EDUCATIONUndergraduate: The University of Georgia
Graduate School: Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management
MLT PROGRAMSCareer Prep 2010, MBA Prep 2015, MBA PD 2016
The Seminar of Serendipity: An Interview with Amazon’s Andrea Giraudo
by: Day Rankin
Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) hosted its Career Prep (CP) Fall Seminar in October 2022. Back by popular demand, it was one of the first in-person CP events since the Coronavirus pandemic. More than 700 Fellows from 200 universities across the country gathered in Minneapolis to build connections and gain career inspiration.
While this may have been the Fellows’ first time feeling the magic of MLT, it was a full-circle moment for Andrea Giraudo. The three-time Alumna represented Amazon in a fireside chat, where she spoke about imposter syndrome and the power of risk-taking. We sat down with Andrea to recap her experience as someone who’s been on both sides of the seminar, as a listener and a leader.
MLT: Thank you for joining me to talk about your experiences with Amazon and MLT. We just wrapped up the Career Prep Fall Seminar, where you were a panelist. I've heard from many MLT staff members, and also the Fellows that were in attendance, about how magical your session was. Since you were once a CP Fellow, how was this experience for you now as an Alum representing Amazon?
Andrea: Wow- it was incredible to be on the other side and crazy to be back at a Career Prep event years later, and see the sheer number of students that are now in CP. It was very serendipitous that the event was in Minneapolis because the internship I got with CP was with Target, which is headquartered there. I remember being in the audience, hearing panelists, and trying to interact with different companies to get that internship. I also grew up in St. Paul, Minneapolis, so it was kind of fun to bring it full circle, for sure.
It definitely seems like you’ve come full circle. What was your favorite part about attending and speaking at the seminar?
Being on stage was so fun actually- I simultaneously felt vulnerable and super comfortable. I thought I'd be nervous, but I wasn't. MLT creates such an atmosphere, not only of family, but of support. It’s because everybody wants each other to do well and win.
I was there for the whole day, so I also spent time in the different sessions and networking events. It was touching to have so many students walk up and say they resonated with my message and my story. It was cool to have that in-person connection, not only because we're in this COVID world, but also to hear students say things like, "Wow. If you can do it, I can do it.”
I like to think that some of them are more empowered at this point in their careers to take risks. I'm not going to take all that credit, but I do hope that hearing from somebody with a very similar background who took risks and succeeded will inspire some Fellows.
That’s wonderful! Since this is a full circle moment, I want to start at the beginning of your journey – back in 2009, at the University of Georgia. How did you discover MLT, and what made you apply to Career Prep?
At that time, MLT was doing weekend seminars in New York City for college freshmen and sophomores. Two of my best friends had gone to the freshman weekend seminar and told me about it, then encouraged me to go sophomore year. So I went to a weekend seminar the following year, and we ended up all doing CP together- it was awesome. That first weekend seminar truly planted the seed.
MLT was something that I wanted to always be a part of my life. There was never a, "Oh, I don't know if I'm going to apply to MBA Prep or MBA PD after I do CP." I knew I was going to leverage every opportunity MLT offered.
After your first internship in Minneapolis at Target, you went off to New York City to work in the fashion industry. Since then, you’ve had some pretty cool jobs- from working at magazines to popular brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Macy's, and now Amazon. Did you always know you wanted to work in the fashion industry? Where did that passion come from and how did you get there?
In undergrad, I remember having an interest in fashion and I can't tell you what spurred that. My mom sewed some of my clothes growing up and my grandmother was a trained seamstress, so they may have planted that seed early on. I always loved flipping through magazines, but I can't remember the exact moment where I was like, "Oh, I'm going to get a degree in this." I got a triple major in international business, marketing, and fashion merchandising. During undergrad, I went to study abroad in Florence and took fashion marketing classes. MLT taught me to pursue as many diverse experiences as I could to build my brand and story.
Thanks to MLT, I knew how important it was to secure internships. Target was my first big brand and training opportunity. The next summer, after my junior year, I cold-called and emailed 20 different firms in New York and Dolce & Gabbana got back to me and offered me an internship. Then my mentor, who I met through the MLT network, gave me another internship that same summer.
Since those were unpaid, I worked at Gap because I thought it was important to have the full funnel experience. I wanted to understand how the fashion industry works at a corporate level, but also what it’s like on the ground, selling to people face to face in stores. Retail employees don’t get enough credit for how hard it can be. When you work in the corporate world, it's easy to lose touch with the end customer and the end product.
After graduating, I went back to New York because I felt like that was still the hardest challenge. My first full-time job was at Macy's, where I started in a buying role with the company. I started to realize that it wasn’t what I loved so I decided to try to keep building upon my passion for creative marketing and find roles that aligned.
I also knew that I wanted to go to business school, so I started to build my career to prepare for this. I had to build up enough experience to be an eligible, interesting candidate, and do MBA Prep with MLT.
What led you to Amazon? What about the company made you say, “this is it?”
When I was in grad school, Amazon wasn’t immediately on my radar. That said, I still interviewed with them amongst other tech firms and secured their summer internship offer. Out of complete curiosity, I simultaneously applied for their European internship based in Luxembourg. I was deciding between Amazon and Microsoft because I was trying to get true tech experience and add a big tech firm to my resume.
And then Amazon called me one day saying, "Hey, do you want to come to Europe for your internship?" As a grad school student, that's hard to say no to- that's incredibly exciting! Ultimately, I decided to take that chance.
I started my journey with Amazon on a team totally unrelated to what I do today. I was a Product Management intern on the automotive team and my project was to come up with a better way for customers to buy auto parts on Amazon. It was very out of left field for me, and a unique experience.
When networking with people, they all recommended I go to Seattle, “do some time at the mothership," as they call it. I transferred my Amazon Luxembourg offer to Seattle after graduation and started in their retail leadership development program, which is geared specifically for MBA grads.
Today, you take on multiple projects including developing ad strategies specifically for Amazon's Spanish-speaking audience. You're also a hiring bar raiser, ensuring Amazon hires more underrepresented talent and is more inclusive. At this point in your career, how are you thinking about DEI? How important is it to you in this role and any others that you may pursue?
I'm an account executive on the Amazon Ads team, primarily for our Spanish-speaking customers in the US. As somebody from the Latino community, it was extremely important to gain this experience. For the first time ever, I get to help brands include Spanish ads in their strategies and care about this growing population in the US. Amazon is taking steps to be more inclusive, which includes translating their website into Spanish to better reach this customer base.
I've realized that even on my worst days, I'm still doing something that's pretty historic, at least in Amazon's context. This work is interesting and something I care deeply about- I’m able to have a lot of hard conversations with brands about why representation matters and who is directly impacted. Organizations have a lot of bias that I’ve had to be ready to address. It's been the most character-developing role for me, and I've had to grow a much thicker skin. There are regularly hard challenges but I value the growth opportunities.
In the future, I would love to continue in a role with multicultural marketing or brand strategy. I don't know how quickly I'll be able to get a role in that, but I'm hoping that this experience helps me get closer.
Wherever I end up, I also want to be part of the hiring process to make sure my organization is removing bias and being as inclusive as possible- that's important. Lastly, and I've joked about this with staff members at MLT, but I would love to someday become an MLT coach. Who knows, maybe later in my career I can do that full-time. Being a part of MLT is something I don't see going away in terms of what makes me happy.
Don’t let MLT HR hear that, they’ll try to convince you to become a coach sooner I bet! During your fireside chat at the CP seminar, you dropped some major gems. Can you share one final piece of advice for early career professionals moving through their own journeys?
This is for college students trying to find a job now as we enter a recession. It's going to sound cheesy, but: try to control what you can and prepare for the things that you cannot. We cannot control if a company is freezing all their job postings. You can control and ensure that your resume is up to date, that you’re practicing your story, networking continuously, and finding a mentor. Reach out to people for the sake of creating a connection because you never know when things will change. And you want to be a name that people remember.
Specifically for the CP Fellows, I beg them to not make decisions based on fear. There may be concerns that an opportunity isn’t going to work out, or they're not going to be able to pay for something, or that they might disappoint somebody at home. This is your time to take those risks. Your career can be very long so you’ll have many chances to reinvent yourself.
So, go take those risks, lean into your passion, start that side hustle, whatever it might be. You have time to continue to build new skills and really develop your personal brand in the workplace.
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Published in 2022