If you’ve been following the news you’ve probably heard or read the NY Times piece on Amazon’s workplace culture. If you’ve followed Amazon over the years you’ve probably read about the working conditions in some of their factories. While we all may have differing opinions on the depth and breadth of these claims (see past employee accounts such as this, this and this) I think anyone with a heart probably cringed hearing about a company that would tolerate such issues. If after reading the article, you asked yourself, “Why would anyone want to work there?” you probably weren’t alone.
The reality is that many people do want to work there, especially many MBA students. Amazon has been consistently ranked as one of the most desirable companies amongst MBA students, butting heads with the likes of the consulting firms, investment banks and blue chip tech firms such as Google and Apple. Similarly, as Poets and Quants points out they have ramped up their hiring of MBA students and graduates to a significant level. The University of Michigan (Ross) sent 27 students there, INSEAD sent 39, and a handful of my own classmates made the jump to the world’s largest retailer.
As an MBA student, you’ll be evaluating and interviewing with companies in the recruiting process. You’ll be analyzing and reviewing organizations in the classroom. And in the future, you might even be responsible for hiring, managing, and contributing to the company culture. What is important about the NY Times Amazon story is not that it took down Amazon (the allegations and claims in the story are not new) but perhaps the issues that it brought to light.
Great things require great sacrifice – There are a lot of reasons why working at Amazon could be a great opportunity for your career. It’s a major retailer, touches millions of people, and has a central role in the world of business and commerce. Working for Amazon could give you the opportunity to be a part of something transformational and impactful. These things however do not come free . There are thousands of people who have worked tirelessly to make Amazon what it is today. Everything at Amazon is done for the customer, and sacrifices are regularly made for customer happiness Furthermore, nothing comes without sacrifice. As the article detailed, people had to give up significant things in order to continue working at Amazon. So while working for a brand name company like an Amazon, Google, or consulting and investment banking firm can sound intriguing and prestigious it also comes with a price tag. The question for each individual is if they are willing to pay it.
Work-Life Balance is a personal issue – There are a lot of opinions on the concept of work-life balance. Furthermore, companies recently have been moving in the direction of providing additional benefits and perks to help their employees manage their personal lives. While having successful careers. While many of these perks are still too new to fully know their impact and benefit (no pun intended) one thing is clear – You’ll need to decide for yourself, and as to what work-life balance means to you, and how important it ranks in your life. Some industries are known for being tough for work-life balance (ex: consulting and banking) while others tend to be more friendly towards it. Furthermore, this issue may evolve for you over time, as you move from different stages in your life.
One person doesn’t represent a company, and a company doesn’t represent one person – The NY Times did a good job of finding people who had horrific experiences at Amazon. Meanwhile, Nick Ciubotariu, the Amazon employee who penned his rebuttal to the NY Times couldn’t seem to believe that this could occur within the walls of the exact same organization. It’s important to remember that one person doesn’t represent a company, and a company is not representative of one person. They are also not mutually exclusive – in a company of 180,000, its highly probable that there are thousands of people who like the company and thousands who don’t. What it does mean is that the group, team or pod that you are in can make a big difference of whether or not you’ll have a good experience, which makes things like networking, building relationships and working well with others even more critical.
Tech Firms are not all fun and games – In some ways, tech firms have been glorified to be fun places where people can play all day, get great perks, do a little work and then walk home with millions of dollars. While some tech startups have done very well, the reality is that many startups fail or never take off. Furthermore, the tech startups that do become successful (Amazon is sometimes referred to as the biggest tech startup) behind the glamour and press is a significant amount of blood, sweat and tears. Building a company from the ground up is hard work, and while its great to hear about the successes and positive news we sometimes forget about the pitfalls, failures and darker side of the struggle.
While the NY Times story is about Amazon, it’s reasonable to believe that these things happen at other companies, particularly, ones that hire elite white collar workers (i.e – companies that hire MBAs) While many will debate about whether Amazon is right or wrong in its ways, what’s important for MBA students, future business leaders, and entrepreneurs is thinking about the type of workplace culture they want to enter and what company will enable them to maximize their goals and priorities. For some, Amazon might be the place, for others, it won’t be, but the important lesson here is knowing what you want out of a job and a company and what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to get what you want.