Army to corporate world, Amazon veteran speaks of the transition
How has the transition from the uniform to the corporate world been? Did it seem tough at first?
Fortunately, the Indian Army prepares every individual with skills that prove to invaluable in the corporate world. Teamwork, leadership, logical thinking are some assets that were honed during my time with the Indian Army. Yes it was tough in the beginning. A lot of assumptions were made about veterans that can be good in specific cases but did not work for me. Paucity of mentors added to the problem.
The role you do, is very different from the role you probably had in the forces – can you explain the career progression, so others also know of it?
It is indeed very different I am from an Infantry Regiment which is the foot solider. The role didn’t involve a lot of technology but needed strong leadership qualities and real time assessment and execution in very tight timelines. I started with managing transport & logistics for a large company in Pune (India) but since I had an interest in data and statistics, I got my certification in Six Sigma and Lean. Post a successful project in transport in improving customer satisfaction, I moved into a full time role in the process excellence team. From there my career moved to consulting, working on variety of companies across domains and disciplines. The most enriching of roles has been the last 4 years at Amazon with the kind of learning I have received is just phenomenal.
Which is an incident in uniform that you will never forget?
During one of the operation we were up against the odds and I came up with a couple counter plans but they didn’t work and at that time one of the Sepoys (junior most rank in the Army) crawled up to me and said, "I have a suggestion sir". At that moment I wanted to turn him down without even offering to listen but something inside me stopped me and compelled me listen to his plan. As it turned out, he had a great idea and he could see on my face that I was impressed with the idea as that could get us all out of a near fatal situation. Once we were done with executing the operation and got back to barracks I gathered everyone to announce how this boy helped us all with his intelligence and how proud all of us were to have him in the team. That day I learnt one of the most important lessons of life - seek ideas from everyone as every team member has an equal potential to think out of the box. It’s just a matter of how do you encourage him/her.
I learnt one of the most important lessons of life in the Army - seek ideas from everyone as every team member has an equal potential to think out of the box. It’s just a matter of how do you encourage him/her.
What are the best practices that you bring from the Armed Forces to your team here?
I was simply amazed when I first saw the leadership principles Amazon had as they resonated so much with what I have learned in my Army days. The three best practices that are already part of leadership principle are a) Deep Dive – before every active operation we would go into every minutest detail as one miss could cost someone's life or limb b) Bias for action – no matter how much we want but all the details were either not available or we didn’t have the time to go through as time was at premium hence we had to take calculated risks and do course correct as we moved along c) Hire and develop the best – at all points in time in fact in every option we would clearly have identify leader who would take over in case I get hit which meant we train the next level leaders for all situation through discussions during planning and active ops.
Finally, how do you ensure that others who come from the forces fit in well in the Amazon culture?
Every time I meet who has either just joined Amazon or wants to join Amazon I ensure a) I have detailed conversations explaining the environment and our leadership principles. Discussing leadership principles helps them align better with the org. b) discuss Amazon's culture and how we behave like owners and a respectful challenge is appreciated here which encourages everyone to better solutions being suggested. c) explain how we work across leadership levels, developing the best. Also emphasize that the diversity we bring to the table as Veterans is appreciated. To this effect we have a worldwide veteran group where we all connect with each other across countries and cultures.