Recently, I have had the pleasure of speaking with Akera, one of Day One Careers Alumni who has just accepted an offer with AWS in their Learning & Development team. There are two reasons why I found Akera's story inspirational. First, she managed to break into Big Tech with a purely non-technical background. Second, with this job offer, Akera will be re-entering paid employment after four years of being a stay-at-home parent. I hope that other candidates who may be in similar situations will find her story motivating.
You can listen to the full interview here. Below, I will offer some of the key insights that we picked up from Akera's story.
Akera's professional background and decision to re-enter paid employment
Akera came from a non-tech field. She had a background in learning and development, a field she had been in for over 10 years. Her starting point was in associations and non-profits in Washington DC, where she worked as an education manager for various organisations.
Due to her husband being in the military, Akera had to relocate a few times together with her family. After three years in Japan, she returned to the US and joined the workforce as an education manager. She was in this position for 2 years before having to move again.
When the family moved to Virginia Beach, she decided to take a break from paid employment and become a mom of two children. The plan, however, was always to get back into the industry - the question is where and how.
Once her husband was relocated to Washington DC, she started looking for jobs online. She was not necessarily looking for jobs in Tech, but an AWS role that was a 100% fit to her profile sparked her interest. After getting to know what AWS offers regarding professional development and the 2025 vision to educate people globally, she was drawn to the post and submitted her application. Akera was not hoping to receive an invite to a job interview due to her non-tech background, but Amazon responded with a quick invite, and she started preparing for the interview.
Akera's Amazon interview preparation routine
After being invited for an interview, Akeraspoke to her peer group and realised that she had to put a lot of work into preparing for her interview with Amazon; at first, she panicked when she learnt that the interviews were long and had a lot of people interviewing her. As Akera researched more on interviewing with Amazon, she came across Day One Careers.
She decided to invest in Day One Careers preparation courses. She concluded that they would be useful in preparing for any future interviews in Big Tech even if this Amazon process was not successful.
Akera also believed that the content could help her husband when he leaves the military. The course goes beyond Amazon's Leadership Principles and helps one use the STAR method to convey information effectively.
First, Akera started training with the STAR Method Bootcamp to figure out how to answer any behavioural interview questions.
She then went through the Amazon Interview Bootcamp to understand Amazon's 14 Leadership Principles in-depth. Finally, Akera started writing out her situations in the STAR format after going through each LP lecture to avoid wasting time.
This was a challenging process, given that she had been a stay home mom for 4 years. She had to think hard to remember her contributions in previous roles and her previous accomplishments so that they relate to what she was preparing for (this is the case with most individuals; that is why work journals are a good idea).
Akera wrote scripts for each example or story and used the scripts to rehearse and practice to listen to herself. For each scenario, she made bullet points that she could refer to before the interview so that she didn’t have to read the entire script.
She gave herself a pep talk and reminded herself of all the work she had put into the preparation, and told herself that she had done the best she could.
It's time to interview with Amazon - Akera's method
Akera started her interviews nervous, but her confidence increased over time. When asked a question, she wrote the question down (after asking if the person interviewing her was ok with that) then took a glance at her notes to ensure that she was staying on track.
She managed to offer precise STAR responses to all questions. In addition, she was confident to handle follow-up questions from the top of her head as she had spent a lot of time rehearsing and preparing.
The interview process wasn’t as tense as one would think based on some of the information online. Akera thought that each interview would have one person, but, in some cases, a second person - and interview shadow - would come and join.
The next day, she received an offer and will be joining AWS.
Other interesting Amazon interview insights and tips from Akera's story
- The process showed her that one has to take the preparation seriously; it is not something one will wing or go into without preparing.
- Knowing that the interview will be 5 hours long with 5 different people can be nerve-racking, but once you start planning, you realise that you will be fine as long as you have sufficient resources.
- While prep is important, little things like personality, being present and showing that you are prepared also contribute to a successful interview.
- Online, you can come across some ready-made answers, and if you use those, your interviews will likely not go too well as they will be able to see that you didn’t prepare properly.
- Preparation is not something one will try to do last minute as it requires a lot of time to prepare and get all the material.
- Writing and practising your stories helps one calm down when they are in the interview as they would have gotten used to the process through rehearsals.
- It is almost impossible to know the follow-up Qs but being prepared will help you address any follow-up Qs that came up as follow up Qs often require you to do some level of reflection.
- Quantifying your examples also comes in handy when addressing follow up Qs.
- The experience reminded her that when one comes across a job that aligns with their career goals, they should go for it and do the best they can to prepare.
- You can also use experience from volunteering if it is relevant to what you will be interviewing for.