High-flying students get hands-on experience of issues facing Amazon during special interactive event

Graduate students at the Think Big Challenge

Graduate students competed against each other to be named the winner of a competition to find innovative solutions to real life challenges facing Amazon customers.

The Amazon Think Big Challenge for women was run in partnership with Newnham College and the Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS).

Graduate students from Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) disciplines from across the University of Cambridge applied to take part in the interactive session at Newnham College on Monday, October 23 2017.

All of the applications were analysed and nearly 30 graduate students were selected to work together in teams on real and current business challenges. The students had to come up with an innovative idea which combined technological and business solutions to a problem.

Senior Amazon executives flew to Cambridge from all over the world including Seattle, Dubai and Luxembourg to coach the teams on how to integrate the Amazon leadership principles into their work. The Amazon leadership principles include ‘customer obsession’ and ‘learn and be curious’.

Each team had to present their recommended solution to the Amazon representatives and field questions from the other workshop participants.

Kathryn Xistris, International Practice Manager at Amazon Web Services, said: “It was a great pleasure for us to spend time in Cambridge with so many great young minds.

“Some people see Amazon as an online store, but ultimately we are a global technology company and the attendees really embodied the Amazon leadership principles during this task. We are looking forward to continuing to work with our mentees.”

The interactive session was followed by a networking reception and dinner.

Professor Dame Carol Black, Principal of Newnham College, said: “Women are underrepresented in the STEM industries and we have worked since Newnham’s foundation in 1871 to address this. We are delighted to collaborate with CJBS on this annual initiative to highlight potential STEM careers for women and the Amazon Think Big Challenge was an inspirational activity for everyone who took part.”

Dame Carol presented all of the attendees with a Certificate of Attendance and every member of the winning team took home an Echo Dot – the latest smart home technology gadget from Amazon.

Swati Kaira, MBA student at the Cambridge Judge Business School and one of the members of the winning team, said: “All of the members from our team came from different backgrounds – we had six people in the team and we were from six different countries. We had a really productive time brainstorming our idea and how to present it. We didn’t have conflict – we had negotiations. The input from the mentors was extremely beneficial and I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to take part in such an enriching experience.”

The students will all have ongoing mentoring support from the Amazon executives who all volunteered their time to take part in the initiative.

Professor Sucheta Nadkarni, Fellow of Newnham College and Director of the Wo+Men’s Leadership Centre at CJBS, said: “The Think Big Challenge is exactly the type of collaboration we need between universities and corporations to address the challenge of improving female representation in the tech industries.

“This was a great opportunity for our students from diverse fields including basic sciences, engineering and business interested in careers in technology industries to work on real cases, get close mentoring from experienced executives from Amazon and equally importantly, to learn from each other.”