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Real Humans of Amazon: Vienna Chen, Wharton MBA ’20, Senior Product Manager Technical

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What do you when you want to move from finance to tech? Pursue an MBA, of course! In this edition of Real Humans: Alumni, Vienna Chen, a senior product manager technical at Amazon Web Services, talks about how the Wharton MBA program prepared her for her career change.

Vienna Chen, Wharton MBA ’20, Senior Product Manager Technical at Amazon Web Services

Age: 32
Hometown: Houston
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Pennsylvania, Life Science and Management Dual Degree Program: Finance, Biology
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): Wharton, 2020 Business Analytics
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 5 years, Finance
Post-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 1.5 years, Tech

Why did you choose to attend business school?
I chose to attend business school because I wanted a career transition from finance to tech.

Why Wharton? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Wharton has dedicated resources to help students expand into technology. For example, Wharton has a campus in San Francisco and has many courses focused on product development and data analytics. In addition, UPenn as a whole is very open to taking classes outside of your specific school. I was really interested in taking some computer science classes in the engineering school. These classes helped me understand the technical aspects of products I am working on today.

What about your Wharton MBA experience prepared you for your current career at Amazon?
The Wharton MBA offers class-based experience on building both software and hardware products. For the software product class, we built a simple software product in 3-4 days and launched on day 5. This experience is basically a condensed version of what real-life product management is about. 

In addition, I also took a lot of technical classes during my MBA. While technical experience is never required, I feel a lot more comfortable working with products I am building when I do understand the technical architecture underneath.

What was your internship during business school?  How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
I interned with AWS during business school and I returned to AWS full time.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
AWS has a very strong recruiting presence for MBA product managers. I really wanted to join AWS because it offers me an opportunity to learn how to run a large distributed system in addition to building products using innovative technologies. 

How has COVID impacted your industry/career plans?
Tech as an industry has been very open to working from home after COVID. My team has been working from home since COVID started. In recent months, voluntarily, we can choose to meet in person if we want to. COVID hasn’t impacted my career plans.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
I recruited mostly for the tech industry. The concentration on one industry really helped controlling how much time I was spending on interviewing. 

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I didn’t spend a lot of time talking to upperclassmen on their recruiting and internship experiences. If I can do it again, I will for sure talk to more people to understand their experiences. 

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Relax, things are going to work out somehow. Don’t fret over one interview. 

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.