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Real Humans of Amazon: Martina Crane, CBS MBA ’22, Senior Product Manager, Generative AI Guild

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In this installment of our Real Humans: Alumni series, we meet Martina Crane, a technologist with an insatiable curiosity and passionate creativity. Crane had mastered major entertainment events for international entertainment icons, but wanted to indulge in her interests in technology and purpose-driven work. The MBA program at Columbia Business School promised diverse courses and colleagues, top leaders and innovators as guest speakers, and the expertise of the career office and clubs to aid in her transition from entertainment to tech. Read below for more on how CBS prepared Crane for her new career at Amazon.

Martina Crane, Columbia Business School MBA ’22, Senior Product Manager, Generative AI Guild at Amazon

Age: Old Enough 😊, 34
Hometown: Upper Darby, PA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Drexel University, BS Entertainment and Arts Management with minors in Business Administration and Performing Arts
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Entertainment Production Specialist, Freelance, 8 years, Entertainment; Production Coordinator, Diversified Production Services, 1 year, Entertainment; Operation Associate, Imagen Technologies (Series A Startup building Machine Vision for Radiological Diagnostics), 1 year, HealthTech
Post-MBA Work Experience: Senior Product Manager, Amazon, 2 years, Tech; Post-MBA Summer Associate, Zeal Capital Partners, 3 months, Venture Capital

Why did you choose to attend business school?
The short answer: after building a successful career in entertainment, I sought a pivot into the world of technology, where I could allow my nerdiest tendencies to flourish, continue to practice the art of creation, and shape a more equitable future through emerging technology. My first career was fueled by a deep passion for the arts. I was able to scale up from producing underground art showcases across Philadelphia and traveling the country in an old van tour managing an unknown band to building tours, festivals, and mega-events for the world’s biggest names in music, business, and politics. Despite my success, I began to crave a new challenge and an opportunity to put down roots instead of living on the road. I chose to chase my other passions, and began to seek out purpose-driven work that could leverage my insatiable curiosity, passion for creation and penchant for technology. This search landed me at an early-stage health-tech startup building first-of-its-kind machine vision models for diagnostic medicine. As an Operations Associate, I was a wearer of many hats, including business, product, and data operations. I grew enamored with the endless potential of nascent technologies and their ability to shape our futures to be better, brighter, and more equitable. As the company scaled, many of the product and leadership roles went to MBAs, so I set out on a path to conquer the GMATs and earn an MBA in pursuit of a dream to build the future. 

Why CBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
After years on the road, I had finally set down roots in NYC. Columbia Business School was the top program in the city I called home. My choice was solidified by the generous scholarships afforded to me by the Laidlaw Foundation and the Forte Foundation, two organizations dedicated addressing the gender gaps in leadership and STEM.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career at Amazon?
Studying at Columbia exposed me to a diverse group of people and courses, including the opportunity to cross-register with other schools to dive deep into technology and human-centered design offerings on campus. In the classroom, adjunct professors and professors of practice provided insights into operating companies in real-time, providing unique insights into how to generate real-world impact. These professors, and the prestige of Columbia, afforded access to guest speakers from top companies and thought leaders from across industries which brought casework to life while expanding our networks. Beyond the classroom, the career office and career clubs at Columbia Business School set us apart from other candidates in the pipeline by running mock interviews, workshops, and peer support for resume and cover letter writing. A guest speaker led to a post-MBA internship in Venture Capital, while prepping with the Technology and Data Analytics Club enabled me to land a job with Amazon.

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice?
During my MBA, I interned with Amazon as a product manager, and received an offer to return after graduation. Post-MBA, I took a Venture Capital internship as an opportunity to explore that career path before ultimately committing to Product Management.  

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
Three main drivers were notoriety and access to development resources. On the advice of various mentors, I decided spending 1-2 years as a Senior Product Manager at Amazon would be the best path to leadership roles in innovative startups in the future. MAMAA companies (Meta, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet), formerly known as FAANG, also offer an immense amount of internal resources to develop as a technologist. From open-source GenAI project teams to Amazon’s Machine Learning University to employee-led study groups, conferences, hackathons, and workshops, the ability to develop your craft helps prepare you for success in the future.  

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
Fuel your moonshot with networking and interview prep! Whether it’s Banking, Consulting, MAMAA (Meta, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet) or something more bespoke, make your moonshot job your top priority. Hit the ground running once you are on campus by setting up coffee chats, volunteering to host industry events as a member of relevant career clubs, and unearthing as many interview prep resources as possible. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, try to recruit for banking, consulting, and big tech all at once. Vision, passion, and tenacity applied to a single industry will pay dividends in the interview process.

–One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search?
I wish I had done cold outreach to some innovative startups I was passionate about. I used to play around with the DALL-E beta (an early OpenAI product), and monitor their website for openings constantly. In hindsight, a cold email or 10 to people on LinkedIn may have inspired an MBA internship where there was no formal process.

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
Amazon is incredibly straightforward in their hiring process through student programs, what is surprising is their strategy of extending an offer without aligning you to a product team. Candidates learn who their hiring manager is only a few weeks before starting, and the placements are not optimized for passion area or background.  

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
Wait until after COVID! 😊  Our experience was unprecedented, so my wishes were to travel and network more. Now that we are in “precedented” times (knock on wood), my advice is the same I give to anyone with a goal in life: find a mentor and write a flexible roadmap to your dream. Seek out a professor, alumni, or Executive in Residence to mentor you from day 1.  

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.