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Real Humans of Amazon: Seda Sürenkök, Cornell Johnson MBA ’21, Senior Product Manager

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In this Real Humans: Alumni, we meet Seda Sürenkök, who pursued an MBA at Cornell Johnson to achieve her vision of working in tech. The career opportunities, cultural fit, and campus experience Sürenkök was looking for were all there, along with an immersion-based program that provided the technical skills and enhanced leadership and communication abilities she required. Read on to learn how Sürenkök found her way to the tech-focused career at Amazon she wanted through Cornell Johnson. 

Seda Sürenkök, Cornell Johnson MBA ’21, Senior Product Manager at Amazon

Age: 36
Hometown: Istanbul 
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Middle East Technical University, business administration 
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration (if applicable): Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Class of 2021
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Nine years, consulting and financial services 
Post-MBA Work Experience: Senior product manager, 2.5 years, tech industry (Amazon)

Why did you choose to attend business school? 
I embarked on the business school journey with a clear vision: to amplify my career, relocate and forge an international career path alongside a diverse cohort. Despite my experience at global firms in Turkey, I realized that conventional career trajectories wouldn’t fully align with my aspirations. Networking with like-minded individuals who had walked similar paths, I decided that pursuing an MBA was my optimal route.

Why Cornell Johnson? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? 
My selection process was focused on three pivotal criteria: career opportunities, cultural fit and campus experience. When applying to business schools, I was certain about my desire to pursue a career with a tech focus. However, I was undecided between entering tech consulting or joining the tech industry itself. My research helped me to shortlist the schools that excel in both domains and offer a campus experience I was looking for. I attended MBA networking events and had coffee chats with students and alumni from the schools in my shortlist. Cornell Johnson stood out early on. The moment I connected with people from Cornell’s close-knit community, I sensed an environment that would help me achieve my professional goals and personal growth.

What about your Cornell Johnson MBA experience prepared you for your current career at Amazon? 
Cornell Johnson’s academic program is built around immersion, allowing students to customize their educational journey and excel in their chosen domains. The digital technology immersion, led by industry experts and exceptional academicians, equipped me with technical skills that remain integral to my daily work. Moreover, the leadership courses and diverse leadership opportunities during my MBA journey significantly enhanced my ability to navigate challenges and communicate effectively, both professionally and personally.

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice of Amazon? 
I interned at EY as a tech consultant within their financial services division at the New York City office. The project was fulfilling, and I enjoyed the supportive culture at EY. However, I realized that the consulting lifestyle wasn’t an ideal fit for me, and I didn’t envision a long-term career in consulting. Despite having a return offer from my internship, I decided to re-recruit, focusing exclusively on top-tier tech companies during my second year. 

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
After chatting with people from various tech firms, Amazon stood out as the perfect cultural match for me. The diverse backgrounds of everyone I met, combined with their shared growth mindset and passion for problem-solving, really resonated with me. Surprisingly, I felt more excitement than nervousness during the interviews, and the conversations flowed naturally. Working alongside these dynamic individuals in a company known for its innovative culture felt like a dream come true.

Advice to current MBA students: 
Keep an open mind and focus on establishing personal connections. The individuals you encounter on this immersive journey can provide fresh perspectives and opportunities, and some may even become lifelong friends. Also, be deliberate in how you allocate your time — choose your commitments wisely. A piece of advice I received during my MBA journey that profoundly impacted my outlook on prioritization was, “You can be anything you want, but you can’t be everything.” Lastly, enjoy every moment of your MBA experience because two years will fly by in the blink of an eye.

–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search? 
Networking and asking hard questions! Admittedly, as an international student, it took me a while to feel at ease during networking conversations. Yet it was a necessary steppingstone toward discovering the job that aligned with my career goals and eliminating the ones that were not.

–One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search? 
Stop comparing myself and my journey to others. It’s easy to fall into the impostor syndrome trap and experience burnout in an environment filled with successful individuals. Trusting the process, staying focused, and putting in the hard work eventually led everything to fall into place. 

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process? My recruiting process with Amazon moved very quickly, and the interviewers were refreshingly personable. From the initial interview invitation email to the exciting offer call, it all unfolded in less than a week. 

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
I’ll share some advice I received that I wish I listened to more: Explore beyond the traditional MBA curriculum and build a network outside of your classmates. 

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.