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Real Humans of Amazon: Harshita Pal, UCI Merage MBA ’23, Senior Product Manager Tech

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In this edition of our Real Humans: Alumni series, we meet Harshita Pal, whose fascination with the intersection of technology and business lured her from software engineering to product management. Read on to learn how the MBA program at UCI Merage and its focus on leadership for a digitally driven world guided her on the journey into a new career in the tech industry, and how an internship prepared her for an exciting opportunity at Amazon.  

Harshita Pal, UCI Merage MBA ’23, Senior Product Manager Tech at Amazon

Age: 31
Hometown: Uttar Pradesh, India
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Vellore Institute of Technology, Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Communication
Graduate Business School, Graduation Year and Concentration: University of California Irvine, Paul Merage School of Business, 2023, Digital Transformation and Entrepreneurship
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Staff Software Engineer; GAP Inc. (2 years), Comviva Technologies Ltd. (6 years); Tech industry
Post-MBA Work Experience: Sr. Product Manager Tech, Amazon, 7 months, Tech industry

Why did you choose to attend business school?
In my role as a software engineer, I was working closely with product managers. My experience working with them sparked my interest in the role. I was fascinated by the intersection of technology and business, and how product managers could create lasting impacts on products and companies. Recognizing that I had solid technical skills but lacked business acumen, I decided to get a formal education from a business school and transition to a product management role.

Why UCI Merage? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
My decision to attend UCI Merage was based on three factors: location, small cohort size, and career center assistance. Firstly, I wanted to be in a location that had abundant tech opportunities, making the West Coast my preferred choice. Secondly, as an international student, I wanted a smaller cohort size that allowed me to foster meaningful connections with peers and faculty. I did not want to get lost in crowded classes. Merage’s class size of 50-55 students was perfect for me. Finally, as a newcomer to the country, getting guidance in navigating the job market, networking, and preparing for job applications was very important to me. From my interactions with Merage students and alumni, I learned about the highly personalized career services at Merage. I was convinced that Merage was suitable for my needs. The cherry on top was the amazing return on investment that Merage provides.

What about your MBA experience prepared you for your current career?
Merage’s emphasis on ‘leadership for a digitally driven world’ reflects on its meticulously designed curriculum that granted me access to cutting-edge academic content, which now benefits me in my role at Amazon. Despite lacking a background in data science, I can confidently engage with data scientists in my team, thanks to the machine learning courses I took. Product management demands a highly entrepreneurial mindset, which I developed through courses like Lean Startup and New Venture Management. My active participation in case competitions gave me valuable hands-on experience working alongside product managers from various companies, facilitating a smoother career transition for me. My participation in student-led clubs (Product Club and Women in Business Club) equipped me with excellent leadership abilities that are crucial in my daily responsibilities at work. Most importantly, the school provided me with valuable networking techniques and relationship-building skills, which are fundamental to my current role that involves forging connections and influencing teams and stakeholders.

What was your internship during business school? How did that inform your post-MBA career choice of Amazon?
I interned at Amazon as a Sr. Product Manager Tech. My internship was 12 months long and provided me with a solid understanding of what it was like to work at Amazon. I received a full-time return offer and was excited to continue my work in the very exciting domain of marketing measurement.

Why did you choose your current company? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to work?
I chose to return to Amazon because of my incredibly exhilarating experience during my internship, working on a very challenging problem that made a direct impact on the company’s bottom line. Amazon is one of the most customer-obsessed companies in the world and a great place for product managers. It constantly provides opportunities to innovate and build amazing products on behalf of its customers, and I wanted to be in such an environment. The most important factor that contributed to my return to Amazon was the fact that I would be surrounded by some of the best-in-class professionals.

Advice to current MBA students:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of the job search?
As part of my job search, I created a list of companies that I was particularly keen on joining. While I applied aggressively to numerous companies, I made a deliberate effort to network with individuals within my chosen companies. Building strong relationships through networking helped me secure referrals when relevant job positions became available. I constantly followed news about companies, studied their annual reports, researched their competitors, and familiarized myself with their cultures. This helped me stand out from other candidates during my interviews.

 –One thing you would change or do differently as part of the job search?
One thing that I would do differently is apply promptly to job openings. I wanted to be interview-ready before applying to any job. This led me to miss out on some of the exciting opportunities because the positions were filled even before I could apply. Every interview is a learning opportunity. So, despite feeling unprepared at times, it is important to seize those opportunities and take a chance. 

–Were there any surprises regarding your current employer’s recruiting process?
None. I was fortunate to benefit from the strong support system at school. Senior students provided me with valuable resources to prepare. They briefed me on Amazon’s recruitment process and offered guidance on how to effectively showcase my skills. My career advisors conducted mock interviews tailored to Amazon’s Leadership Principles and offered constructive feedback that proved invaluable in my actual interview.

–What piece of advice do you wish you had been given during your MBA?
One piece of advice I wish I had been given was to not overwhelm myself with the pressure of job search and instead savor the MBA journey. The time during MBA is truly the most rewarding, and it can pass by in the blink of an eye.

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.