senior finance manager, Amazon Books, Amazon, Inc.
What I’ve always loved is that I get to have a holistic view. I’m looking across the entire business to understand what should the strategy be, where should we be investing for our next test, what are we learning.
As the senior finance manager at Amazon Books, the company’s growing business of brick-and-mortar bookstores, it’s no surprise that Lindsey Drake T’11 is an analytic thinker. She loves uncovering what the data is saying about a particular problem, and then using that data to influence stakeholders to make the right decisions.
What is surprising is that, from the moment she joined Amazon in 2013, Drake had the ability to make those strategic recommendations—and actually be listened to. She visited Tuck recently to tell students that a finance career at Amazon is fun and fulfilling, and that it’s a viable career path for them too.
Tell us a little about your business experience.
I started my career in the public sector. I worked for the EPA and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an international development agency. The common thread in those jobs was finance, so when I came to Tuck I spent a lot of time thinking about whether I was going to go back to the public sector or try the private sector. Dean Slaughter was my GEM [Global Economics for Managers] professor and I was one of his TAs, so I spent a lot of time talking to him about this decision I was trying to make. I delayed my decision by interning at a Mongolian investment bank, which I could sell to either sector. In the end, I decided that if I was ever going to try the private sector, now is the moment. I received an offer from Intel in their finance leadership development program. I joined Amazon four years ago to be part of a faster-paced, entrepreneurial organization.
Describe your role at Amazon Books.
Right now I lead our finance team for all of our physical bookstores. Our first bookstore opened in November 2015. There are now 11 stores, and there will be 13 by the end of 2017. It shows you the scale of Amazon and how quickly things change. My team supports all aspects of the business from a finance perspective, including real estate, construction and design, operations, category support, marketing, as well as store management, not to mention the traditional financial planning and analysis. I describe it as being the CFO of this business. What I’ve always loved is that I get to have a holistic view of the business. Real estate is focused on site selection. Construction and design is focused on build out. Store management is focused on our associates. And we’re all focused on delivering a great experience to our customers! I’m looking across the entire business to understand what should the strategy be, where should we be investing for our next test, what are we learning. It’s really fun.
How has Tuck helped you prepare for this job?
Tuck is very focused on the general management viewpoint so you can understand all aspects of the business. That has given me a significant edge over my finance peers, because I too have that holistic view. I learned the fundamentals of every part of the business, which has helped me be a more effective business partner and see around corners beyond just what the numbers are telling us. The other thing Tuck gave me was confidence. Being here with incredibly smart people and climbing that very steep ramp, gave me the confidence that I would be successful at whatever company I was going to. For me, that was a huge change. Tuck gave me the skills, but also the confidence to use them.
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