Rodrigo Zapata

Rodrigo Zapata

Rodrigo Zapata
Costa Rican
International Full-time MBA class of 2008
General Manager at Amazon Fulfillment

What is your role at Amazon and how long have you been with the organisation?

I am now a General Manager in a large Fulfillment Center (FC) in Poland. I’ve been in Amazon for nine years having joined through the Pathways leadership programme. My first position was in a transportation department in Luxembourg, I then progressed through two Operations Manager roles, first in Germany and then the UK, where I supported the opening of a new Fulfillment Center.

After graduating from the programme, I took Senior Manager roles in Customer Service teams in Luxembourg, Spain and Costa Rica, where I was responsible for setting site location strategies and for leading teams supporting Brazil, Mexico and wider Latin America. Geographical flexibility has allowed me to grow my career and has given me great opportunities to carry out a large variety of roles. It has been challenging, but also, a lot of fun!

What do you like best working at Amazon?

I love the opportunity to make a difference for our customers, to continuously innovate, lead large teams and work with bright people. I also enjoy hiring bright people, like Pathways candidates, who in my view play a big role in the future of the company.

What is the Amazon Pathways programme and what makes it unique?

The Pathways programme serves as a fast track to senior Amazon leadership. A unique component is the opportunity to lead big teams in one of the most international organisations in the world. Pathways managers make strategic decisions that impact upon the lives of thousands of people.

Why did you decide to join the Pathways programme?

I decided to join the Pathways programme as it presented the opportunity for me to learn and develop myself into a senior leader, in a short timeframe, within one of the most innovative companies in the world. Furthermore, I really liked the fact that it was in operations, which is the heart of Amazon. It really is exciting to be at the centre of the action in this company!

How did the skills and knowledge acquired during your RSM studies support you in your Pathways manager job?

Fundamental to my success in Pathways and Amazon was the focus on teamwork, and the variety of courses exploring different managerial fields. As a whole, the experience provided me with an enhanced business acumen.

What kind of mentorship does Amazon provide to support your success in the Pathways programme?

Pathways provides you with an opportunity to have a mentor. This is normally a senior leader who is not in your immediate team and who can help guide you through the programme. This is in addition to the support you get from your direct manager and your colleagues. You also receive induction programmes and can access instructor led and online training courses to help reinforce leadership traits and skills. It is important to note that when it comes to your own growth and learning, the more you put in, the more you get out.

How will the Pathways programme scale as Amazon continues to grow throughout the European Union and serve more markets and customers?

Pathways is in itself a way for Amazon to develop big leaders fast. This is something Amazon has always needed to do to keep up with the leadership requirements associated with strong, consistent growth. The Pathways programme is aligned with growth, and it expands based on the operations footprint at any given time. Strong growth continues - we are currently hiring Pathways managers for both full-time and internship roles across Europe in Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the UK.

What type of person is successful in this programme?

Pathways suits people with strong analytical and people skills, an innovative mindset, and the ambition to develop and learn. Mobility is also an important factor – being geographically flexible allows a Pathways manager to gain wide experience by working with different teams in multiple countries. In my view, operations is the engine or heart of the organisation and working here provides you with the opportunity to interact with a variety of teams across the business.

Why do we need MBAs for Senior Operations roles?

Amazon believes MBAs are an effective combination of theoretical knowledge, practical management skills and business acumen; these are important characteristics that we are looking for in the next generation of Amazon leaders.

What is your most memorable experience at Amazon?

I have nine years of great memories and very much enjoyed every role, department and country I had the pleasure of working in. Every experience has helped me grow in one way or another and has left me with a long-lasting relationship with the many colleagues and teams I worked with. If I have to choose the most memorable experience to date, I’ll say that it is launching a Fulfillment Center in the north of England. Given the early stage I was at in my career, and the scale of challenges we had to overcome, I gained an exponential amount of knowledge and experience. I also had a lot of fun!

This interview was done by the Marketing team of Amazon. Find out more about the Pathways programme at Amazon here.