Class: Junior Major/Minor: Canfield BHP and Finance/Educational Psychology Certificate: Risk Management
Internship: Financial Analyst Intern Company: Amazon
Topics of Interest: Consulting, Finance, and Risk Management
Nihar Tatapudi is a Canfield BHP junior majoring in Finance and minoring in Educational Psychology while pursuing a certificate in Risk Management. Born in Detroit, Michigan, this avid Cowboys fan comes to us from Dallas, Texas where he grew up for the last ten years. Inspired by his big brother (also a UT alum), Nihar found his home away from home here at the Forty Acres.
Over the summer, Nihar completed an internship at Amazon as a Financial Analyst Intern. He shares his experience on working remotely for the first time and gives us a front-row seat looking into Amazon’s response to the growing demand amid a lingering pandemic and how he navigated much of the logistics behind the scenes.
Tell us why you wanted to intern for Amazon.
I think it’s almost a no brainer, right? It’s the world’s largest company. How do you say no? I was able to find out the opportunity through two different avenues. One, my professional journey on campus, Delta Sigma Pi. Two, Stephanie Cantu who is an academic advisor for Canfield BHP. She helped me get my foot in the door by talking with the recruiter and the next thing you know, I’m going through the interview process.
The reason I chose this specific program is that I had an interest in corporate finance when I was a sophomore. I wasn’t too sure what the field entailed but I knew as a finance major, that it’d be nice to get some exposure there and it just seemed like a program that hadn’t hired sophomores before. I was going to be the first sophomore they hired, which was intimidating but at the same time, it looked like something that I could have a lot of fun with and learn from, especially in such a fast-paced environment. With things being virtual, getting to see the world’s biggest company operate during a pandemic was one experience that I will never forget.
What was your experience at Amazon like and what were your takeaways?
The internship went amazingly. The steering committee that ran the internship organized it well, specifically in a virtual context. I had a makeshift office in my guest bedroom at home. It’s an awesome setup. At Amazon, you get a manager who oversees your development. You also get a mentor who was a part of the intern program when they were an intern which was great. You have a support system that’s constantly helping you out. You don’t get a chance to work with other interns because we’re all based at different locations across the country and every intern’s job is project-specific. What I worked on is drastically different than what an intern based out of Illinois or an intern based out of Seattle, worked on. To build some connection between us, we’d have weekly meetings within our intern groups which was a great way to gain personal connections.
I learned that if you’re always looking over your shoulder, you’re only going to slow yourself down. Another big takeaway is that you’ve got to own your work. Amazon wants you to take ownership of your work and be proactive in what you’re doing. I always thought ownership is an individual pursuit. It’s not. Ownership means, do you understand what you’re going after and can you leverage the resources in your arsenal? Can you use the help of your mentors to help you figure out where you are and where you want to be? It’s a constant climb up a mountain. Both takeaways are important to me. And last, but not least—have fun with the work. It’s extremely difficult when you’re not having fun because you’re not waking up every day excited to go to work. The way you have fun with it is you’ve got to become invested in what you’re working on. I hate using the word stakeholders, but every project has stakeholders. Some people are involved in different parts of the project. Get to know them, learn about them, learn their story, learn what they want, learn what their needs are, and then it becomes a much more enjoyable experience. You start to truly understand what all the granular pieces are that comprise the project.
What projects were you involved in?
At a high level, I was working with the North American Sort Center Network on a benchmarking initiative to determine how we can be much more productive in what we’re doing. The Sort Center Network is the middle mile of the Amazon supply chain. What that means is Amazon’s first mile is the fulfillment center network. When you go to Amazon.com and place an order for a hat, for example, and enter all of your information, the fulfillment center will fulfill the order and find the inventory whether it’s fulfilled by Amazon themselves or a third party vendor that supplies it to Amazon. Then, they get that order ready and they ship it to the middle mile, which is the Sort Center Network. We’re the ones who end up placing that inventory along a certain route, use our freight that gets it moved to the Prime vans, and finally, to the last mile which consists of your delivery stations like USPS, FedEx, or even our own Prime drivers.
There are different process paths in the supply chain in the Sort Center Network. Let’s take for example, “induct” which is when a package comes inbound and the rate at which we can get a package off the truck onto inbound. Another is “container build”—how fast we take the actual package, put it in a box, pack it up, and move it forward. There are rates for this. Let’s say you do ten packages an hour—Amazon had no way of knowing before the summer if that ten packages an hour was what they should be attaining for and that’s where the benchmarking initiative comes in.
That was my first main project. The second was looking at COVID and navigating through it. I’m super interested in Consulting, and this was a project that pushed me to structure a solution to a very murky problem. What we were looking at was how COVID was going to adjust customer demand within 2020, specifically in peak season. Amazon defines “peak season” as the period between Black Friday and Christmas. Is COVID going to drastically adjust when the peak is going to happen? How many packages should we expect to see come through? Will we meet that demand? Do we have the capacity for it? It was a lot of projecting out models, talking to different people who are experts in this field, cross-checking actual COVID data, and looking where the hotspots are. It was such a cool project to work on.
What advice do you have for your peers?
Don’t get upset over something you can’t control. Can we control the fact that the pandemic has happened? No. You’ve got to control what you can control and stick to that. It’s a very difficult concept to learn. I’m still trying to get used to it myself. My second piece of advice I can give is for the freshmen and sophomores. You’re in the Canfield Business Honors Program, have confidence in yourself. People have a lot of faith in you because they saw potential and promise in you. Innovate yourself.
Be proactive in this recruiting season. It used to be that LinkedIn messaging and cold emailing were looked at as negative and annoying. Nowadays, that’s changed and the number one thing you can do in this situation is to make relationships happen.