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Searching for Revenue at Amazon

Sky Lalwani's internship at Amazon gave him the chance to leverage lessons learned in Northwestern's MBA + MS Design Innovation (MMM) program to help solve a financial problem.

Every dollar matters, even when you're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.  

Sky Lalwani (MMM '24) learned that firsthand last summer when he interned as a senior technical product manager at Amazon.  

Sky LalwaniAmazon brought in $554 billion in revenue for the 12 months ending September 2023, and it didn’t get there by letting money fall through the cracks. So when Lalwani was tasked with examining an Amazon process company leaders thought was causing some lost revenue, he leaned on his education from Northwestern's MBA + MS Design Innovation (MMM) program — a dual-degree program between Northwestern Engineering and the Kellogg School of Management – to find it.  

That meant leading with a foundational principle of the MMM program: Start with interviewing the end-users of the process.  

“I did 40 different user interviews with different stakeholders, really talking to them, understanding their flow and process, and understanding what their pain-points were,” he said. “What it really came down to was user error.”  

This people-first process allowed Lalwani to figure out that the problem came from a difficult-to-understand piece of technology meant to help those who sell their goods through Amazon. The form underpinning the process had an expansive dropdown menu with many variables that led to confusion for those trying to use it.  

Starting with the end-user in mind allowed Lalwani to devise a roadmap to a much quicker solution. That solution was just one of the reasons Lalwani was grateful for his internship opportunity.  

“Amazon has been one of the thought leaders in the space, and I was excited to experience deep challenges that put my academic learning into practice,” he said. “That’s why Amazon was a good fit for me.”  

The MMM program has been a good fit for Lalwani, as well. He joined the program after working for five years as a systems design engineer with aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman. 

Lalwani turned to MMM in hopes of formalizing the on-the-job education he developed to that point.  

That hope was already realized. 

The program’s Research-Design-Build (RDB) course gave Lalwani a deep understanding of the beginning-to-end product development experience. The lessons learned in the course perfectly prepared him for his time at Amazon, he said. 

“I'm an engineer by trade, which means that I think of solutions first," he said. "MMM taught me to step back and listen first and interview first to understand unmet needs, kind of flipping what my traditional process was on its head. That learning was really hammered into me during RDB.” 

With his internship behind him, Lalwani is unsure what professional direction he will take after graduation. He is considering a career in product development, venture capitalism, or entrepreneurship. No matter the choice, he said the MMM program gave him the foundation to succeed in any arena.  

Because of his own experiences, Lalwani strongly recommends MMM to prospective students looking to boost their career trajectory. 

"MMM will add value to your career and to who you are as an individual, even beyond the academic learning," he said. "It gives you a way of thinking that can be applied to so many different areas.” 

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