Everybody knows that getting into an ivy league college and a leading tech company in the US is no easy task. It requires extreme talent and preparation. If anyone goes to Anna Chitman, an ex-Senior Manager, for advice, she’d tell you to “come work at Bluebik.”
Today Anna is a Cornell University’s Tech MBA alumnus and the Senior Program Manager, Supply Strategy and Programs at Amazon. And she’s here to share her unique story. To get where she is today, Anna didn’t walk the red carpet. Instead, the carpet was the color of Bluebik’s outstanding blue!
The Right Place to Grow
Fresh out of Skidmore College as an Economics graduate, Anna was always doing something new. It was the time to discover her passion, and she had always been the type to challenge herself anyway. She studied Mandarin in Shang Hai. She worked in wealth management and data analytics. There was also a time when she considered launching her own dog treats business.
Of all the jobs Anna had tried her hands on, one stood out. It was when she worked as a Case Team Assistant at Boston Consulting Group.
Of course, it was also when she met Pochara Arayakarnkul, who went on to become the CEO of Bluebik.
Perfect timing did the trick. One day, Anna was looking for a new job. Although she worked in a big and stable company, she didn’t feel like it was a good fit for her.
“I felt like my colleagues weren’t as passionate as I am,” said Anna. “And a friend happened to tell me that Pochara was recruiting. So I came in for the interview.”
“There was a test question about underwear sales in Bangkok or Thailand. How would I solve the problem? How would I segment the target? How would I hypothesize? I was to come up with a presentation deck, too. I remembered Pochara commenting that the deck could be much better, but he offered me the job anyway,” Anna laughed.
“He also asked me why I didn’t like my job and what I was looking for in the new position. I told him, ‘I want to work in a challenging environment to stretch myself and grow. I want to try harder and solve problems every day.'”
Considering Bluebik was a newly established company at the time, Anna took a leap of faith. Why? Some people may ask.
“I only knew that if I took that risk, I’d learn and grow more. I didn’t even know what projects I’d be working on, but I was ready to roll up my sleeves. I also had the chance to talk to the team, and everyone’s so talented and energetic. I wanted to be part of a team like that.
“As it turned out, working at Bluebik was the longest I’d ever worked at one company, which was three years. Before that, the record was one year. Working at other companies, I’d find new jobs constantly because they’re not the right fit for me. Working at Bluebik, I’d never think of getting a new job because it was always challenging. I was never once bored. I loved it.”
Tackling Problems Head On
Anna started her journey at Bluebik as a Senior Consultant and was promoted to Senior Manager in no time. The client Anna took care of for three years was one of the top commercial banks in Thailand, which had long entrusted Bluebik with their digital projects since the very beginning of the company.
Each project Anna worked on was monumental for both herself and Bluebik.
For Anna, it was the opportunity to gain valuable experience as a consultant and a team leader working on various IT projects.
For Bluebik, it was the opportunity to establish itself as a consultancy that wouldn’t accept “no” for an answer.
One of the innovations that Anna and the team rolled out successfully was a payment method that had become the new normal during the Covid-19 pandemic: QR code payment.
Pre-pandemic, disrupting the way people pay and receive money was a challenge. Still, Anna and the team toiled on and delivered results. EDC machines that can display QR codes, an application that supports QR code payments for merchants — done and dusted.
With no prior education or experience in banking or technology, Anna said three factors contributed to her success as a consultant: asking the right question, constant hunger for knowledge, and a 360 perspective.
“When you have your eyes on the goal, you need to know what information you need to get there. You will get some of the information by interviewing the clients. So, you need to ask the right questions to get the right answers.
“You also need to hunger to know more. For example, if the client answers something, but you think there’s still more to the story, then ask more questions. Keep asking until you prove every hypothesis right or wrong.
“Knowledge in frameworks was essential, too. To be a good consultant, you need to see from every perspective possible, and frameworks could help you do that.”
Besides being a trustworthy consultant, Anna was a team leader with more than ten people in her unit. As Bluebik believes in meritocracy over seniority, Anna was one of the first Bluebikians to get promoted to a managerial position very fast. Later, this practice became Bluebik’s fast-track promotion policy as we know it.
What qualities did the C-levels see in her and appointed her a manager so fast?
“Tough question,” Anna laughed before speculating, “I guess it was because I wasn’t afraid of problems. I might even like problems. I would complain but try to solve them anyway. Another reason might be that I liked being number one, and I wanted to be the best or even better than the best.
“However, managing a team was actually challenging. I went from doing everything myself to guiding people to do the work. Pochara coached me on how to do so. He even gave me bits of advice on managing my emotions when I felt overwhelmed. This was one of the good things about working at Bluebik. I’d never been left to my own devices. I was supported and guided all the way through.
“What’s more, my colleagues were helpful. They always lent me an ear. Bluebik was one of the few workplaces where my colleagues became my best friends. We spent so much time together on weekdays, yet we still wanted to hang out during weekends. Going to work was like spending time with friends. I had so much fun.”
The Path to an MBA
Although Anna thoroughly enjoyed working at Bluebik, every party must come to an end.
After three years, Anna decided it was time to pursue a master’s degree. She had her eyes on the Tech MBA program at SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University. The program focuses on developing and managing technological products.
To apply for any MBA program, the candidate must prepare for two essentials: a GMAT score and a personal statement.
On her GMAT score, Anna said “my score couldn’t possibly get me into Cornell. I only scored 650, while my friends scored 700 and above.”
If her GMAT score was too low, what got her into Cornell?
The answer was creativity and presentation.
“The personal statement can be in any format, be it a video clip or a PowerPoint presentation. So, I made an Instagram account telling my life story—what made me who I was and what I’d like to do. I told them I wanted to create a platform that helps farmers sell their produce without an intermediary, and I still want to do that someday.
“And there was an interview focusing on my passion and life goals. It helped that I had so much exposure to the C-suite when I worked at Bluebik as I got to sharpen my speaking and presentation skills.”
When the program commenced, Anna discovered that “studying an MBA is not as in-depth as learning at Bluebik. When I worked at Bluebik, the knowledge I acquired was more profound, and the results were tangible.
“I didn’t struggle with the study, and I was already used to learning something new in a short span of time ever since I worked at Bluebik. Plus, I had many cases to share during class because I had experience managing big projects, worked for an influential commercial bank, and initiated new payment innovations for the country.”
Still, the MBA program was far from a disappointment. It broadened Anna’s horizons. “There was a class about the creative industry. Creative products like food, art, and music are not absolute. Everyone has their own opinions and feelings, so it was interesting to explore how I could sell this kind of product.”
Another great thing about MBA was friends. “Everyone in the class had similar goals in life, and they were serious about their goals, so we connected really fast.”
And it was an MBA friend who guided Anna to Amazon.
The Rare Opportunity
After graduation, many of Anna’s friends applied to the Leadership Development Program in Operations at Amazon. The program opened its door to MBA or other Master’s degree graduates who wished to work as operational managers. The participants would rotate in many operations units before being appointed to a suitable position.
Although she initially wasn’t interested, Anna applied because a friend told her to. Her application passed the initial screening, but the real challenge awaited at other steps of the hiring process.
“The first round was a writing test. I was given many mock workplace situations. If someone talked to you like this, how would you respond? If you encounter this situation, what would you do? It was more of a personality test, and I thought I wouldn’t make it because my working style might not fit in a competitive environment.
“There was this one question — If a colleague did something wrong, but your line manager scolded both of you. What would you do? I told them my real thought: ‘I wouldn’t tell my line manager that it wasn’t my fault. I would help my colleague because I want us to win together.’ Finally, I passed that test.
“The second round was a four-hour, back-to-back interview with four interviewers. They asked me questions based on Amazon’s Leadership Principles. For example, on the principle ‘Deliver Results,’ they asked, ‘have you ever been in a situation where you have to deliver results on a tight deadline?’
“I was told that I must give three examples per principle. It was tough. With five years of work experience, how could I do that if I didn’t work at Bluebik? Everything I told them that day was not made up at all. All the experiences working on big projects and coming up with innovations were real. If I didn’t work at Bluebik, I might not have had these experiences. An opportunity like that was rare. Looking back, I am certain I made the right decision to leave a large, stable company to work at Bluebik.”
Today, Anna has worked at Amazon for almost three years. After a few rotations to managerial positions within the operations unit, she is now the Senior Program Manager, Supply Strategy and Programs. Her core tasks are to plan and analyze data for the middle-mile delivery all across the 50 states of the US.
As always, she doesn’t fret even with such a heavy responsibility.
“When anyone tells me I’m not doing my job well enough, I don’t feel pressure because I still know what to do next. It’s okay. Let’s try this solution first. If the situation’s not improving, I’ll try other solutions. Every problem can be solved.”
To this day, Anna still misses the fun and friendly vibes of working at Bluebik. For anyone who dreams of a career in consultancy, a degree in MBA, and maybe a job overseas, here’s Anna’s advice.
“Come work at Bluebik. Everyone here is talented. You will learn so much and be part of a growing company. It’s an opportunity not to miss.”