Amazon delivers on prime careers in the region

Amazon is fast becoming one of the East Midlands’ biggest employers, with more than 3,000 staff based across four fulfilment centres in the region. The e-commerce giant’s latest warehouse, in Sutton-in-Ashfield, is one of its most hi-tech sites as robots work alongside humans – all under the guidance of site leader Georgia Akuwudike (pictured). She talks to Dan Robinson about how she came to occupy such a senior role at the age of 30 and career development opportunities.

What has your journey been to this point in your career? I’m originally from Nigeria and spent six years working as a financial auditor for KPMG, PwC and Total. I went back to university to do an international accounting and finance master’s degree at EDHEC Business School in France – and it was at a careers fair where I learned about the Amazon Pathways programme, which fast- tracks master’s students with three to five years’ work experience into senior management. I was accepted on to the

scheme, but my French isn’t the best so I was sent to the UK to work at a fulfilment centre in Peterborough as operations manager in October 2016. I then moved between the sites in Coalville, Coventry and Dunstable – climbing up to senior operations manager – before coming to Sutton-in-Ashfield as a site leader in October this year.

What attracted you to Amazon? The fast-paced working environment is important to me and, coming from an analytical background, I was drawn to a data-driven role. We’re

very metrics-heavy but at the same time we’re people-focused, which is a good balance.

Could you explain more about the role of data analysis in Amazon’s logistics operation? We’re always seeking ways to improve but before you make process changes to quality or productivity, you need to fully understand what’s in front of you. The first step is understanding

the problem, and then we ask: What’s the potential solution? What can we do to roll out process changes? How can we improve? If you’re not able to dive deep into all that information and separate the key aspects, then you’ll struggle.

What does your current role involve? In a nutshell, to ensure we operate safely while taking care of our customers. The fulfilment centre has an inbound section, where we receive inventory from our suppliers and vendors to be stored in the centre. When customers place an order, our outbound department picks, packs and ships the orders on time.

Georgia Akuwudike The metrics we focus on are

safety, which is our number one priority; customer experience because when someone places an order, we must get the item to them before or by their promised delivery date; and quality so the item isn’t damaged or the wrong product. It may sound simple but it’s a

complex operation. Added to that complexity are the 150 process changes we’ve made to our operation to ensure people can work safely under Covid-19 conditions. Oh, and the site and team are brand new!

What are the human skills needed to work alongside robotics in a fulfilment centre? While our robots have removed the need for people to walk around the fulfilment centre stowing and picking products, we still have team members involved in taking care of customer orders. The introduction of robots means

Amazon's fulfilment centres use robots to pick items from shelves

84 business network December 2020/January 2021

we have a requirement for a broader range of skills in fields such as computer science, mechanical engineering and much more.

What are the career prospects like for people working in an Amazon fulfilment centre? We provide a world-class, modern workplace with leading career progression opportunities, such as the Career Choice programme. Career Choice is available for all

employees who have been with the company for a year. It supports them with up to 95% of tuition fees for a nationally-accredited course up to a maximum of £8,000 over four years – and it doesn’t have to lead to a career in Amazon. Some people use it to progress their Amazon careers, others leave with new skills and that’s fine – the aim of Career Choice is to allow people to develop. If people want to progress, there are plenty of great career development opportunities here.

And, finally, what are your future goals? Well you are speaking to a future vice-president at Amazon! For me, the next step is regional manager and then vice-president. I’ve already told the VP of Europe that I’m coming for his job!

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