Profiles in Pay: Sampath Rudravaram

Learn about life as an Amazonian through the eyes of our Head of Data Science and Analytics based out of Seattle.

Originally posted 8/26/20

Sampath shares how he found a career at Amazon through his passion for numbers, and what his days look like during COVID-19 with two full-time jobs, one as a parent and one as a data scientist. Read on to learn some of the reasons why he enjoys working at Amazon Pay.

Can you tell us more about your background and the career path that led you to Amazon?

I’m originally from India, and in 2004, I traveled to the U.S. to pursue my masters in computer science at New Mexico State University. I had been hoping to start my career in C/C++ programming post-graduation, but I stumbled on an opportunity at the university to work part-time as a PL-SQL programmer. Because of that experience, I was recruited by FedEx to be a data warehouse architect. That’s how my journey into the world of databases began. After more than a decade of working with some of the world’s biggest and most complex data warehouses — including at AT&T and FedEx — I started looking for my next challenge. I wanted to move into the tech industry. I decided to apply for a role at Amazon because I had always admired its scale and growth, and I wanted to be part of a culture that attributed its successes to its efficient use of data. I joined Amazon in 2017.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My wife and I both have full-time jobs, not only as professionals but also as parents. This is the new normal for many, and each couple we talk to has a different way of working it out. We decided to make our days a mix of working and parenting. So, we sprinkle work throughout the day, giving each other a few “blocks” of time to get things done. My day starts around 5:30 a.m., when I usually go out for a run or do some yoga at home. After that, I feel ready to start my workday. I lead a team of data engineers, scientists, and BI engineers, and together we are passionately working towards solving some of the toughest data problems for Amazon Pay. I tend to spend a good amount of my time meeting each day with my directs, as I have a big team, and I love to do brainstorming sessions to collectively take on challenging problems. I also meet our stakeholders to discuss their needs, strategies, and project updates. I also spend a couple of hours with my kids in the afternoon, to give my wife sometime to catch up on her work. I wind down my workday with any administrative work, as well as responding to emails. Then, I spend my evenings gardening, and end my day by reading stories to my kids.

What is your favorite leadership principle and why?

I would say ‘Hire and develop the best’ is my favorite leadership principle. As a leader, it gives me immense pride to help my team members grow in their careers and transform themselves into future leaders. I like this leadership principle because it mandates that hiring is not the end, but the beginning of a journey, and as a manager you are responsible for bringing the best out of your team members.

What do you enjoy about Amazon’s culture? Or, what’s one thing you’ve learned since your time at Amazon?

I like the pace at Amazon – the pace at which decisions are made, the pace at which builders build, and the pace at which we embrace change. The biggest lesson I’ve learned here is that not everything needs to succeed in order to be successful at Amazon. It’s OK to fail, learn from your mistakes, and move forward.

What has been your proudest moment at Amazon?

My proudest moment was when the company made the decision to pledge 4 billion dollars to protect the safety of its frontline employees during this pandemic.

What’s something you’re excited about outside of work that your coworkers may or may not know about?

I have set three goals for myself in 2020. The challenge is finding time between work, kids, home, and gardening to achieve these goals. The first goal is to run 6 miles an hour, the second is to do a handstand in yoga, and the third is to read 10 books this year. I’m hopeful about the first two, but the third one, not so much.

What is the best piece of professional advice you were ever given?

The best piece of advice I’ve received during my time at Amazon is to be passionate about the problem not the solution. Solving the problem shouldn’t mean that you stop thinking about whatever the problem is – because the best solution today is usually outdated in a few years. There will be another opportunity to solve the same problem again, in a new way.

What guidance do you have for someone pursuing a career at Amazon?

We have a motto here at Amazon, “Work hard, have fun, make history.” I find this to be very true, and I always tell my friends who are applying for a role at Amazon to read the first letter to shareholders that Jeff Bezos wrote in 1997. If anyone finds that letter inspiring, and they are up for the challenge, then come on over – let’s make history together.