BTU #98 - Jared Wymer: Marines to Amazon & a PhD... simultaneously


“One of the first things I heard in grad school was: Get used to B's instead of A's. And I had a knee-jerk reaction to that. But you know what - I'm pretty OK with high B's now, and solving cool problems with cool people for a really cool company. So you just need to decide what trade-offs you're willing to live with in your life and divide and conquer.” - Jared Wymer

Jared Wymer is a Program Manager for Global Talent Management at Amazon. Jared started out by enlisting in the Marine Corps, where he served for eight years in logistics, supply chain management, and intelligence, while also pursuing and receiving an undergraduate degree and MBA. Jared transitioned from the Marines into a PhD program, working concurrently in finance and as a Fellow for the Department of State. Since that time Jared started his own consulting company, Wymer & Associates, and joined Amazon. Jared is currently one year away from obtaining his PhD.

The top reasons to listen to this episode is:

  1. Amazon - Jared talks about working at a fast-paced, top technology company like Amazon. He discusses interviewing tips and advice on finding the right job for you

  2. Improving your working habits - being in Global Talent Management, Jared has a few tips for any veteran on how to grow, improve, and stay ahead

  3. Education - Jared talks about getting a PhD while working full time, and advice on higher education.

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Show Notes

  • 3:00 - Jared's background

  • 3:36 - What Jared does

    • Program Management is similar to most NCO' responsibilities - a go between for people aligned with a certain program: how you promote someone, a piece of software, event planning, etc. In general it's aligning with one of these things and bringing the user's of the product and team responsible for it, and helping it come off without a hitch.

    • Talent Management is promotions, and what it looks like once you're hired (performance review, etc)

    • 5:46 - Jared's road from the military to Amazon

      • Build your network while on active duty - talk to people who leave before you do; people at universities you're thinking of applying to; people who have jobs you admire

      • Jared didn't get into Amazon through a traditional recruiting process - it was through a friend of a friend, where he emailed his application directly to a hiring manager

      • This is true of his first job out of the military, which was in finance

      • Take every moment you have to think about where you might want to go (and where it is possible to go)

      • Figure out how to talk about what you did within the military - get comfortable telling your story in a way a civilian can understand

      • (10:30) Networking is rarely about me - it's about the person I'm speaking with and what value I can add for them

      • 11:42 - What drew Jared to Amazon initially

        • Right time, right place - there was an opening right at the right time

        • Amazon has many of the positives from the military - there is a high standard for everything (it pays to be a winner)

        • Amazon does not have much red tape - you're encouraged to run fast and people are willing to take risks on you

        • Many Marines are offered jobs that don't take advantage of their full skill set... Amazon is the opposite of this. They understand where you've been and where you want to go. If you can prove yourself once or twice, they will make BIG bets on you

        • It's a great example of the importance of narrative - everything they do is based on an overarching vision document. Nothing gets done without a vision document - synthesize where you want to go and how you want to get there.

        • 15:00 - Advice on applying to Amazon

          • The Star Interviewing method - make sure you have examples from your experience, what you did, what was the outcome, who did you do it with. You should definitely have this under your belt and know what you're doing.

          • Amazon, similar to the military, is very serious about their leadership principles. You can research this easily online, but every interview is structured around these leadership principles

          • Being able to talk about your resume in 2-3 different ways in this Star Format

          • Veterans shy away from "name dropping" or referring to leadership principles directly but people love it when you do this

          • There is a whole new veterans initiative at Amazon. You could apply at, but it's hard to make it through this way. But the link in the Resources section is much better

          • 20:15 - Career Advice for veterans a few years out of active duty (how to avoid failing)

            • People at Amazon move at the speed of Amazon, and there is a lot of ambiguity in each role

            • The #1 best thing you can do is to - regardless of role or company - have a framework that reduces the ambiguity you're feeling. It will make you more happy & content, and will also help you move forward when you do have an ambiguous situation.

            • An example would be 3-4 conversations where everyone is brought together, and they decide as a group which action items are dropped from the communal list, and which are given priority. A timeline is established with all major deliverables and milestones, and 5 minutes of conversation around each milestone is re-grounding everyone in where they are in the process, and what steps are involved between different parts. It leads to a lot more collaboration and identifying of potential faults

            • 26:52 - Pursuing a PhD while working full time

              • He started by creating a list of people who could provide honest feedback, people who could provide empathy, a career board of advisors, a list of people who are social support. Throughout the PhD process he has viewed a part-time or full-time job as a way to continue to network and have a social circle outside of the PhD process.

              • Jared has two brothers who have done this as well; while it comes at the expense of grades and research, it adds incredible professional experiences that may outweigh these (especially applying what you learn as you learn it)

              • 31:38 - Advice for veterans considering pursuing a PhD

                • Service 2 School was a huge resource for Jared

                • Grad school / PhD program are going to seem like a lot. He found so much by calling the universities he was applying to and professors he would work with... it provided incredible insight (as well as an inside track to admission)

                • Many school website are not updated as frequently as you'd expect, so it's important to get the info first hand or from sites like

                • Think 2-5 steps ahead so you can stay ahead of where you want to go

                • 35:48 - Resources

                • 40:26 - Final Words of Wisdom

                  • A lot of time we don't talk to each other about our successes and failure, and our time in the military can feel like high school rather than getting to know people on a deeper level

                  • Talk to each other about the highs and lows. Whether it is professional or educational or otherwise

                  • In doing this you will come across people who tell you something cannot be done... be your own myth busters. Whether this is learning a new skill, or reducing dependencies on others

                  • Veterans have a lot of qualifications and this can make things scary and ambiguous - we don't know how to tell our story or brand ourselves. get out there, talk to people, get out of your current circle to figure out what you want to do and how to talk about your past.

                  • Celebrate the small things in your life. When you're a young military member it may be about going out drinking. as you get older, intentionally celebrating the small wins - redo your resume, get into a program, meet new friends, etc - intentionally take time to reflect on the positive things in your life