Matthew St. John (NTHS '07) - Amazon
If you’re in the market for this season’s hottest gift, chances are you can find it on Amazon, the largest internet-based retailer in the United States with its headquarters based right here in Washington State. Amazon gained momentum as an online bookstore, later diversifying to sell electronics, apparel, furniture, and now they produce their own consumer electronics – notably, Amazon Kindle, Fire Tablets, Fire TV and the Fire Phone. Matthew St. John, a 2007 North Thurston High School graduate, is all too familiar with these products, as a Business Development Manager for Amazon.
Technology hasn’t always been an interest of St. John’s, “funny enough, I actually had no idea that I would end up in the technology field in high school. I knew I really wanted to pursue business and entrepreneurship, but not necessarily in digital media.”
During his time at NTHS, he remembers one teacher in particular that always encouraged him to pursue his passions, whether that be business or music, his senior year English teacher, Sandra Rowell. St. John took Ms. Rowell’s advice and followed his passion for business to the University of Washington, where he graduated with a degree in Business Administration in Entrepreneurship and Marketing.
While in high school, St. John was very involved in Key Club and acted as President his senior year; however, it was clear that his passion was music; he was involved in choir, jazz choir and a rock band. “What people probably remember me most for is being in the pop-rock band, Cold September, during high school and me constantly pushing our CDs and show tickets for sale. As you probably guessed, I am not a rock star, but those were some of my favorite memories,” he reminisced.
Though, St. John may not be a rock star in the pop-rock sense, he certainly is a rock star at Amazon, where he works as a Technical Business Development Manager in the Amazon Appstore.
The career St. John has made for himself at Amazon did not start out on the digital side of the company however, “I’ve had a pretty unique experience at Amazon in that I started in the traditional buying/e-commerce role, but then moved over to the digital side,” St. John said. In the beginning, on the retail side, he would undertake forecasting, modeling and negotiating an ocean-freight import from China with thousands of consumer electronics such as headphones, speaker docs, MP3 players, etc. all for the holiday promotions, such as Amazon’s ‘Deal of the Day’ and ‘Lightening Deals’.
While on the digital side, St. John works with a subset of top mobile game companies to ensure their games are available on Amazon devices; one company in particular he has worked with is King, the creators of the Candy Crush saga. “My favorite thing about my job is getting to work on new products before they’re launched,” St. John said. He has been able to work on the Fire TV, Amazon Echo, the Fire Tablet and Fire Phone launches long before they are even announced to the public; “it’s really exciting to see behind the curtain and understand the long-term strategy for the company.” A highlight of his career so far was leading the content team for the Fire Tablet and Fire Phone launches; St. John said “one really cool thing was sitting behind Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, watching him practice his presentation for the Fire Phone launch announcement!”
St. John has some advice for students who are interested in a career in technology. “Technology is a fast pace, ever-changing industry. Be sure to keep up on industry changes and evolution, as it seems to change daily; the programming languages seem to change just as fast,” St. John advises. There are plenty of roles within the field of technology from business development, product management to programming, but it’s important to at least be able to speak the lingo of developers. “This will help you effectively manage across several different businesses in technology. I had to learn it all on the job and really wish I had taken some intro computer science classes in college,” St. John said.
He also has some advice for students who are unsure where the road may take them next. “I’ve learned that it’s important not to be too set on exactly what you want to do. It’s crucial to be fluid in your passions and be ready to move as new opportunities arise. Particularly early in your career, it’s so important to get a breadth of experience and push your comfort level in each new role you take,” St. John stated. “Like I said, I had no idea I would be interested in technology and media, but now I love it. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘If you think you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.’ Go Rams!”
-Written by Reilly Fairbrother