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We are proud of the successes of our Alumni and their contributions to a diverse range of businesses.

Sy Chakraborty

Director, Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Customer obsessed at the forefront of digital transformation

During a recent conversation, Sy Chakraborty shared his path from growing up in India to now running a finance transformation group for Amazon Web Services (AWS) out of his home office in Atlanta, Georgia. In both his personal and professional life, he has a true passion for putting people first and exceeding expectations.

What were your early years like?
I grew up in a very humble family in India. My parents, like in many immigrant families, I think, emphasized education and hard work. So, after finishing my undergrad studies, I came to the U.S. to get my master’s degree in industrial engineering. I had planned to return to India after that, but then I got a good job at an IT firm and I met my wife here. As they say, the rest is history.

What drew you to PwC?
Around 2012, I was focused on helping clients transform their corporate functions and move them from traditional technology to the cloud. At that time, PwC was building up their practice in that area, so somebody I knew referred me for a job. When the PwC recruiter called me, I was in India on vacation so I told him I wasn’t really looking for a change at that time. But the recruiter was persistent. When I got back to the U.S., I met with a PwC partner and director for dinner, with our wives, and I realized quickly that I wanted to be a part of the firm. I liked the people and the culture right away.

Any lasting lessons from your time at PwC?
Yes. First, I learned the importance of building trust and, second, the importance of working to solve the problems that matter most for our clients. Those were our top priorities at PwC, and they continue to be my top priorities now. I also learned how to operate in ambiguity because we were trained to deal with change all the time. That’s been especially valuable during these past two years, as we’ve all had to deal with so much change in our lives.

Speaking of change, you recently took a new role at Amazon! How are things going?
It’s been a very natural transition. At Amazon, we strive to be the world’s most customer-centric company. Customer obsession comes naturally to me, given my background at PwC where we focused so much on client delivery, client services, and building trust. There’s a lot of synergy between what I do now and what I was doing before.

Would you tell us a bit more about what you’re working on now?
Of course. I work with AWS (which stands for Amazon Web Services), in a fintech group that’s part of a larger group called FGBS (which stands for Finance Global Business Services). In our part of the business, we’re building different financial systems from scratch — things related to annual planning, revenue, reporting, deals, and much more. But specifically, I run a small team that focuses mostly on new product launches, new service launches, and big business initiatives. I make sure that we have the right technology and processes in place from a finance, accounting, and tax perspective to support those new businesses or business initiatives. AWS is really growing at such a rapid speed, and we’re just getting started, so it’s a very exciting time to be here.

How was your experience starting a new job remotely during the pandemic?
Initially, I had some anxiety about that. I mean, I still haven’t met my boss in person! But the remote situation has worked out really well, and I felt that many of my colleagues really prioritized making time to onboard me. Also, in many ways, this time of remote work has been a blessing in disguise for us. For one, I was able to spend more time at home with my kids and my wife. I think my wife and I came to the conclusion that we really do love each other because we are able to tolerate each other this whole time, you know?

You must have a great relationship! At work, how would you describe yourself as a leader?
First, I’d say I’m very direct. I don't avoid problems or go around them. I just tackle things head on. Second, we’re in the people business, so I really try to be a servant leader. I believe we need to work collaboratively as a team. Third, and finally, I insist on a strong work ethic—from myself and from my team. I often feel like I can’t rest until I’ve delivered something that meets, or ideally exceeds, people’s expectations.

Reflecting on your career at this point, what makes you the most proud?
I’m proud of having helped solve some pretty big problems for my clients over the years. I also feel proud of where I started and where I am today. I never forget my roots, where I have come from, and the ideals my parents instilled in me — like humility, hard work, and honesty.

Outside of work, how do you like to spend your time?
Whenever I can, I just try to spend time with my wife and our two kids, who are four and seven years old. I also do some work with a nonprofit organization called the All Bengal Women's Union, which helps support abandoned children in India.

What’s the best advice you can offer others?
There’s not just one path to get to a destination, but if you don’t have a plan, you’re just planning to fail.

This interview was conducted, edited, and condensed by Jen Swetzoff, founder and creative director of Closeup. Jen was formerly the deputy managing editor at strategy+business magazine.

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