Liberal Arts = Teamwork + Problem Solving + Writing
Cherie (Matthaidess) Robinson ’01
While at Carthage: Psychology and business administration double-major, Lady Reds tennis player, member of the Carthage track team.
Now: Senior human resources manager at Amazon.
Big fan of: Carthage’s educational buffet. Sample a lot. Choose your passions. Take every opportunity. “You name it, I dug into it,” she says.
Frustrated that she was carrying the load on a group project in her Carthage accounting class, Cherie (Matthaidess) Robinson ’01 stormed into the professor’s office and asked to switch teams.
Professor David Brunn answered calmly but decisively: No.
Instead, he explained that it was good preparation for the business world, where employees rarely get to hand-pick their teams. His advice? “Go back and think about how you can make that team stronger.”
Although Prof. Brunn has since retired, the lesson is burned in Ms. Robinson’s memory. Only now, instead of four classmates, she supports teams of thousands as a senior human resources manager at Amazon.
That includes 4,500 employees who monitor fraud and risk for the online giant, as well as 1,000 who focus on its payment organization. Based in Seattle, Ms. Robinson collaborates with five national and 15 international HR partners.
Often, the questions that come up are much different from the ones she faced in 11 years at SC Johnson. With 250,000 employees worldwide, it’s easy to forget that Amazon is barely two decades old.
Such rapid growth gives Ms. Robinson plenty to think about. Like making sure the company’s distinct culture is preserved in the hiring frenzy. Or, more practically, how to find good bilingual employees to start operations from scratch in South Africa, Costa Rica, and the Czech Republic.
“This requires a lot of creativity,” she said. “It’s not about ‘Where do I turn to in a book?’”
When creative solutions come, Ms. Robinson often owes them to her growth at Carthage.
Professors’ constant challenges taught her to think critically about big questions. Staying active in tennis, track, and other student groups — “You name it, I dug into it,” she says — shaped her into an organized, confident leader.
Carthage’s emphasis on written communication paid off, too. The grueling process of writing her psychology senior thesis has come in especially handy.
“That’s the type of thing that I write quite often here at Amazon,” said Ms. Robinson.
Her second major was business administration. She declared them only after sampling a variety of subjects as a freshman. That educational buffet fed her curiosity then, and now it helps her to bridge the gap between software developers, researchers, and operations staff.
“In HR, I support a variety of groups,” Ms. Robinson said. “I might not be an expert in that space, but I know a little bit about it.”