Senior Product Manager | Amazon
International Arts and Culture Cohort
Q: What attracted you to the program initially?
Kanika: Part of the appeal of WLP was it seemed like a great way to meld my desire to have this big city school experience combined with a small supportive community. And still having the conveniences of being in DC while studying international affairs - and a lot of the great things that come from being at a larger University like having a wide range of choices and resources. GW was the biggest school I applied to and so the thought of having a small group of people that you live with and meet with regularly made me feel more relaxed about being in that environment.
Also I had gone to an all girls elementary and middle school and maybe even more than that I did an outdoor program that was all girls and that was really impactful.
I think I Communities of women have always been supportive to me and part of what I grew up in so it just seemed like a really unique opportunity to be part of WLP and I didn’t see anything like that anywhere else. College can be a pretty crazy experience and can be overwhelming, and a huge change and I think that WLP provides a really big base where you can be yourself.
Q: What are some of your most salient experiences from WLP?
Kanika: My sophomore year I applied and received the Gamov research grant. For this I went to India with WLP Director Mary Buckley and created a documentary on women leaders in the non-profit sector. We planned this research trip and Mary was super supportive and helped me identify some of the women we would interview through her network. That was huge and that project would not have happened without WLP.
Q: Did it shape the way you continued on with your studies at GW and beyond and if so how?
Kanika: After my undergraduate degree in International Relations, I came back to GW and was the Graduation Teaching Assistant for the International Arts and Culture Cohort. After that I went on to apply for and receive the Luce Scholars Fellowship. I was selected as one of about 15 students to go and study in Asia. One of the criteria for being selected is that they stress the importance of looking for leaders who are curious and I think that my having been in WLP was a part of encouraging my curiosity and was something that really helped me explore and that has served me well.
I chose a path that was not a straight and narrow career path. For the Luce program I went to Indonesia and I ended up staying there for five years. In that time I worked for NGOs, for a startup and Management Consulting. I ended up coming back to the states and getting my MBA at Berkeley and now for the last two years I have worked at Amazon. Initially I was working focused more internationally on Australia and Singapore and recently I have shifted to the Alexa mobile app team.
Q: Has the Program had an effect on your experiences in any sort of long-term way?
Kanika: Having been a part of WLP has given me this really wide breadth and perspective that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It has had a ton of impact on my life and my career. Even now at Amazon the principles of design and aesthetics inform my thinking. I still think of some of the readings we did like Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation and valuing how art makes you feel.
And beyond just the arts focus on the international side where I have spent the majority of my career, it helped my understanding of how people’s experiences are different in different locations. Now at Amazon for me that translates to thinking about particular markets and how different geographic locations interact differently with our Alexa mobile app.
Q: Anything you want to include that I didn’t ask?
Kanika: I never expected to have so much connection with the faculty and that was great. The Program Director Mary Buckley has always been someone I can reach out to for support even now.
“Having been a part of WLP has given me this really wide breadth and perspective that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It has had a ton of impact on my life and my career.