Carnegie Mellon Chemical Engineering alumna, Muge Erdirik Dogan, has worn many hats throughout her 15-year career at Amazon. Her ability to adapt and apply what she’s learned in the past has enabled her to build several of the company’s ventures from the ground up, develop diverse and highly successful teams, and optimize any production, revenue or process problem she’s encountered.
“There are ambiguities in every new experience, but maybe you’ve solved a problem in the past that resembles the one you are currently facing,” said Dr. Erdirik Dogan, President of Amazon Fashion. “Each problem you solve is a building block, and utilizing those has been integral throughout my career. In each role, I’ve had to do some fresh thinking but was able to rely on knowledge I gained in previous situations.”
“Research at Carnegie Mellon was like that. You are starting from scratch, building one algorithm on top of another, looking back at others’ research to see what you can leverage, and putting it all together to solve the problem in front of you.”
Dr. Erdirik Dogan grew up in Turkey and found herself interested in engineering from an early age. During a high school internship, she became fascinated with the design, scale, manufacturing and production of chemical reactions.
While pursuing her undergraduate degree at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, she stumbled upon mathematical modeling and optimization, and her research began leading her towards the work of Carnegie Mellon Professor Ignacio Grossmann, a world-renowned process systems engineer.
After completing her undergraduate and master’s degree at Boğaziçi, both in which she finished top of her class, she was accepted into Grossmann’s research group and decided to pursue her Ph.D. at CMU.
“The field of process systems and optimization was really progressing, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”
While at CMU, her research focused on the integration of planning and scheduling within a chemical production supply chain. Her work involved solving mathematical optimization problems, creating models for process engineering and developing algorithms.
“It was a privilege to be part of Ignacio’s group. We had so many strong collaborations and interactions with people from all over the world, and we knew the work we were doing would make long-lasting contributions to the field.”
But Dr. Erdirik Dogan says technical knowledge was just one of the many takeaways from her experience with Grossmann.“Ignacio is the hardest working person I know. He expects the highest standard of work ethic from his student and peers, all while fostering a culture where the work is fun and collaborative. He’ll roll up his sleeves and dive right in, never giving up until he’s solved the problem,” said Erdirik Dogan. “He’s an inspiration, and I’ve carried many of the things I learned from him with me throughout my career.”
Although Dr. Erdirik Dogan had initially set out to become an academician, she became enthralled with the idea of going into industry once she began applying theories, algorithms, and models to actual problems and saw the impact her work was having.
Upon graduating in 2007, Dr. Erdirik Dogan received an offer from a new division within Amazon, their advertising business. She had dreamed of joining Amazon’s supply chain group for some time, but after interviewing with the advertising team, she realized it was the perfect fit.
“It was a day-long interview, but it didn’t feel like an interview. It felt like I was partnering with colleagues and researchers, whiteboarding and problem-solving. Everyone was so intelligent, passionate and obsessed with the customer. I was so impressed and instantly wanted the job.”
During her first few years at Amazon, she was tasked with optimizing their advertising revenue, maximizing yield and monetizing page impressions. She took on several business components, which she enjoyed and instantly excelled at. Her hard work was recognized, and she soon found herself working in the company’s computer business, serving as a functional leader.
After several other functional leadership roles, she was promoted to general manager for the company’s new baby registry venture. Shortly after, another promotion tasked her with launching, scaling and growing Amazon’s beauty business.
Her success in each of these roles led to a unique opportunity, shadowing one of the company’s Senior Vice Presidents, Doug Herrington. For one year, Dr. Erdirik Dogan served as his chief of staff, where she had the chance to sit in on meetings, hear about significant problems the company was facing, watch as critical decisions were made and ultimately learn how to lead a very large-scale organization.
Dr. Erdirik Dogan’s next appointment led her to Amazon’s last-mile delivery and pick-up division, where she was responsible for technology, engineering, core operations, managing capacity and recruiting delivery service providers.
“It was a fascinating role,” she said. “I was able to get back to my roots, using science and optimization again at a much deeper level.”
When COVID struck, Amazon leveraged Dr. Erdirik Dogan’s remarkable ability to build successful teams and scale things quickly. She was asked to leave her day job for a bit to organize a testing program for Amazon’s many front-line employees.
“I don’t think I would have raised my hand if I hadn’t had all of these past experiences launching different businesses and figuring out how to manage each one.”
Once the testing program was up and running, Dr. Erdirik Dogan was promoted once again, this time to her current role as President of Amazon Fashion. Today, she oversees the company’s apparel, shoes, luggage, and jewelry lines, as well as their subsidiaries, Zappos.com and Shopbop.com. From search results to making sure Amazon carries the desired products and can deliver them quickly, Dr. Erdirik Dogan ensures that the customer experience exceeds expectations.
“When I look at the last 15 years, I’ve done a lot of different things. I wasn’t afraid to jump into different businesses and learn the ins and outs of each, and I think Carnegie Mellon played a vital role in helping me achieve the mindset that I can do anything,” said Dr. Erdirik Dogan. “Roll up your sleeves, define what the problem is and have fun solving it.”
“Raise your hand and ask for opportunities, don’t wait for someone to come to you. If you think you can solve a problem, put your name in the hat. It may not happen the first time, but eventually, you’ll be recognized and given the opportunity to show you can deliver.”