It’s hard to pinpoint when or how I my interest in geology began. I suppose that I’ve always been interested and awed by the landscape around me even from an early age.  Whether its mountains, canyons, flat plains, rolling hills, or islands popping straight out of the ocean – all of this made me wonder how and why the earth was shaped the way it was. And I knew that when I enrolled into Lafayette that I wanted to leave with a degree in geology.

That being said, for the past several years I’ve worked at as a Product Manager building the software and features needed to support all types of different customers. I’m currently focused on building platforms and features for Amazon’s international retail businesses and international expansion by enabling a seamless shopping experience in any language for all Amazon customers worldwide on any Amazon website and device.

Matt Harhen ’08 performing field work, with assistance from a local resident.

So how did I get here? Long story short, I left Lafayette in 2008 and began working as a geologist for an environmental engineering company in Pittsburgh. Most of my days were spent working in the field, gathering samples, taking measurements, and writing reports.

At the end of 3 years in Pittsburgh, I decided that it was time for a change. So I packed up and moved across the country to Seattle with very little idea where I was going to work or what I was going to do. I started my job search and found that Amazon was hiring for their new industrial and scientific business. They hired me and I became responsible for inventory management, product forecast generation, new retail product launches, site merchandising, marketing, and conducting analysis to identify opportunities to drive the business.

Matt Harhen on the summit of Eldorado Peak overlooking the Inspiration Glacier in the Cascade Mountains.

Almost overnight I went from working outside most of the day to working behind a desk. I loved the fast pace work, the innovation, and the type of people at Amazon, but there was something missing. This was a drastic change to say the least and my love for geology hadn’t gone away, but it did change. I quickly began to miss the field work and the sense of freedom of being outside all the time. I filled this gap on the weekends mountaineering, kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, and camping.

Work Session at Amazon

Over the next few years at Amazon I transitioned from the retail space into the development space working with Amazon customers and developers to build new global features and capabilities across Amazon including 18 of their country websites, the mobile app, and Alexa. And even though I’m not specifically using my geology degree for my career, one of the most important things I learned from geology is that a lot hiding beneath the surface of what we see. Studying geology forces you to look beyond what we can see with our eyes, gather data where we think it’s available, connect dots that may not seem related, and to make assumptions using the information we have at hand. This is important in many aspects of life especially and is an extremely valuable skill to have while building software or making business cases which could have a major impact on customers and the company.

Matt and Family enjoying a snowy winter hike in Snoqualmie Washington.

My advice is that if you want to pursue a career in anything, whether it’s geology, technology, or anything else, all you have to do is apply yourself, stay motivated, be your best self, and don’t hesitate to ask people for help or guidance. It’s not always easy, in fact, it almost never is, and things don’t always work out as planned, but if you have do what is necessary to achieve it then you have a much better chance. There might be several milestones along the way and there are no shortcuts, but the only thing standing between you and achieving your goal is not believing you can do it and not trying.

Amazon has big challenges in a competitive fast past environment across the globe. And it’s not all retail sales and technology. We are constantly expanding into new spaces including sustainability and environmental areas. If you are interested in joining a dynamic and fast growing company, send me a note. Our open jobs can be found here –