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Lute Powered: Amazon

Lute Powered: Amazon

PLU alumni Regan Zeebuyth ’01, Jon Grande ’92 and April Rose Nguyen ’19, ’21 excel at the tech and commerce leader

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Headshots of Jon, Reegan, and April Rose next to each other in a row.
June 5, 2022

Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. More than 125 PLU alumni work for the global commerce and technology leader. For this “Lute Powered” feature, we met with three of them to discuss their careers, their motivations, and why Amazon is a fit for them.

The Curious Storyteller

Regan Zeebuyth ’01 has always been curious. Curious about words, about ideas, and about systems. He’s always trusted that curiosity to guide him. Even when, as a second-year Lute, it led him to rethink plans to follow his parents into medicine and toward a major in communication. Even when it nudged him out of a burgeoning early career in public relations and into the world of corporate internal communications.

Zeebuyth’s curiosity eventually led him to join the communications team at Starbucks, where he served in six different roles over a 10-year span, starting as a project manager and departing as a director of communications. It’s also why he now loves working at Amazon, where, as the senior manager for corporate affairs business operations, he leads the business operations team for worldwide communications at Amazon — and has served in three positions (so far) in the past five years.

Certainly there’s a tactical side to communication, how you craft messaging, and why you’re crafting messaging the way that you’re crafting it,” he explains. “But I also love thinking through the complexity of what we do. In addition to the near-term decisions we make right now around communication, also thinking about the potential long-term or ripple effects of that.”

Read our full profile of Regan Zeebuyth.

Regan Zeebuyth stands in front of the Amazon Spheres in downtown Seattle

The Career Gamer

Jon Grande ’92 was an intern at Microsoft the summer before he enrolled at PLU. His supervisor was a young marketing manager named Melinda French. He remembers advice Melinda — now Melinda French Gates — gave him a few weeks before the fall semester began.

“Don’t bother majoring in business,” he can still hear her telling him. “We’ll teach you everything you need to know about business. Go find a topic that you love and learn how to think critically.”

With that encouragement in mind, Grande majored in political science while interning at Microsoft throughout all four of his PLU years. He accepted a full-time position a few weeks before commencement. One year later, he transferred departments, to an up-and-coming Microsoft games unit that only had about 25 staff members. He’s worked in gaming ever since, spending 13 years in what is now Microsoft Studios (where his projects included favorites like Halo, Mass Effect and Age of Empires), before stints with multiple gaming start-ups as well as industry heavyweights like Electronic Arts and Big Fish Games.

“Lots of people play games; not a lot of people can tell you why games are fun or how good games are made,” Grande says.

Read our full profile of Jon Grande.

Jon Grande sitting in front of his computer in his own office. His desk and nearby shelves are filled with tokens that remind him of video games he's worked on.

The Rising Recruiter

April Rose Nguyen ’19, ’21 has a plan. A political science and communication double major who recently earned an MBA at PLU, Nguyen followed the advice of a career adviser into a series of contract jobs in human resources. Not because she has career aspirations in HR — though she does find the work endlessly interesting — but because she wants to learn about all of the jobs.

“Working in HR, you get a lot of visibility into various departments and you get to know a lot of different people,” Nguyen explains. “You get to learn a lot about the inner workings of a company, so when you’re trying to convert over or trying to move up into a department that really piques your interest, you know a bit about what that team is all about.”

Nguyen currently serves as an applicant services recruiter for Amazon Technical Academy, a program that provides current Amazon employees with the training necessary to transition into software development engineer roles at the company. Nguyen is often the person at the academy an employee speaks to if they are interested in the program. “I love that I get to see everybody through the application process,” she says.

April Rose Nguyen smiles into the camera while sitting in a coffee shop. She's holding a coffee in front of her and has a laptop covered with stickers on the counter in front of her.
Lute Powered is a story series highlighting PLU alumni at some of the most well-known organizations in the Puget Sound region.