Now a program manager with Amazon, Priyamvadha Sivakumar talks of WIA student scholarship experience
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Women in Agribusiness Media (July 26, 2022)
NOTE: This is part of a WIA Today series where we checked in with former recipients of our Student Scholarship, which assists with attendance to the annual Women in Agribusiness Summit. Some of the previous interviews can be found here and here.
For today’s interview, we spoke with Priyamvadha Sivakumar, who found her path in ag through making connections at Women in Agribusiness Summits, and today works for Amazon Fresh (ag in another way). At this year’s WIA Summit in Dallas, September 26-28, Sivakumar will be the WIA Scholarship Ambassador, responsible for helping current scholarship recipients navigate their way around the conference and all the opportunities that await them.
1). Please tell us more about the Women in Agribusiness Summit you attended, and how you came to learn about it and get involved in the organization.
I headed to the U.S. in 2015 to pursue my graduate program at Texas A&M, in the Master of Agribusiness program (MAB). One of the many attractive elements about the MAB program was that it included access to the WIA Summits to help shape networking connections within the industry.
While I was too late to apply for 2015, my program director Dr. Victoria Salin guided me on an application for 2016. The scholarships were full that year, but I had the opportunity to participate as a volunteer, which also allowed me time to network and build connections during the breaks and evening receptions. In 2017, I secured a scholarship through HighQuest Partners, and that was my first summit as an attendee where I made connections that led to a future job.
2). What connections did you make from that participation, and how did it help shape your career goals and path?
With a background in food engineering, and having specialized in strategy development in ag at Texas A&M, I wanted to get into consulting after grad school. I started connecting with partners and senior associates working at Context Network and those conversations sort of “put me on the map” if you will. Then when we met up at the WIA Summit, it was good timing as they were hiring. So, I got my first job and my first interview through the network connections I had made at the summit. This opportunity put me on the path to success, given that I was able to put my face and personality out there before the interview, and they got a sense of who I was personally before meeting in the formal interview setting.
While at Context Network, I worked as a business analyst for multiple projects with agribusiness clients. The company operates on an entrepreneurial culture, which gave me insight into how to navigate relationships and effectively meet deadlines.
3). Tell us more about your current job with Amazon.
I made the switch because I was intrigued by the Whole Foods Amazon acquisition. I applied to be a program manager there, which was made easier through the work connections and mentoring I had received – something that all began through the WIA Summit scholarship opportunity.
I started off working in the grocery space helping to scale the Whole Foods pickup program. The pick-up business accelerated quickly in 2020 due to the need from the ensuing pandemic. More recently, I’m working on improving the communication and operational efficiencies for the Amazon Fresh online business and the Amazon Fresh stores.
4). What is the top skill or benefit you walked away with from the WIA Summit?
I've been to three summits so far and there's one thing that stays constant – that’s the wealth of network connections that a person is able to build at these summits, and premium content presented at the summits based on the current trends of the industry.
Also, as a student, there were so many resources made available to me: I still remember working with an executive on my elevator pitch and building my resume during the student workshop sessions of the summit. As a part of the scholarship, I was fortunate to meet one of my mentors who guided me throughout the summit. The women executives I met at the summit were welcoming, gracious, and approachable which was kept me motivated and engaged throughout.
As a student, it can be daunting to walk into a room of hundreds and present yourself, but once you start leveraging the opportunities that result from this, the whole experience is quite extraordinary. I’m deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from the great minds I have crossed paths with.
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If you are a WIA student scholarship beneficiary or know of one who’d like to share her story, please reach out to Michelle Pelletier Marshall at email@example.com. Or to be considered for a scholarship, contact Carrie Vita at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit womeninag.com/initiatives.