Thursday, September 28, 2023

Tilbury Military Veteran Celebrated By Amazon Team 

THE team at the Amazon fulfilment centre in Tilbury is celebrating Armed Forces Day (24th June) by paying tribute to the veterans and reservists from the services community who work at Amazon across the UK.

Waruna Ambanpola, who works in Tilbury as an operations manager, joined the company in 2021 after a career in the military. Waruna has been talking about his experience of leaving the military and joining Amazon ahead of this year’s Armed Forces Day celebrations. 

Born and raised in Sri Lanka, Waruna knew he wanted to pursue a career in the military from the get-go. His father had an impressive 38-year career in the military, and his grandfather was a member of the Royal Air Force, so it was all Waruna had wanted to do since he was young.

After being selected from Sri Lanka to attend the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Waruna moved there in 2010 to complete the four-year training course. This was a positive experience, which saw him take on the role of director of operations in his final year. While completing his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering, he was also an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) pilot and qualified UAV instructor at the academy.

After completing his training, Waruna returned to Sri Lanka and joined the Sri Lanka Air Force as a flying officer. He began as an aircraft engineer, before moving on to the UAV research and development squadron.

In 2018, Waruna resigned from the Sri Lanka Air Force to move to the UK and marry his wife. He then began a master’s degree in air transport management, planning to get a job in aviation upon finishing. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, this plan was turned on its head.

After few months of job search, Waruna took a role as sales account manager with an Airline Sales and Marketing Company, but while working there he found out about Amazon’s Military Programme via LinkedIn, which led him to apply for a role as an Amazon area manager. When he received the initial call for the job, he was told he would be a good fit for the Amazon Pathways scheme.

Pathways is a five-year Operations Leadership Development Program designed to rapidly develop talented MBA or master’s-level graduates and high-potential transitioning military leaders with the skills they need to be warehouse general managers and directors at Amazon.

Waruna said, “Pathways changed my life, really. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”

Waruna began as an area manager before quickly moving into a step-up operations manager role for the 2021 Christmas period.

Speaking on why he chose to work at Amazon, Waruna explained:

“To be honest, it wasn’t really on my radar as I was mainly looking to do something in aviation. But when the opportunity to work at Amazon came up, I knew I would have a network of people there that I wasn’t finding anywhere else as a veteran. The initial screening and contact were so smooth, and the military involvement and community was clear from the get-go as there was someone from a military background on my interview panel. Operations is also my bread and butter so I knew the role would be a good fit.”

Waruna also found that many of the skills from his career in the armed forces were easily transferable and of great value in his new role at Amazon. He added:

“The values and principles that you learn in the military are pretty much the same here at Amazon. In the military, you must take ownership and understand how to prioritise, you have to be flexible and adaptable, and you have to communicate well – these are all skills that are so valuable to my current role.”

Waruna is the military point of contact for his site and explained that there is a lot of support available within the military network across Amazon’s UK sites.

Many members of the military community join Amazon through the company’s military programme. The Amazon Military Programme offers members of the military community the opportunity to pursue a wide range of exciting new career paths. Last year over 350 veterans, reservist and military spouses joined in more than 35 different job roles including health and safety specialists, engineers and team leaders. These new employees joined more than 2,500 already employed at Amazon since it commenced its military programme in 2011. 

Emma Morgan, Programme Manager, Global Military Affairs at Amazon, said: “We believe everyone should have the opportunity to learn and develop and we are passionate about extending these opportunities to veterans, military spouses and reservists. People from the military community add tremendous value to our workforce and it’s fantastic to celebrate them during this year’s Armed Forces Day events.”

Many members of the company’s military community are part of the Warriors at Amazon affinity group. Warriors at Amazon includes current and former active military personnel, their families, and employees who support them. This group provides members with a professional network, organises community outreach programmes, and assists veterans during their transition into civilian life.

Amazon has 13 affinity groups, also known as employee resource groups. They play an important role in bringing employees together and create a sense of community globally, while encouraging inclusivity and diversity. These groups include Glamazon, the Black Employee Network, Asians@Amazon, People with Disabilities and Women@.

Amazon is also a proud signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant. The Covenant, originally introduced in 2011, has a focus on helping the Armed Forces community to access the same support from government and commercial services as the public. 

They first signed the Armed Forces Covenant in 2013 and renewed its commitment in 2021, vowing to uphold its key principles and to demonstrate its commitment to serving personnel, reservists, veterans and families.

To other ex-service people who are thinking of joining Amazon, Waruna has this advice:

“Join LinkedIn and attend the sessions run by the Amazon military recruitment team. They will answer your questions, take you through the interview process and tell you what to expect. Attending those sessions really calmed my nerves and gave me all the information I could possibly need. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be open to learn. Working at Amazon is a new challenge, and every day is different – your military experience will have set you up for the workplace environment well.”

Launched in 2021 the Amazon Corporate Military Internship Programme is one such opportunity. It offers a direct path into corporate roles in e-commerce for those transitioning from the Armed Forces. Those on the programme are supported throughout their transition to the corporate world, including a military mentor, tailored support from line management and an onboarding buddy.

To find out more about beginning a career with Amazon, visit Amazon Jobs

Amazon provides competitive pay, comprehensive benefits and a modern, safe and engaging work environment for its employees. The roles pay between £11 and £12 per hour depending on location, and employees can also take advantage of Amazon’s pioneering Career Choice programme, which pre-pays 95% of tuition for courses in high-demand fields, up to £8,000 over four years, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at the company. 


  1. Always knew Waruna would do well with whatever he pursued. From the time I shared with him at the US Air Force Academy he showed his leadership and organizational skills with his amazing attitude to get things done. Amazon is fortunate to have him on board!


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