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Why You Want to Work at Amazon

After read­ing the recent New York Times arti­cle  Inside Ama­zon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruis­ing Work­place  it occurred to me that the arti­cle wasn’t real­ly about Ama­zon being a dif­fi­cult place to work but rather the sto­ry of Ama­zon being the place to be to pre­pare for tomorrow’s workplace.

In the not too dis­tant future most com­pa­nies will be run by com­put­ers.  Yes there will still be peo­ple man­ag­ing the com­put­ers but most of the work will be done by the machines, which will replace many of the cur­rent employees.

Ama­zon is one of the most advanced com­pa­nies in the world regard­ing automa­tion of busi­ness process­es and deci­sion making.

Based on the New York Times arti­cle it appears that Ama­zon has already imple­ment­ed many process­es that future com­pa­nies will be man­aged by. While many tech com­pa­nies appear to be mov­ing in this direc­tion,  I believe Ama­zon has advanced the most towards the future com­pa­ny employ­ment world.

Data and algo­rithms dri­ve much of the deci­sion mak­ing at the com­pa­ny.  Vir­tu­al­ly all the pric­ing and prod­uct dis­play deci­sions you see on the Ama­zon web­site are sole­ly made by algorithms.

Ama­zon is where you could be trained to be the next gen­er­a­tion executive.

At Ama­zon you will learn how to out­shine, out­per­form and out­smart all your cowork­ers.  In essence to com­pete and win in cor­po­rate America.

Ama­zon will also teach you how to cre­ate high­ly prof­itable and high growth ful­ly auto­mat­ed businesses.

Max­i­miz­ing rev­enues in these future orga­ni­za­tions will be best han­dled by those best versed in opti­miza­tion soft­ware and AI.  Per­haps we’ll see a CAO, Chief Algo­rithm Offi­cer along­side the CEO and CFO.

Those expe­ri­enced in cre­ation and man­age­ment of the ful­ly auto­mat­ed enter­prise will be high­ly sought after employees.

Ama­zon could offer you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn the skills to posi­tion your­self to become a CEO of a major com­pa­ny by the time you are 30.

How­ev­er, be advised that if you do choose to take a job at Ama­zon there is a high prob­a­bil­i­ty your employ­ment won’t be long term as most peo­ple won’t suc­ceed at Ama­zon.  Dur­ing your time at Ama­zon you will also be sub­ject to a lot of stress.

But don’t let this dis­cour­age you as this is the new employ­ment par­a­digm and it’s just that, new and still being opti­mized.

There will be far few­er employ­ees at these auto­mat­ed orga­ni­za­tions; to keep your job you will need to be at the top of your game every day from 9 am to when­ev­er you finish.

If you do last long enough to become a top per­former you may become one of the elit­ist few that are posi­tioned for suc­cess in the new glob­al fast track high per­for­mance economy.

Why do I believe all this?  Just keep read­ing and you will see that since incep­tion Jeff Bezos has designed Ama­zon to be a busi­ness machine.  While you may think you are great at mul­ti-task­ing you have no chance against an algorithm.

The most suc­cess­ful employ­ees of the future will know how to har­ness the algo­rithms and to max­i­mize their out­put based on the orga­ni­za­tions KPIs.  Those still try­ing to com­pete with the com­put­ers will fail miserably.

Opti­miz­ing Human Algorithms

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s Founder and Chief Exec­u­tive has always been a big thinker.  He knew back in 1995, when he start­ed the busi­ness that he need­ed to do more, lots more if he was to achieve his big dream.

“You can work long, hard or smart, but at Ama­zon you can’t choose two out of three” accord­ing to Jeff Bezos’ 1997 let­ter to shareholders.

Many years lat­er his phi­los­o­phy is in full force.

In a recent New York Times arti­cle, Inside Ama­zon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruis­ing Work­place reporters inter­viewed 100 cur­rent and for­mer Ama­zon employ­ees as to what it’s like to work at the company.

While many sor­did sto­ries were told; employ­ees recov­er­ing from life threat­en­ing dis­eases giv­en per­for­mance warn­ings, such a high lev­el of stress that Bo Olson, a for­mer book mar­keter stat­ed “Near­ly every per­son I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”, the over­all sense was of a com­pa­ny look­ing to max­i­mize employ­ee performance.

Even rebut­tals to the arti­cle by Ama­zon employ­ees con­firm the core philosophies:

“An Ama­zon spokesman pre­vi­ous­ly con­firmed that the com­pa­ny seeks to man­age out a cer­tain per­cent­age of its work force every year; the size of the goal varies from year to year.”

Also, accord­ing to the New York Times arti­cle “Com­pa­ny vet­er­ans often say that the genius of Ama­zon is the way it dri­ves them to dri­ve them­selves.  “If you’re a good Ama­zon­ian, you become an Amabot” said one employ­ee, using a term that means you have become at one with the system.”

Employ­ees at Ama­zon ware­hous­es are mon­i­tored to ensure they are pack­ing enough box­es each hour.

In its offices Ama­zon uses a more psy­cho­log­i­cal approach with a self-rein­forc­ing set of man­age­ment, data and psy­cho­log­i­cal tools designed to encour­age its thou­sands of white col­lar work­ers to do lots more.

“The com­pa­ny is run­ning a con­tin­u­ous per­for­mance improve­ment algo­rithm on its staff”, accord­ing to Amy Michaels, a for­mer Kin­dle mar­keter as not­ed in the New York Times article.

Amazon’s man­age­ment sys­tem is designed to use lots of data as well as pres­sure and stress to push employ­ees to per­form at the high­est lev­els.  The lead­er­ship has sanc­tioned a cul­ture of rig­or­ous, con­stant per­for­mance feed­back and inces­sant com­pe­ti­tion among peers who fear miss­ing a poten­tial prob­lem and all who race to be the first one with the right answer.

At Ama­zon data dri­ves much of the deci­sion mak­ing. Employ­ees are respon­si­ble for keep­ing up with a stag­ger­ing set of met­rics and data which reg­u­lar­ly cul­mi­nates in intense week­ly and month­ly busi­ness review meetings.

As lit­tle as 2 days pri­or to the meet­ings employ­ees receive upwards of 60 page print outs which they need to learn thor­ough­ly as they may be ques­tioned on any or all of the thou­sands of numbers.

As in “sur­vival of the fittest”, those not fit for any rea­son (knowl­edge, sick­ness or what­ev­er) will not make the grade and most like­ly will be washed out.

When one looks at all of these com­ments cumu­la­tive­ly it almost sounds like a com­put­er pro­gram or algo­rithm.  The only dif­fer­ence is these are rules for peo­ple not com­put­er pro­grams.  The pro­gram­mers are the Ama­zon leadership.

In dig­i­tal par­lance they call this opti­miza­tion.  The only dif­fer­ence at Ama­zon is they are opti­miz­ing human per­for­mance as opposed to algo­rith­mic performance.

Ama­zon, the Future is Here Today

Ama­zon has set very high tar­gets for itself.  The com­pa­ny has cre­at­ed and is man­ag­ing hun­dreds if not thou­sands of dif­fer­ent businesses.

Imag­ine try­ing to man­age all these busi­ness­es; you would first have to under­stand all the dif­fer­ent busi­ness­es.  Not an easy task as Ama­zon has wide range of b2b and b2c busi­ness­es some of which range from enter­prise cloud host­ing to con­sumer prod­ucts like Kin­dle,  is both a hard­ware man­u­fac­tur­er and book pub­lish­er, Ama­zon pro­duces TV Shows, sells HDTVs and now is test­ing hot food delivery.

How do they do it?  Data.   Humans start the busi­ness­es and then grad­u­al­ly inte­grate the soft­ware into the busi­ness­es.  Humans guide the soft­ware devel­op­ment and aid the soft­ware in learn­ing and study­ing the busi­ness­es.  In the final stages the soft­ware will be run­ning, opti­miz­ing and grow­ing the busi­ness­es over­seen by a lim­it­ed human staff.

Per­haps in the future Ama­zon may become the first com­pa­ny that is sub­stan­tial­ly run by computers.

The Human Opportunity

Ama­zon is not there yet.  That’s the good news as you can be part of the trans­for­ma­tion and ben­e­fit from the learning.

You will have two key types of learn­ing; First you’ll be learn­ing how to use data and soft­ware to cre­ate, learn and opti­mize busi­ness­es-how to cre­ate an auto­mat­ed com­pa­ny.  The sec­ond type of learn­ing will be how to thrive in the new high­ly com­pet­i­tive cor­po­rate world where there will be far few­er jobs.

Future com­pa­nies will be expect­ed to achieve extreme­ly steep rev­enue and prof­it growth.  In order to com­pete humans just won’t cut it.  We’re too slow.  Com­put­ers are far faster at pro­cess­ing data.   Com­put­ers will enable com­pa­nies to scale growth exponentially.

Even­tu­al­ly the AI, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, sys­tems will be able to cre­ate busi­ness­es on their own and com­pa­nies will need far less people.

I would esti­mate the win­dow for this “Ama­zon Train­ing” to be between 5 and 10 years.   Per­haps shorter.

If you are in your 20’s now you should be doing what­ev­er it takes to get a job at Ama­zon, in your 30’s it is still valu­able and if you’re 40 or old­er you may want to ask your­self if you want to work in that kind of com­pet­i­tive and stress­ful envi­ron­ment before mov­ing forward.

The future will arrive whether we’re pre­pared or not.  Also, keep in mind that if you don’t get “trained” at Ama­zon some­one else will.  Cur­rent­ly Ama­zon is the only com­pa­ny I would con­sid­er for this train­ing but I’m sure there will more com­pa­nies soon.

In the future com­pa­nies will need less employ­ees so the com­pe­ti­tion for jobs will be very intense.  Those who have been on the bat­tle­field will be bet­ter pre­pared and more expe­ri­enced in how to suc­ceed in the new cor­po­rate world.

This arti­cle is not a satire.  It is my pre­dic­tion. You may want to read the New York Times arti­cle and then tell me how real­is­tic you think my future pre­dic­tions are.



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