Obsessing about customers, writing docs, building teams, working backwards from the customer and as they do this, Amazonians always keep the Day 1 culture alive. Just how do they do it? How do they keep going? Hear it from the leaders themselves...

'The pace and the intensity of our business provides that adrenaline rush'

Akhil Saxena, VP, Operations APAC/MENA/LATAM: When I resigned from my previous organization in March ’13 to join Amazon, we had not even launched in India. I was told by many, including my own family – “You are taking a big career risk”. Yet, there was something so appealing about the culture, about its widely reported relentless focus on customers , the innovations and the quality of people - It was just too enticing – something that I could not pass over. Nearly 7 years later, I have no regrets at all about my decision. The pace and the intensity of our business provides that adrenaline rush, something that makes me get off the bed everyday morning , excitedly telling myself – I have these so many problems to think about and solve. How many companies inspire this sentiment? Not many! I have grown as a leader, as a human being, learning from our many experiments and pilots, failing and stumbling a few times, but knowing in the process, that our culture allows us to tinker and innovate – without the fear of failure. I love the restlessness at Amazon. The spirit of creativity, the diversity of thought and opinion, the passion to make a difference to our customers. And then, throw in our hustle, the perseverance, the ‘fail fast” mental model - And these to me , are the core of Our Day One Culture!

'Thinking from the customer perspective, always'

Prashant Amazon
Prashant Agrawal with his team

Prashant Agrawal, Director, Software Development: An important Day One learning that I have carried with me in Amazon journey is Customer Obsession and working backwards from Customer. Starting in Customer Returns team, our goal was improving returns process and experience for Customers. When we ran into conflicting situations, Amazon Leadership Principles ensured we always think from Customer perspective. Following customer focused problem statement — “How do I make returns experience easy for Customers?” — led to many industry first innovations like Early Refunds, making Amazon the best shopping destination. I am glad to see this culture being embraced and Customer Obsession applied in Amazon every day. We still have an empty chair in our meetings for our Customer. It is still Day One!”

'It's about bringing together inclusion, diversity, e-commerce and social-impact'

Gopal Pillai
Gopal Pillai, with his team at Smbhav 2020

Gopal Pllai, VP, Seller Services: One of the IN Amazon moments that's stayed with me is from our first Women Entrepreneurship Summit in 2017. Our affinity group WoW (short for Women of the Workplace) had invited ten successful women sellers to talk about their entrepreneurial journeys. It was so inspiring to hear each one of their stories, every one of them was very different but had a common core of grit and determination to overcome various personal and social barriers. For me personally, this event really crystalized the impact Amazon was able to make to these women entrepreneurs lives — in our work as the Seller Services team, we had played a significant role in helping these women entrepreneurs thrive and achieve financial independence and self-reliance.
This event was a very significant experience for me — it helped me connect the dots between our day-to-day efforts in building the Amazon marketplace and the much larger impact this work can drive in society - bringing together #inclusion, #diversity, #e-commerce and #social-impact.

'PR-FAQ process helped build a series of capabilities'

Siddharth Nambiar, Director Prime Now: "When I first came on board at Amazon in 2014, I was simply told that we need to figure out the Grocery business, as we knew it would be large - nothing else! Over the next few weeks and months, I learned how to write PR-FAQs (a Press Release with a FAQ section), hired a team and coached them on PRFAQs, and over the past 6 years we have launched and scaled the Grocery category, Prime Now, Pantry and FRESH - all these PRFAQs were written in our first 12 months by a small Grocery startup team of 5. By working backwards from the customer Using the PRFAQ process, we built a series of capabilities across technology, operations and product that millions of our customers love and use more frequently than any other category."

'Amazon offers extraordinary opportunities at every level'

Shashank Likhite, Director, Fast Data: "I joined Amazon almost 5 years ago. I live in Pune, work out of Hyderabad, travel to Bangalore frequently (of course before lockdown). So, what keeps me motivated at work? It’s the culture at Amazon. Amazon in my view is a giant startup, or rather each team at Amazon is like a startup. While we have well-defined roles, at times they are fluid, and team members pick roles based on their passion and experience. It is unconventional (peculiar) in many ways and that is why in a true sense it offers extraordinary opportunities at every level. Well-defined leadership principles empower and encourage every individual to think out of the box, innovate, control their destiny and fuel growth for Amazon. Almost every product that we have built at eCF is an example of “Disruptive Innovation”, where our engineers challenged conventional wisdom and over the period delivered great value for Amazon. For me, leading a group of innovative minds and helping them in their journey of building and growing their own startup at Amazon keeps me going."

'The spirit of “getting it done” remains same'

Prakash Bulusu, VP, Customer Behaviour Analytics: It is still Day 1 at Amazon and there are many things that remind me on a daily basis on what it means to be in Day 1, whether it our customer obsession, high velocity decision making or the long term thinking. The most formative Day 1 experience for me is the Customer Connection training I did many years ago. My day job is to help build software which serves our customer’s needs when they visit our site or app. In this training though you have to roll up your sleeves go back to the “garage” days. If we go back to “Day 1”, Jeff received a customer order and he had to retrieve the book, package and ship it out and then he had to figure how to do it really well and really fast. While things have changed over the years, this training still takes you back to the garage days and the spirit of “getting it done” remains same. Over three days, I had the unforgettable experience of working in the fulfillment center, from receiving an order to picking the items, and finally packaging them. I could witness all our leadership principles in action together and why we call our culture a “Day 1” culture.

'Leaders around me have helped me learn more and be curious'

Deepti Varma
Flashback: Deepti Varma (R), when she had newly joined Amazon.

Deepti Varma, Director, Human Resources: A little less than a decade back I had started at Amazon as a leader of HR teams supporting the Technology teams in India. One of the best learning experience has been writing my first white paper for a leadership review. It was an interesting change to adapt the skill of writing a document, just like it is for any new Amazonian. I did close to 17 iterations, but still could not bring the paper in a presentable shape. It was then that a business leader offered to coach me and shared his writing mantras to craft a rich document by using data and anecdotes. Since then, I have always found inspiring leaders around me at Amazon who have helped me to learn more and be curious. "