Ashok, veteran at Amazon

India grows a year older and this day cannot pass by without us expressing heartfelt gratitude to those in uniform, who serve our nation with pride. While we humbly salute their valour and honour their sacrifices, at Amazon we consider ourselves lucky to have veterans work among us and guide us.
One such veteran is Ashok C Kumar, Regional WHS (Workplace, Health and Safety) Manager who just completed 6 years with Amazon, after 10 years of serving the Indian Navy. Read on to discover how his military molding shapes his Day 1 spirit at Amazon.

Which Armed Forces branch did you serve in?
I served onboard naval ships in the Executive branch Officer cadre for 10 years, and specialized in ship navigation and onboard fire/flood systems. My role was to protect Indian waters by ensuring our ships had optimum operational readiness, weapon preparedness and crew safety.

What motivated you to join Amazon? What do you do with Amazon?
Amazon’s Customer Obsession and understanding of customers’ needs are what drew me to it. Presently, I lead the WHS (Workplace, Health and Safety) team for Amazon India Operations across Delivery Stations and work towards aligning the WHS vision with Amazon’s global standards. I focus on creating a strong culture of safety for Last Mile operations by insisting on high standards of occupational health and environmental safety.

How do you think your military experience helps in your current role at Amazon?
My military life consisted of ingrained values and experiences that taught me leadership skills. Here are a few of my hand-crafted tenets from my time in the military that help me relate to our Leadership Principles:

◆ Know how to assume orders. When there are no orders understand strategic intent.▶ Ownership
◆ Every leader should be capable of commanding one level up. Train well to handle all the duties of your Reporting Officer.▶Hire and Develop the Best
◆ Focus on your core drills and battle procedures until they become muscle memory.▶Learn and Be Curious
◆ Improvisation and Innovation on the fly.▶Invent and Simplify
◆ Leaders must always put themselves on the front line - chaos is full of fleeting opportunities.▶Bias for Action

How did Amazon help you integrate into your corporate life?

Ashok Kumar in his Navy days
Throwback to the days when Ashok Kumar served in the Indian Navy.

The initial transition from the Navy to civilian life was new and came with its own set of challenges. However the welcoming of veteran talent boosted my morale and I leaned on my fraternity of other veteran leaders in Amazon India Operations to help me chart this new course. Today, that Amazon welcome has developed into strategic programs to help veterans smoothly transition into their roles at Amazon and I look forward to this diversity.

Share an anecdote from your military life that helps you in your journey with Amazon.
One of the most critical jobs that I was charged with was the replenishment of fuel, which required a Fuel tanker ship to align with an Air craft carrier on the open seas. This operation required great precision with the navigating officer maintaining a strict distance of 48-54 metres between ships, and the supervision of a complex hydraulic system to ensure that this safe distance is maintained while fuel is re-filled. Any mishap would result in fuel spillage and environmental damage.

One time, in the midst of this replenishment operation, with the two large ships already connected, we saw a small fishing boat approaching us. We sounded sirens and warnings, but the little boat stayed its course. We couldn’t risk a collision, any environmental damage, or damage to our tankers. I immediately alerted my Commanding Officer and executed an emergency breakaway procedure in 55 seconds (a procedure which normally takes 4 minutes). The two ships immediately changed course to make way for the tiny fishing boat to go past – all risk averted. That image inspires me to value calculated risk taking and apply ‘Bias for Action’ in my work life.

Ashok is just one of the many veterans who brings strong leadership and Diversity to the Amazon table. At Amazon, we recognize the skill sets that make our Armed Forces personnel special, and are ramping up to ease the transition to corporate life for our Amazonian veterans.

One such effort is MVEP’s (Military Veteran Hiring Program) Second Innings-Armed to Lead Program, which is designed to provide a launch pad to veterans and ex-servicemen with 8-20 years of experience. Since the launch of this Diversity and Inclusion program in 2019, over 79 veterans have joined the Amazon family, and received structured on-boarding, focused mentoring and on the job learning to help them be more effective.