Work for a Place Where You'd Happily Be the Janitor (Ownership)

Just now, I had a lovely conversation with a gentleman who'd come to Amazon in 2005.  He was working for another (very large) tech firm at the time and he saw that Amazon had the same revenue as CorpX but had 1/3rd the number of employees.

He made it through the interview process and they said, "Very glad to have you; now we just need to figure out what you're going to do."

"I'll happily be the Janitor.  I'm glad to be here."

* * *

That little anecdote brings to mind a principle: "Work somewhere that has a culture you believe in."  I believe in the culture here, as expressed in the published Leadership Principles.  Ownership is the next-to-top one (right behind "Customer Obsession"), and it ends with, "Never says, 'That's not my job'."

In other words, do what needs doing.  Nothing is beneath you.  You own part of this company; act like it.

And you know what?  It's really true.

Last year, they asked for volunteers to go work in a Fulfillment Center, and I readily volunteered.  It was a great opportunity to learn how we satisfy our customers by picking, boxing, and shipping items.  I worked for 8 hard hours that day loading 40-foot trailers full of goodies going to Kansas City, Houston, and Omaha.  Each box was somebody's Christmas present.  It was hard, but it was incredibly rewarding at the end of the day.

About halfway through the day, it struck me that I'd seen all this before: The attitude, the team-focus, the continuous improvement.  It looked just like the other company for which I'd happily sweep the floors: Toyota.  So I asked the team lead on my group about it.

"Oh yeah!   We patterned most of this off how Toyota does things."

That's kind of interesting:   Both Toyota and Amazon know their customer.  They're not terribly interested in following the trendy thing, but they want to engineer processes and teach people how to do things so that they work.  They both move fast and don't break things.

I have no idea how long I'll work here.  It could be another year or the rest of my career.  However it turns out, it's been wholly the privilege to serve customers.  Through next Tuesday is one of my on-call rotations, so some minuscule part of that www.amazon.com site you visit today has me sitting behind it, ensuring it runs at 100% efficiency.

And you know what?  It's a privilege.  It's what I've worked my entire career to do.

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