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April 2017

Reducing and Re-using your Amazon packaging

As you may know, tomorrow (April 22nd) is Earth Day. Living in Seattle, it’s easy to find ways to get outside and soak in nature (beaches, mountains, trails galore). But today I thought I would share a couple of Amazon’s innovations that are helping by reducing and re-using packaging. I’ve used both of these innovations in the last week (and do regularly). And I’ll continue to do so until more sustainable long-term options are available (like maybe packaging free delivery or bins a’ la Amazon Fresh).

Give Back Box

Amazon is partnering with Give Back Box to give you an opportunity to re-use your Amazon boxes and to make donating easier for you. Fill your Amazon box with items you would like to donate, print out a free shipping label and click a checkbox to arrange for pickup by UPS or the postal service.

I’m a bit of a neatnik and a KonMari advocate. So since the program was announced, I’ve been challenging myself to fill each Amazon box I receive (and to be clear, that’s several a week) with items for donation. All items need to be clean and suitable for re-use (think: things you would see on sale at a Goodwill store). But this program has actually gotten me to part with a large volume of “maybe I will use that one day” items. When I receive an Amazon delivery, I just leave my box by the door and toss in things I find around the house that I don’t need anymore. Let me tell you, it feels great.

You get the satisfaction of helping people, don’t have to store and deliver your donation items, and you have less cardboard to haul out to the curb on recycling day.

Frustration-Free Packaging

Every time I think of Frustration-Free Packaging, I mentally shout “no more clamshells!”. F-FP is  standard for some products and an option on many other product detail pages, allowing you to opt for packaging that is 100% recyclable and easy to open. Often, it means that items will be shipped in their original boxes (you can opt to have it shipped in an Amazon box if it’s a gift). Items come without unnecessary air pillows or outer boxes. No clamshells, no twist ties, no frustration. Chances are you have received an Amazon order that uses Frustration-Free Packaging without even knowing it.

Frustration-Free Packaging has been around since 2008; the program launched by providing more customer (and environment) friendly packing on the 19 worst offenders when it comes to wrap rage; the kinds of products where home consumers got to look for garden sheers because their scissors weren’t strong enough and then prove that you really can make yourself bleed with plastic retail packaging.

All of our new packaging solutions are lab-tested to ensure product still reach their final destination safely. Since launch, the program has eliminated over 100 million pounds (you read that right) of excess packaging. By the way, we also have a packaging feedback program so if you still find something that’s frustrating or your item doesn’t arrive as expected, you can let the packaging team know.

So maybe for Earth Day, you’ll be inspired to do a little donating via Give Back Box and you’ll know to select Frustration-Free Packaging as an option when you see it.

 If you're interested in more info on Amazon's sustainable packaging efforts, see this interview with Brent Nelson, Amazon's Senior Manager of Customer Packaging Experience. 

What does Day 2 look like?

SpiritYou hear people talk about “Day 1” a lot at Amazon.  The uninitiated observer (or eavesdropper) might think people are talking about their first day at work. They aren’t. “It’s always Day 1” is shorthand here for “keep innovating”.  It means a lot more than that too.

The idea behind Day 1 at Amazon is that you treat your work as if it’s always Day 1; your first day doing it.  Think back to some of the Day 1s in your life… first day of school, first date in an exciting new relationship, first day of that job where you are finally working on something that you are passionate about, not just something you do to pay the bills. On Day 1, you are energized and possibilities are endless. What would happen if you could stay in that headspace? With that level of engagement, excitement and creativity?

On Day 2, people start to identify limitations, focus shifts from creativity to implementation. You start to lose some of your Day 1 zeal.

At our most recent employee all-hands meeting, someone asked Jeff Bezos what Day 2 looks like during the Q&A session at the end. His response: “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

Fast-forward about a month and Jeff’s 2016 shareholders letter, released today, is all about Day 1 and what you can do to avoid that Day 2 state of mind. His list includes obsessing over customers, ensuring processes are aligned with missions and vision, adopting external trends with a sense of eagerness, and making decisions swiftly.

His shareholders letters are always a good read – kind of like a modern entrepreneurship primer – but this one in particular reveals a lot about our culture here and why it’s exciting to work someplace where there’s always a sense of opportunity and energy.

4/19/17 edit: the video of the Q&A session was published today. Added below.


Choosing (or taking) the right photo for your LinkedIn profile

Mark cubanHow Mark Cuban gets away with that profile photo but you can’t.

There is no doubt that LinkedIn has become an important component in the personal branding toolkit, especially for anyone exploring the possibility of a new job. And while we can all acknowledge that the written profile is vitally important – it’s how people find you after all – it’s the profile photo that I find causes the most angst for anyone looking to manage their brand, but who hasn’t had the opportunity to sit down with a photographer. In my career, I’ve worked with a number of extremely successful people who have zero profile photo game. They need advice and help to get a photo that is appropriately matched to the personal brand persona they want to communicate. For some, they need help just getting a profile photo that is appropriate.

The challenge for most people, I think, is that they want a photo that is professional, but also one that feels personal; one that shows some personality. This instinct is 100% on track, in my opinion. Anyone with a couple hundred bucks can have a sterile, polished headshot; blue shirt, hair sprayed in place, light colored solid background. Problem is, this kind of a headshot doesn’t necessarily scream “I am a unique talent!” It doesn’t help people understand what it would be like to know you and to work with you. It’s the personal branding equivalent of stock photography; a sometimes “necessary evil” you avoid if you can.

Another challenge is that not many people want to invest the time or effort into a photo they will use for one application. I get that.  But you’d spend a couple hours updating your resume, right? Or interviewing for a job? Do you take the time to look well-groomed when you are meeting someone new? Do I really need to continue on with these questions? LinkedIn is often the first impression someone has of you; possibly a second impression if it’s being used for social proof. Either way, it’s worth investing the effort in the photo.

The truth is, you don’t even need to hire a professional photographer to shoot your LinkedIn (or other social media) profile photo. You just need to be intentional and go do it, because that photo from Coachella isn’t going to work no matter how much you crop it. The cameras in today’s mobile phones are good enough to produce great profile photos. No special equipment necessary. Here are some tips for taking a good profile photo:

  • Wear something similar to what you would be wearing in professional interactions. You can go a wee bit more dressy (a button-up shirt if you are a developer for example), but if you don’t wear a suit to work, don’t wear one in your profile photo. Also, stay away from sunglasses, branded attire or anything else that is distracting.
  • Outdoor shots are… really hard to pull off. You’re dealing with sun (I swear, sometimes the sun happens in Seattle, like right now as I write this), wind, backgrounds that move, birds (they scare me). A naturally lit interior environment works great. I love atriums and overcast days for photo shoots.
  • What should you be doing in the photo? Mostly, just sitting there and smiling. Don’t be jumping, making finger guns at the camera, resting your chin on your hand or touching your hair. There are exceptions, of course. I mean if you are a professional stand-up comedian, maybe the finger guns are acceptable, I don’t know. The point is that if you’re going to do something in your photo, which I don’t necessarily encourage, it should relate to your area of expertise and your personal brand and not feel too staged and awkward.
  • The best way to get a shot where you look natural is have a conversation with the person taking the picture while you are shooting. Have them tell you some jokes or describe their most embarrassing moment or worst date. You won’t be able to use all your photos but I bet you end up with a few really good, natural looking ones. Because you won’t be over-thinking your pose. It will take your mind off of being awkward and give you the opportunity to produce a genuine smile.
  • Keep background neutral. People should be looking at you when they view your photo, not the foliage, signage or other festival-goers. Just you.

And having spent more than my fair share of time on LinkedIn, here are some don’ts:

  • Don’t use company images or logos as your profile photo. People want professional relationships with people. Many folks on LinkedIn, myself included, do not accept connection request from people lacking an actual photo. It’s very hard to remember if you’ve met someone if there is no photo of them to jog the memory.
  • Don’t use a photo in which you are hugging someone who was later cropped out of the photo. It doesn’t matter that you look well-rested and are in great shape in this photo. Just don’t. And no cocktails, pets, family members or props. And especially no fish. I’m not sure what it is with the fish and profile photos, but none of those. Again, there are exceptions, if you are actually a professional fisher-person, or a photographer holding a camera in your profile photo, then fine. Do a little bit of your professional thing.
  • Don’t go low res. Your photo should be as high res as possible. If you have to blow it up too much to use it, it won’t work. Similarly, if it’s too dark, it will look grainy.
  • No glamour shots, no body parts (like shoulders), no early 90s photos. Your photo needs to represent a great version of who you are today.
  • No cartoon characters. Unless you are a cartoon artist. Even then, maybe not the best idea.
  • No obvious selfies unless your goal is to work at Instagram and only Instagram. If you can pull off a great shot without the obvious arm extension and nobody is any the wiser, that’s great.
  • No copping out. You need a profile photo.

As I mentioned, there are some exceptions and most of these relate to the industry you are in. If you are in a creative role or have a very visible public persona, you can get away with a little more creativity. So if you are in marketing or design you might apply a little (just a little) of your artistry to your image (you can see what I did with mine here).  If you work in fashion, be fashionable. If you are well-known in your space, and the people who will likely be engaging you already have a perception of you, your personality and what you offer, you can get away with a Mark Cuban. Just remember that only Mark Cuban is Mark Cuban.

So, if you are feeling motivated to add or update your LinkedIn profile photo, I’d recommend doing some searches of other people in your industry on LinkedIn, for a little inspiration, and then setting up some time with a S.O., friend or co-worker to take some profile photos of each other. And do this every few years, if needed, to keep things current.