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Campus Life

Amazon Welcomes Jeffrey Tambor to Campus

Amazon’s Seattle urban campus community offers consistent opportunities to meet inspirational leaders from across the globe. Amazon Fishbowls are our very own assembly-style speaker or concert engagements, which take place in the Amazon Meeting Center. Amazon Fishbowls have drawn former presidential candidates, world renowned actors and directors, artists, authors, advocates, and philanthropists.

Most recently, I attended a fishbowl with writer and actor, Jeffrey Tambor, who spoke about his book, Are You Anybody, a memoir. I counted down the days until this event, and I was especially interested in whether Tambor would speak about Amazon Prime Video’s role in the Golden Globe winning series, Transparent.

Jeffrey Tambor
Amazonians look forward to welcoming our Fishbowl guests to campus, and often find time to speak with guests after the Fishbowl, or during the session’s Q&A. Check out this photo of Jeffrey Tambor exploring our Community Banana Stand

Beyond his recently published book, and book tour – Jeffrey spoke about his experience on the Golden Globe nominated Amazon series, Transparent. Amazonians were excited to hear that Tambor was on board with Amazon Prime Video streaming even before Transparent started filming. He shared that at the time that Jill Soloway pitched the idea of Transparent and Amazon Prime Video to him, Tambor had also received an offer to do a basic network television show that he said would have done well, but it was too comfortable – his main message to Amazonians is to pick the option that ignites your fire, rather than the option that is more likely to succeed. He took the risk with Transparent because he believed in Amazon, and because ultimately – it was an adventure that excited him.

The session concluded with audience Q&A where some audience members inquired about Tambor’s experience with Transparent, though many questions connected to specific stories and examples in his book. Those who did not read the book beforehand are sure to catchup, and order their copy on Amazon.

While Amazon Fishbowls are open to all full time Amazon employees, they often serve as a way for Consumer Division teams to venture outside of the office together in groups. Those who lead team meetings often use Fishbowl topics and speakers as a launch point for a brainstorm session, continuing to strengthen our approach to innovation and teamwork.

Amazon’s Accessibility Awareness Month

OpenAmazon is known to be customer-obsessed. Part of that obsession is ensuring that we optimize our work for accessibility.

According to research from the World Bank, fifteen percent of the world’s population lives with some kind of disability – that’s one billion people. At Amazon, we look for ways to make it easier for people to engage with us, across all of our businesses. This past month has been Accessibility Awareness Month at Amazon, packed full of events to help employees learn more about accessibility, integrate good practices into their work and collaborate across organizational boundaries with the goal of improving accessibility.

A few of the many events that took place this past month include:

  • An accessibility bug hunt, where all employees were challenged to find and report accessibility bugs
  • A session reviewing research on shopping for people with vision impairment. This presentation included key take-aways from shop-along exercises plus videos and sound bytes from customers.
  • Training on accessible design best practices
  • An empathy lab where employees could learn how our web pages are experienced by customers with vision impairments, or what it feels like to navigate (or a particular page or feature) when you can’t grip a mouse
  • A session with Twitch on making gaming more accessible and inclusive
  • Podcasts with business leaders discussing accessible design and accessibility for Amazon employees

In-person events took place in Seattle as well as a host of other Amazon office locations including Sunnyvale, Boston and London. Most also offered livestreaming and on-demand access for our colleagues around the globe.

What’s been particularly interesting for me to see this past month is the intersection of accessibility and customer obsession. Many companies focus on accessibility because it’s the right thing to do, as they should and as does Amazon. But there is a certain diligence and structure that surrounds it when you are such a customer-obsessed company. It’s not an extra thing you do; it’s an important part of your job. And there is great interest in it internally when you hire so many people that are really passionate about doing the right thing for customers; all customers.

Amazon and our local community

Marty Hartman receives a key to Mary's Place's future home on Amazon's campus

Last spring, I shared about the work we are doing with Mary’s Place, providing housing to homeless families in a building that was previously a Travelodge. Amazon had purchased the land the building sat on and put the building to good use while plans were being made to develop the property.

As it turns out, those plans involve a permanent spot for Mary’s Place. Amazon is donating 47,000 square feet of space inside the building that will occupy the city block at 7th and Bell, in the Denny Triangle area of Seattle. Sure, it’s an unusual arrangement, to partner with an organization to provide shelter for 200 women, children and families right on our campus. There’s a lot of excitement here for this opportunity.

While construction is underway, Mary’s Place residents will be temporarily be moved to another vacant hotel across the street. The planned opening date for Amazon’s new building is in 2020. You can read more about our plans here.

There have been other plans made recently to integrate Amazon into the local community through partnerships. Back in February, we announced a partnership with Farestart, including plans to donate equipment and 25,000 square feet of space on our campus to help them launch an apprentice program.

What’s exciting to me about both of these announced opportunities is that the organizations and the people they support will be part of our campus environment, part of the same community. Having worked previously on a suburban corporate campus (beautiful soccer fields and all), I can tell you that there is a different energy when your campus is in an urban neighborhood; you are more a part of it.  Programs like these give you a connection to your community that you don’t get in other environments. It’s exciting to be a part of it.

Day One for plants in the Amazon Spheres

Last week, students toured our greenhouse and learned from our horticulture team

Anyone who commutes into or through downtown Seattle is familiar with a construction project that I hope will one day become an icon in Seattle’s architectural landscape: Amazon’s spheres. Over the last few years, our horticulture team has been busy curating and nurturing our diverse plant collection that will go inside. And yesterday marked a milestone for the team and for all of the Amazonians who will soon have access to the spheres; we planted our first plant, an Australian Tree Fern.

Eventually, over 40,000 plants will call the spheres home, where they will enjoy a climate-controlled environment that replicates natural cycles and creates an ideal environment for these plants to thrive. It’s also a place for employees to thrive. Research shows that creativity flourishes when humans experience a connection with nature. Our spheres bring that connection opportunity right into the core of our campus environment.

Here’s a short video explaining the thinking behind the spheres.

You can keep up with all things sphere-related by following our progress on Instagram @SeattleSpheres.

And links to local press coverage here:

Geekwire story on the spheres and Amazon’s first fern

Q13’s look inside spheres

KUOW on the plant life inside the spheres

Lots of photos of yesterday’s event from Seattle PI

Amazon on The Muse

Main"Someone said a picture is worth a thousand words, but pictures and words together are really awesome." OK, well I just said it, but it's true; especially when the pictures and words are answering the question "what's it like to work at Amazon?" People generally want to see our environment and they want to hear employees talk about their experiences here.

We recently launched a page on The Muse, which is a web platform dedicated to providing behind-the-scenes looks at employers and lots of career-related advice. There's lots of video content, and employees talking about what it's like working here, with specific topics including internal mobility,  our writing culture, and what it means to be "peculiar". You can go to the page to experience all of the content, but I've included a few of my favorite employee profiles below.

Eric Will Sarah










You'll also find the inevitable cute dog photos on the page as well. Take a look around and let me know if you have any questions about anything you learned about Amazon on The Muse.

One million bananas worth of peculiar

Recently, Amazon handed out it's one-millionth banana. Not through Amazon Fresh or an on-campus cafeteria, but through it's two Community Banana Stands. Yep, they are a thing. Started back in 2015, the stands (well, just one back then) were conceived by Jeff Bezos himself, as a fun way to share nature's perfect snack with Seattle.

The two current stands are located in front of Amazon buildings, on Terry Avenue (in Van Vorst Plaza near Mercer), and in front of Amazon's Doppler building on Westlake Avenue. They are open for business, well free bananas actually, Monday through Friday. Anyone is welcome to come and enjoy the bananas; you don't need to be an Amazon employee.

You might wonder WHY Amazon is handing out free bananas to anyone who walks by and sharing banana-related trivia. You might even say it sounds a little peculiar. We're OK with that. Does there really need to be a reason other than that it's just fun?  

Seattle Times covers our one-millionth banana milestone, with a little banana trivia of their own here

Seattle for newcomers (and people who want to be)

Seattle peopleAsk someone on the street here in Seattle where they are from and chances are they will name someplace other than Seattle. According to new US Census data, on 40% of King County residents were born in Washington State. As someone who has a hard time answering the question “where are you from?” I’ve never been able to come up with a simple answer. I’ve been in Seattle for 17 years now, so even though I would never refer to myself as a native Seattleite or Washingtonian, this is certainly home to me.

Working in the tech industry, my friends are a mix of Washington-born-and-bred and fellow-transplants. The tech industry here attracts a lot of new talent from outside the Puget Sound area (Puget Sound = the body of water Seattle sits on; no, we are not a coastal city). Many of the people, like myself, who have relocated here for work, have fallen in love with Seattle. Like any other city, we have our growing pains. But to me (and others), they are far outweighed by natural beauty, clean air, mild climate, proximity to things you want to do, interesting culture and professional opportunity.

The Seattle Times covers changes in the makeup of Seattle’s population, and they ran some stories this past week aimed at helping transplants acclimate. These stories and resources are also good for people thinking about joining us here.

This quiz will help you find the just-right Seattle neighborhood for your lifestyle. I took the quiz and my old South Lake Union neighborhood was one of my recommendations. The Times has assembled some neighborhood profiles here as well.

If you are planning a visit to check out our fine city, here are the top attractions. In my opinion, Pike Place Market is the must-do. It’s the “tourist attraction” that locals still love. I love everything about it, especially on a chilly, rainy day.

Just for fun, here’s an architecture quiz. Those of us who now call Seattle home can test whether we are worthy. I got seven out of 12. Someone needs to brush up on their local architecture.  Fun fact: one of the buildings featured used to be home to Amazon.

Seattle is known for its great restaurants. But that doesn’t just mean the cloth napkin kind. Here is a guide to cheap eats in Seattle including a map. Seattle is the city that introduced me to pho and I am eternally grateful.

When I got here, I couldn’t have told you the difference between Snoqualmie and Snohomish. Now, I think I do better than average when it comes to local pronunciation. Here’s a quiz where you can test your pronunciation of local towns and attractions. And you can compare your success with that of the folks here. It may make you feel better about your first time trying to pronounce Puyallup. PEW-al-uhp.

Here’s the rest of the Newcomer’s Guide. Let me know if you have any questions, like whether everyone in Seattle really drives a Subaru (nope, just 10% of residents) or whether there is actually good pizza here (you’ll love it, once you calibrate your expectations, especially you Chicagoans).

For more info on moving to Seattle:

The things I wished someone had told me about moving to Seattle

Seattle relocation information

Dogs in costume walk the runway at Amazon.

It's too bad we don't have more opportunities in life to see dogs dressed up in costumes. It's been a year since we wished you a "Happy Howloween!" with a bunch of dog photos from our Amazon Seattle offices. Some of us, unfortunately, have pets who show a clear disdain for dressing up, so we have to go long periods of time without dogs-in-costume photos. My dogs looked mildly tortured by the dinosaur costumes I bought them last year and I swore to them we would never do it again. But I still need a fix of dogs in costumes.

Fortunately, our social media team recently did a broadcast of pups in costume walking a really frugal runway. Aside from the ridiculously cute dogs (you have to stay tuned long enough to see Michael Jackson tell his wig to "beat it"), I'm pretty impressed by the collecti0n of human footwear.

Geekwire also covered a costume contest hosted in Van Vorst plaza on Friday, with some adorable entrants and employees talking about what it means to them to be able to bring their dogs to work. What, you think we'd only have one dog costume event on Halloween?

Making grandma and grandpa proud

My grandparents have all passed, but some of my best memories as an adult are of talking to my grandma and grandpa about my work. Nothing better than making the people you love proud and hearing them brag on you to their friends.

I would have loved to have brought them to work with me, especially now. I think Alexa would have delighted my grandma, and my grandpa, who worked at a Ford assembly plant, would have loved to see an Amazon fulfillment center with robots bringing products to the people packing orders.

Some of our employees at Amazon Spain got to offer their abuelos a first-hand look at what they do every day.

I love the reaction of these grandparents. What a great memory for their grandchildren to share with them too.