Saturday, June 09, 2007

So, How Cool is Neal Stephenson?

Amazon.comYesterday was a day that reminded me how lucky I am to work for Amazon.

I started out the day by interviewing a candidate for an internal transfer to a new team under our umbrella (mobile retail). One of the coolest things about working for Amazon is that they encourage you to try new things; if you get burned out or bored with your job, apply for a different job with Amazon. This is an extremely good idea for a lot of reasons, but mainly because we have a lot of very smart people working for us--if our highly selective hiring process is working right--and why not give them chances to grow their career or try a different career with us instead of losing their talents and brains? I got my current job through an internal transfer, so maybe I am a bit biased. ;)

Anyway, internal candidates are given preferential treatment in two ways:

  1. They skip the phone screen stage (where we reject over 90% of candidates; anyone involved in hiring for engineering positions can surely understand this), and

  2. All other things being equal, and internal candidate always gets the offer over an external candidate.

The guy who I was interviewing was an absolute joy to talk to. He was a very smart, interesting guy, he knew his Computer Science backwards and forwards (which he should, since he has a Ph.D. therein; but some Ph.D.s seem to completely forget the basics due to an extreme focus on their specific research area) and best of all, he was passionate about his work.

The last interview I did for an internal transfer candidate also went very much like this. Interviewing is fun and rewarding when you get good candidates, people you cannot wait to work with.

Roppongi Academy HillsRight after the interview, I wrote my feedback like a good boy (Joel would be so proud), then popped out for lunch with Mauro and Keith. We went to TGI Friday, where we were met by our esteemed fellow TLUGger, Erin. We dined lustily on haute cuisine Américaine, then the three Amazonians rushed back to Cross Tower to get on a bus for Roppongi Academy Hills, for a special all-hands meeting with none other than Jeff Bezos.

All-hands meetings have been described as pep rallies, and I suppose that's basically fair. If so, this meeting was a resounding success, as I had a great time and came out of it feeling more energised and excited about the future of the company, &c.

Jeff BezosJeff Bezos is an extremely engaging speaker. He is funny, thoughtful, and modest with no traces of false humility. He had come to Japan to announce the launch of Amazon Prime, which is our "all you can eat" free shipping service. I am proud to say the Japan is the first international Amazon site (the others being Germany, the United Kingdom, France, China, and Canada) to launch Prime, and I am even prouder to say that we on the Anywhere team launched Prime on the mobile phone site at the same time as the PC site.

Neal StephensonThere was a Q&A session at the end of the meeting, and someone asked the typical Japanese question, 「趣味は何ですか?」 (what is your hobby?). Jeff replied that his primary hobby was fatherhood, then went on to talk a little about Blue Origin. I just had to ask a follow-up question: "So, how cool is Neal Stephenson?"

Jeff laughed at that, then explained briefly who Neal Stephenson is ("metaverse" was the only word the Japanese interpreters had trouble with all day) and why he is relevant to Blue Origin, then he answered my question thusly:

"Very cool."

Kinda sums up the whole day for me. :)

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