Monday, August 17, 2015

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Nimrod Hoofien, "a director of engineering at Facebook and an Amazon veteran."

Nimrod? Really? When I was a kid that was a term of derision. Someone in high school once called me "nimrod" and I'm pretty sure it wasn't a compliment.

By the way, I found Mr. Hoofien's name in a front-page article in yesterday's New York Times, "Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace: The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions."

It's a fascinating piece and well worth a read even if it is a little on the long side.

My first response when reading it was sheer terror: Is this the future of the workplace? Good thing I'm 57 because I could never make it at a place like that; I'm just not that driven. And besides, I've always wanted balance in my life. Who would want to live like that? From the article (my emphasis): 

Even many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends. 

(I worked at a place for a year and a half that I considered a sweatshop; it was horrible! I was actually one of the highest producers in the office but couldn't wait to get out -- life is too short.)

But when I got about halfway through the piece I began to think a little differently. I started to consider Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, in a more sympathetic light. After all, they're creating incredible value, right? Amazon has just surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the country -- without having even one store! Their goal is to sell you practically anything and deliver it to your door in the shortest time possible. It's great for consumers.

Rather than thinking of Amazon as a place to make a lifelong career, though, a better analogue might be the NFL. Despite high-profile stars like Tom Brady, the average length of an NFL career is more like three to six years, depending on whom you ask. Consider this: 

The career of the average NFL player tends to be short. The National Football League is extremely competitive, so players must compete hard to keep their jobs against new players entering the league every year. The injury rate among NFL players is also extremely high. Careers often end suddenly when players can no longer perform at a high level.

Now, reread it like this: 

The career of the average Amazon employee tends to be short. Amazon is extremely competitive, so employees must compete hard to keep their jobs against new hires entering the company every year. The burnout/failure rate among Amazon employees is also extremely high. Careers often end suddenly when workers can no longer perform at a high level.

When you think of it that way, it's not so bad. Nobody cries when someone gets cut from an NFL team. And everyone really, really likes the finished product.

There are a lot of other places in America besides Amazon and the NFL where you can work forty hours or so a week with weekends and holidays off -- and vacations. You just won't get paid as much.

So work at Amazon if you can for as long as you can, make as much money as you can and learn as much as you can so that when your career there ends you can take your experience working for one of the best companies in America somewhere else. You probably won't suffer even one concussion, and Jeff Bezos can continue delivering superior value for his shareholders and customers.

Good luck. I could never have made it there.

No comments: