Amazon Visit: Making Sense of a Terrifying Company

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Today we visited Amazon. When we arrived we were to fill out confidentiality forms and not take any pictures. I expected them to not give us very much information about their business and be very dodgy with the amount of pull Amazon has on a global scale. I would soon find out that my expectations were very wrong.

When we entered we were greeted in a conference room and were introduced to a man that worked on the engineering of “Alexa” one of Amazons most famous products. He began to explain the complicated nature of creating a machine that listens when you want it to, can detect voice patterns of different tones and ethnicities while also giving Alexa a personality. The conversation about Alexa was very interesting to me because it neatly packages the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence moving into the future. He began to explain some of the broad plans of Alexa including being able to hold an organic conversation and have the intelligence to eventually take over jobs such as medical professionals.

This really opened my eyes to some possibilities moving forward and how quickly tech is changing the world. While listening I was reminded of a quote I saw on the wall at “Bord Bia” just a few days prior. “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” The world is changing seemingly more quickly than it ever has with the increase in AI and tech in general. Many jobs will be lost to AI but the ability to draw insights and conclusions based upon the knowledge of AI will never be lost. Those that can draw these insights and think in multiple directions and learn about the changing world will still be provided with jobs. It is more important that ever to be creative and think critically on deeper levels instead of memorizing information that is given.

I always knew Amazon was a massive company and had an incredible and seemingly infinite amount of resources. However, I underestimated the scale to which this was true. One of the presenters showed us hundreds of companies that use Amazon Web Services that included Twitch, AirBNB, and The New York Stock Exchange, The London Stock Exchange and the Beijing Stock Exchange. We were told that one third of the internet is supported by AWS.

There is only one way to build a company of this scale and that is to take risks. Everybody in the organization from the bottom up is encouraged to think like an entrepreneur. They say it is better to take a risk and fail than miss an opportunity or not try at all. This was apparent when we spoke to the engineer who worked on Alexa. He didn’t just think as an engineer it was clear he had a deep understanding of the customer process and think in multiple directions. This entrepreneurial spirit and multidirectional thinking is at the core of the success of Amazon and is why they are so successful today and continue to grow.

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