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Two Former Amazon Executives Say The NYT Piece On Amazon’s Culture Wasn’t Accurate

Amazon's new part-time teams are generating buzz about work-life balance in the tech industry.
Mark Lennihan
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AP Photo

The recent New York Times feature about Amazon’s internal culture is still generating lots of discussion about work-life balance. At a recent tech summit sponsored by the technology publication Geekwire, two former Amazon executives told the crowded ballroom that they thought the article was too negative. 

The piece described a relentless culture where people frequently cry at their desks and sabotage each other in secret feedback to managers. But Nadia Shouraboura says that is not what she experienced. Shouraboura spent eight years at Amazon running the company's global supply chain and is now CEO of a retail startup called Hointer,

"I felt it was not accurate. In many instances, I did not recognize the company I worked for," Shouraboura said. "I love beauty. I love fashion. I love comfort. I would never work in a company where everybody cries.”

Dave Cotter worked at Amazon for four years before leaving to become an entrepreneur. He said that in contrast to anecdotes in the article, his managers were compassionate when he was going through a tough time in his personal life. He said that overall, he thinks the story lacked balance.

"There’s a lot of really good things the company’s done and it felt like the article was pretty heavily slanted toward some instances that in my opinion demonstrated poor management than necessarily company culture," Cotter said. 

One former Amazon manager says she thinks the story is pretty accurate. Sandi Lin says being at Amazon was exhilarating and she learned a lot of lessons she is now applying as CEO of her own startup, SkillJar. But she said Amazon is a tough culture.

"You typically feel about 50 percent understaffed at any given point, but it’s still got to get done," she said. "So one of the leadership principles is deliver results, and it doesn’t matter if you have the resources or the capabilities, it’s sort of no excuses, deliver results. “

Lin says that now, as she runs her own company, she’s watching closely to make sure her own employees do not get burned out.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.