Interview Transcript

You were involved in the buildout of Amazon in Europe at a very interesting time — what were the defining challenges you faced in scaling that business as quickly as you did?

There was a very early lesson, which was, “Are you building things that will work at scale?” That question itself seems easy, but actually, it’s very hard to embed in the things you do every single day because most people — and I include myself in that category — focus on the task at hand. It’s hard to consider if this thing you’re building today will be relevant in 12 or 18 months.

That shift of mindset is I’m willing to spend more time on the things I’m building today because I know they’ll serve me for the next two or three years, as opposed to just getting this thing done but then having to revisit it in three, four, six months because it’s no longer fit for purpose.

Shift into that long-term thinking, when things are moving so quickly, but you’re still prepared to say, “I know today’s happening, but if I only focus on today, tomorrow probably won’t,” or, “Tomorrow will happen, but I’ll need five times as many people.”

Then you get into this ever-increasing headcount challenge, and strangely, the more people you add, the more challenges you face because everyone’s doing their own things. Then you get into different leadership challenges, trying to coordinate multiple people doing different things.

The challenge is being patient because you know, over time, that’s actually going to pay back — and very quickly. It’s a hard thing to do when you’re busy and somebody’s saying, “I need this today.”

So, that mindset came from the top? How is that driven into your behaviour?

The mindset coming from the top is build for scale. That doesn’t distract from the fact we’re all human. “I need this today.” “Well, you can have this today, but it’s going to be a bit of a hack,” or, “You can have it in a week or two weeks, but it’ll be fit for scale.”

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