Welcome to the online diary of the “London Ziegs,” as they journal their experiences relocating from the balmy climes of sunny Orlando, Florida to the more chaotically cosmopolitan environment of London, UK!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas at Amazon

It turns out that Christmas is a rather fun time to join Amazon, especially in the U.K. There have been lots of neat activities scheduled around the workday, which help make it an even more enjoyable place to build a career. For instance, last week I got to contribute as a member of the department Quiz Team. About eighteen different teams competed in this annual event, with entrance fees and drink proceeds going to benefit a local charity. Each team comprised eight members, and teams came from all corners of the company: Catalog Logic (us), Human Resources, Business Development, etc. The quiz format was 10 sets of five related questions; a given question group might pertain to 80's television, or 90's pop tunes, or English sport (I didn't do very well at those!), or Amazon company history, etc. I was thrilled that at least two questions touched on personal interests of mine, including Gatchaman and Airwolf :-) Our team ended up dead in the middle of the pack, but even so it was a fun evening and a good way to get to know more of my new co-workers.

Another charity fundraiser held the week before involved raffle tickets for some donated items, and our family won a variety-pack of DVDs! Of course, we haven't been able to watch most of them yet, because they're all Region 2 and we don't yet have a PAL/Reg-2 TV & DVD player setup, but at least the kids got a kick out of watching Pirates of the Caribbean 3 before we moved out of our flat :-) There was also a department contest where individuals were encouraged to create and decorate "faeries" for the department Christmas tree. I haven't researched this topic yet, and ended up not contributing (I was embroiled in my Innovation Week project at the time), but "faeries" seem to either refer to Christmas tree ornaments in general, or to the topmost spire traditionally reserved for an angel or star -- I'm not sure which. Anyway, many people brought in hand-crafted faeries displaying the creator's skill (or lack thereof!) with Elmer's glue, pipe-cleaners, styrofoam, and glitter; then some "independent" ladies came down from another department to judge the efforts. It was another fun interlude between rounds of ticket-resolving and fire-fighting :-)

Most companies I've been at host some sort of department Christmas dinner for the staff, and Amazon was no exception. This year the team reserved a room at the pub of a local inn (just outside Maidenhead, in fact). After a round of Guinness, we sat down to appetizers (mushroom gratin, soup, etc), main dish (turkey with all the fixings, salmon, roast pork, or vegan), and dessert (Christmas pudding, crumble, or cheesecake). Every place setting came with a traditional Christmas cracker (see our logo!), which when pulled would pop with a mild pyrotechnic, revealing a silly paper party hat, plastic child's toy, and sheet of jokes, riddles or fortunes. We had a very fun time at our table, where I got to sit with a young woman from Turkey, a gentlemen from Slovakia, another man from Russia, a friend from Canada who'd served as a Westminister choirboy, and a pair of recently-engaged lovebirds. It was a good meal, but the wonderful companionship made for a truly memorable outing.

The final story I can share about Christmas at Amazon has yet to unfold. Q4 represents a rather hectic time for Amazon's server farms, so for risk mitigation they don't normally make a lot of production code changes once the Christmas rush has begun. (It would be nice if someone explained that to Chancellor Darling and his last-minute VAT reduction! :-) Rather, what really needs getting done is: packing and wrapping boxes! Lots and LOTS of boxes. So many Amazonians, regardless of normal profession or expertise, get a chance to spend a rotation in the warehouses or fulfillment centers where the "important work" really transpires. My shift is scheduled for this week, so hopefully I'll have a fun time reliving memories of those summers spent working for the Osceola School District warehouse back in the '80s. At least, I REMEMBER it as a fun time...memories don't ever lie, do they?

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