Amazon.com’s founder, Jeff Bezos, keeps saying he wants to revolutionize package delivery by using drones. Skeptics snicker, but Bezos won’t back down. So how does he plan to move forward? Some fascinating clues emerge from a peek at Amazon’s latest job listings.
Having covered Amazon since 1998, I’ve learned that when it’s hard to pin down executives about big new projects (Kindle, mobile, cloud, etc.), a fine place to look for insights is the Careers tab of Amazon’s website. After all, outsiders can be kept in the dark, but job candidates need to know what skills are needed and how they might be used.
This time, as usual, the job listings don’t disappoint. There are interesting details to glean from the engineering postings, such as the fact that some of the drone development engineers will be based in San Francisco, or that Seattle-based Amazon right now is more concerned about building out its expertise in software, rather than hardware.
For the fullest glimpses of what project leaders Gur Kimchi and Daniel Buchmuellerhave in mind, though, turn to the non-technical listings. What caught my eye are notices for full-time communications manager and a full-time patent lawyer to help get this project off the ground. The jaunty tone of those listings underscore Bezos’s willingness to charge ahead, no matter what everyone else is saying.
Let’s start by dissecting the communications manager listing. The sunny news first: Amazon defines this as a “high-visibility position where you’ll work directly with Amazon senior executives. . . . You move very fast and think big. ” After all, Amazon wants a media chief who can “ drive massive awareness for Amazon Prime Air.”
Now for the tricky stuff. Amazon also wants candidates who are “comfortable dealing with ambiguity and able to form a cohesive and effective outcome from potentially incongruous facts.” Take a closer look at those last three words. You don’t see those in many job notices, do you? Amazon isn’t tipping its hand any further at this point, but it’s safe to assume that “incongruous facts” might include drones that crash, drop the shipment prematurely or otherwise malfunction.
Right now, no one knows for sure how well or poorly drones will perform. It’s natural for reporters to speculate on possible problems. But the next section of Amazon’s job description makes clear that when the facts aren’t in yet, it wants a media chief who can focus attention on what can go right, rather than what can go wrong.
With so much at stake, Amazon wants more than an old-fashioned “no comment.” Amazon is looking for a PR alchemist — someone who can magically turn turmoil into good news. And judging by the applicant tally on this LinkedIn version of Amazon’s ad, lots of people are jumping at the opportunity. As of May 18, some 23 people had applied for the post. (I’ll update the total in a week or so.)
Meanwhile, Amazon’s hunt for a drone-patent lawyer is instructive, too. Bear in mind that Amazon already is famous for its gung-h0 approach to patenting the intellectual property (IP) associated with more than 1,000 of its online retailing ideas. Now it looks as if Amazon wants to build up either an unshakeable edge over other retailers and shipping companies — or a set of proprietary technologies that it can profitably license to anyone else wanting to use drones.
As Amazon declares in its patent-lawyer job notice: “Responsibilities include direct client counseling, third party IP investigations and actively working with outside counsel to manage filing, prosecuting and maintaining our growing US and foreign patent portfolio.”
Finally, if you’re eager to start your career in drones, Amazon is hiring at least one research scientist intern. But that’s going to be a hotly contested spot: by LinkedIn’s tally, at least 48 people already are vying for that job.
News Source: Forbes