The faces of Amazon operations
The people who work in Amazon's operations network are making sure customers can get what they need while the pandemic makes sheltering in place a matter of both personal and public health.
Longtime Amazonians and brand-new employees are on the job, as the company welcomes people temporarily out of work due to COVID-19's toll on industries such as hospitality, restaurants, and travel. We've filled 175,000 new jobs since March to help meet customer demand and assist existing employees fulfilling orders for essential products.
The Amazonians delivering your orders have stories as diverse as they are.
Sarah Freeman, Charlotte, NC (CLT2)
Started March 2020
When the pandemic upended her small business this past spring, it seemed like the end of Sarah Freeman’s career dreams. Freeman makes artisanal hummus and sold it under her brand "Hummus Among Us" at farmers markets in Charlotte, North Carolina. When social distancing requirements meant she could no longer hand out free samples—how she made the majority of her business—she was forced to shut down.
Still owing rent payments on the kitchen space where she made her hummus, Freeman knew she had to find another source of income. She applied for a job at the Amazon fulfillment center in Charlotte thinking it would be a temporary fix to help her get by. What she found was a whole new career dream.
"It was an absolute surprise to want to make this into an actual career,” Freeman said. "I have a BFA in graphic design and have never worked in a warehouse before. And honestly, thought there wasn't much growth, but as I got used to the job and learned the process, I understood you can move up and make a big difference. It's not just a job to make ends meet, but can actually become something big."
In just a few months, Freeman graduated from the overnight shift to days, and from a temporary employee to full-time-permanent. She says even when she can go back to her small business, she plans to stay at Amazon.
"By working four days, I will have the flexibility to make hummus and then sell it at markets on my off days,” she says. “It's actually a great solution and wish I had done this earlier during the winter months."
Full-time Amazon associates work four 10-hour shifts per week. When not working at Amazon or making hummus, Freeman fosters rescue dogs through the Charlotte SPCA.
Beka Perez, Beaumont, CA (PSP1)
Started July 2014
When Beka Perez walked through the doors of her first fulfillment center in 2014, she was a different person. Describing herself then as reserved and lacking self-confidence, she’s amazed by where she is today, personally and professionally. This month, she helped launch Amazon’s newest fulfillment center in Southern California, PSP1, as an area manager.
"I enjoy helping establish the culture at buildings and helping Amazon grow," Perez said. "This is my first time doing so as an area manager. I was a process assistant during my last three launches. I feel [launching buildings has] also helped me grow tremendously as leader and as an individual."
Perez says her confidence and individual growth comes from Amazon causing her to step out of her comfort zone. "I was always a very quiet person that kept to myself," she said. "I think it would have been due to my being hard of hearing primarily."
Her first job was as a problem solver, helping associates across her site keep operations running smoothly. That meant she had to interact with all sorts of people. "I am not the same person at all. I have been given so much potential that I never thought I’d ever see in myself," Perez said.
Because of her hearing-impairment, Perez reads lips to help her communicate. COVID-19 presented all new challenges when associates all started wearing masks. Perez says her managers ordered clear masks for her which help tremendously. "When I go out on the floor I bring them with me to give to others. Mostly though, people have been patient with me."
As she launches her new building, she’ll have the backing of her whole team and family members who support her professional endeavors. Perez met her husband at Amazon. "Getting married to someone who is also invested in my growth personal, professional has made a big impact on me."
Russel Whitfield, Hazleton, PA (AVP1)
Started October 2019
A year ago, Russel Whitfield had no intentions of coming to Amazon. He was director of operations at another major retailer, but timing is everything.
"I used Amazon so much as a customer and one day got a call to come and work for Amazon," Whitfield said. "As I read the leadership principles and core values, I learned I really wanted to be part of the team and what they stand for." Whitfield says he’s thankful he did.
As COVID-19 spread across the U.S., he viewed his role as operations manager at AVP1, and more recently as a central ops process engineer, as a way to serve his country. He’d always wanted to be in the military.
"Bias for action and speed of execution at Amazon is nothing I’ve ever seen in my life," Whitfield said. "Things we did in a day would take me months at other companies. We move at an astonishing pace, especially now during the pandemic. We’ve spared no expense to get necessary PPE, tools, and needs for teams."
Whitfield says safety is key for him. He has asthma and is the sole provider for his family. "I feel safer at Amazon than I do at a grocery store and going out in public right now," he said. "Amazon has set such a high bar when it comes to safety."
Miguel Lara-Maya & Eddie Kowalski, Hebron, KY (CVG2)
Started March 2017 & June 2019
As Miguel Lara-Maya and Eddie Kowalski have lead the night shift at Amazon's Hebron, KY return center through the COVID-19 pandemic, the found their military experience has helped them quickly adapt and safely support their teams and customers through these challenging times.
Lara-Maya and Kowalski say even while social distancing, maintaining a connection with their associates teams has been crucial. "This is a very stressful time for people all over the world and it's important that we recognize that as leaders," said Kowalski. Both say listening to associates' feedback have helped improve operations and safety.
Given Lara-Maya and Kowalski's background as veterans, it's no surprise they view their jobs during COVID-19 through a military lens. "This operations ends with a customer being able to make their mortgage payment on time. This operation ends with a customer getting their PPE shipment so they can re-open their small business," Kowalski said.
Anne Marie Mitchell, Thornton, CO (DEN3)
Started August 2018
When Anne Marie Mitchell moved to Colorado last year as part of Amazon's accelerated leadership program, Pathways, a global pandemic was never a consideration. Since COVID-19 turned the world upside down, Mitchell, who is now a Senior Operations Manager at a Fulfillment center outside of Denver, has set focus on serving both her team and community.
"Gratitude has increasingly become something top of mind for me both in my career and in my personal life. During these unprecedented times, I am grateful for the opportunities Amazon provides to employees to learn and grow professionally," Mitchell said. "It's a thrill to be part of a rock star team of employees particularly now, when there is a heightened sense of purpose, delivering critical items to those in need and providing jobs to thousands of Coloradans who have recently been laid off in other industries."
In May, Mitchell and other Amazon employees from buildings across Thornton, Aurora, and Denver came together—socially distanced and wearing PPE—to help prepare meals for vulnerable families and seniors in her community. They packed more than 17,000 meals in less than three hours time.
"Who we are at work is also who we are in our communities as neighbors, family members, and friends. I am incredibly grateful to be part of this company and this community during these critical times," said Mitchell.
Brandy Bowers, North East, MD (MDT2)
Started September 2017
Brandy Bowers, a trainer in the learning department at Amazon's fulfillment center in North East, Maryland, is working to inspire smiles while promoting safety among her colleagues during the stress of this pandemic. Each night, when she returns home, Brandy crochets green hearts for her team and associates at the fulfillment center.
Over the past few weeks, she’s crocheted more than 300 hearts in green yarn to signify the official American National Standards Institute color for safety, to serve as a reminder that we’re stronger together. Hundreds of hearts can be seen pinned to workers' vests as a sign of hope and commitment to health and safety.
Jenn Hagala, Rialto, CA (LGB7)
Started July 2017
Even with a mask on, Jenn Hagala has a smile and positive attitude that continues to shine through. One of the first things she mentions when asked about how life has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began is how grateful she is that she's able to provide for her family.
"I appreciate each and every day," Hagala said. "You’re more aware of your personal surroundings and the things you took for granted before."
Hagala, has been a Loss Prevention Manager at Amazon’s Rialto, California fulfillment center for nearly three years. She says the COVID-19 outbreak has only made her more proud to work for Amazon because she’s able to serve the people in her community who aren’t able to leave their homes.
Lauren, Brody and Bailey Zimmer, Tennessee
Started Sept. 2011, July 2015, and May 2020 respectively
Amazon Operations has been a family affair for the Zimmers for more than eight years. Lauren Zimmer helped launch the first Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, CHA1 back in 2011 as an associate working on the floor. In the years since she's seen her kids and her job grow. Lauren is now helping Amazon delivery stations adapt to the safety changes that come with COVID-19, and her kids Brody and Bailey are also Amazonians.
"I love that the kids are with Amazon," she said. "Bailey was only 11 years old when I started at Amazon so she grew up hearing about it. It is such a kick that she now has that inside knowledge. I think that Brody is a classic example of how Amazon lets you work hard and move up through the ranks."
Brody started nearly five years ago as a temporary associate, and last month was promoted to area manager at nearby CHA2. He says his biggest challenge during COVID-19 has also been his biggest success—his promotion came right as the pandemic was starting meaning he had to train and lead his new teammates from at least six feet away, if not virtually.
"I want customers to know that we as a company are here for you. We want you to be able to stay home and still get any supplies that you need, from A to Z," Brody said. "We will brave these challenges for our customers because you all have been there for us for more than 20 years now. I'm proud of my company and hope the customers are proud of us too."
Bailey is the newest Amazonian. She started at CHA1 at the beginning of May as an associate in packing.
"It is fun knowing that the box that I pack could be going to someone that really needs it," she said. "It makes you feel good to support people that cannot get out."
Dallas Austin, Edison, New Jersey (LGA9)
Started November 2017
Being a working mom is hard. Being a working mom to six kids is harder. Dallas Austin somehow brings unwavering positivity to the challenge of being a working mom to six kids during a global pandemic.
Austin, whose youngest is a toddler and oldest is 20, works as a Seasonal Learning Trainer at Amazon’s LGA9 fulfillment center in Edison, New Jersey. Her alarm clock rings at 4:30 a.m., signaling that it’s time to get herself ready for work while simultaneously getting 2-year-old Lolo fed, diapered, and dressed so his grandmother to take him to daycare. Austin’s oldest three take responsibility for the household when she leaves for work.
She spends her days supporting over 120 ambassadors who train some of the 175,000 new employees joining Amazon to fulfill customer orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m proud to be working right now,” said Austin. “I know others, especially high-risk individuals, are counting on us to deliver items they need so they don’t have to leave their homes.”
After work, Austin picks up Lolo and returns home to a flurry of homeschooling, playtime, and housework while doing everything she can to keep her kids safe, healthy, and happy.
“I’m reminded with every hug, smile, and laugh just how precious time is,” says Austin. “We laugh a lot and that always helps.”
Johany Castillo, Hazleton, Pennsylvania (AVP1)
Started November 2015
At work, Johany Castillo manages the schedules of up to 250 associates to keep Amazon’s operations moving. At home, she’s helping her 7-year-old with school assignments and housework. All this, while 21 weeks pregnant.
Castillo says the key to keeping it all balanced is a positive attitude and taking each day as it comes. That applies even more so during the pandemic. Castillo knows her role is critical to helping people get the items they need.
“I feel like an essential worker. It makes me appreciate my job even more,” she said. And when she thinks of the customers: “We’ve got their backs.”
Ron Delosreyes, New York, New York (JFK8)
Started November 2018
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the way Ron Delosreyes does his job looks completely different than it did in the past.
"Things have changed in a safety aspect," Delosreyes said. "You feel more responsible for your team to ensure they’re healthy."
As an area manager, his team is nearly 60 people strong. He’s helped them all adjust to the 150 different process changes implemented to keep associates safe—including sanitizing stations, wearing masks, and adjustments to getting their jobs done while six feet away from others.
Social distancing means Delosreyes has to get creative to stay connected with his team. Why he does his job hasn’t changed.
"I’m always going to work hard, regardless. It's been fulfilling to know that we're making life better for people with heightened risk for COVID-19," he said. "For me, the best part about working during the pandemic is knowing we’re doing something good for others."
Meanwhile, Delosreyes is finishing the final courses for his MBA online. He graduates this month and says he wants to use his education to keep growing at Amazon.
Eric Helfrich, Hazleton, Pennsylvania (AVP1)
Started July 2008
As one of the original associates at AVP1, Eric Helfrich has been a familiar face at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Hazleton, Pennsylvania for 12 years. Over the years, he's served his community and his fellow associates by organizing coat drives and serving as a judge in Amazon’s annual "Think Big" competitions.
His innovative spirit helped create new tools to keep his coworkers safe during the pandemic. He built mobile sanitizing stations placed throughout the facility, complete with paper towel racks, extra sanitizer, wipes, and gloves.
Helfrich knows the importance of his job and Amazon’s role in this crisis. He’s a caregiver for his elderly relatives, including his 94-year-old aunt in a nursing home.
"I always think of them and all the people we’re helping," he said. "I’m grateful that I have a job now and that Amazon is open to help our customers."
Jerome Lewis, Tracy, California (OAK4)
Started May 2018
With 175,000 new people hired at Amazon since the start of the pandemic, Jerome Lewis is finding even deeper meaning in his work. "Teaching new hires is always rewarding, no matter the circumstance. However, it's incomparable to now," said Lewis, a learning manager at the OAK4 fulfillment center in Tracy, California. "A lot of the current new hires had jobs and careers two months ago and now have to make ends meet. My job is to ensure that they can be successful here. I take pride in that."
Lewis is fueled by knowing he's helping new Amazonians join a worldwide team that's making a difference—for the millions complying with stay-at-home orders and for people whose age or other risk factors make routine shopping unsafe. "There's value in being able to work for those that aren't able," Lewis said. "It gives others hope in a time of such uncertainty. I believe that's the most important reason to be here."
Before COVID-19, Lewis' role put him in contact with many people. He's reassured by the sweeping changes in safety protocols. "As a company, a site, and as individual leaders, we've taken supreme precautions to make sure we can remain safe while still coming to work. I feel more safe here than anywhere else you can be."
Heather Mayberry, Phoenix, Arizona (PHX6)
Started August 2008
As a child, Heather Mayberry was wowed by paramedics and the work they do to help people in their most difficult moments. It's what inspired her to ultimately choose a career focused on taking action to keep people safe and healthy.
Today, as a member of one of the world's largest Employee Health and Safety teams, Mayberry is at the forefront of Amazon’s response to COVID-19. That's meant implementing 150 process improvements since the start of the pandemic. "My focus is doing everything I can to protect those who work at Amazon, so we can all go home safely to our families each day," she said.
Mayberry started at Amazon nearly a dozen years ago, as an entry level associate. "When I was 19, and my son was 8 months old, I wanted to find a good job that would allow me to support my son and myself," she said. She's been promoted several times since, and earned her emergency medical technician certification in her spare time. "Amazon has allowed me to grow and build a solid career that, to this day, still allows me to provide for my family."
Cherita Washington, St. Louis, Missouri (STL5)
Started September 2019
Along with all the changes brought on by COVID-19, Cherita Washington is grateful for what's stayed the same at the Amazon sortation center where she works. "I'm blessed to be with a team of people who care about each other," she said. "We check on each other, even on the weekends." It's a sense of camaraderie she felt when she interviewed for her job, and then experienced more directly in January when her grandmother died and her daughter's father suffered the first in a series of health problems.
"Then the pandemic happened," she said. "Almost every other day, I was checked on by peers and upper leadership, making sure I was OK—with my daughter's dad in his condition and local schools shutting down. Everyone was ready to react and support, just in case. People would help me with my work if I needed a few minutes to clear my head."
Washington expressed particular appreciation for all the protocols in her workplace that make it possible "for everyone to be safe during social distancing. You don't have to think about it, and managers have done a great job with keeping us safe," she said. "Amazon is the best career move I've had in a long time."
Jesi Henry, Thornton, CO (DEN3)
Started June 2019
For Jesi Henry, her job at Amazon’s Denver fulfillment center is essential in every sense.
Her husband manages a restaurant affected by Colorado's stay-at-home order, and the couple can't know whether the economic fallout from COVID-19 will leave him with a job to come back to.
Henry is aware that the work she does—picking and packing Amazon orders—is crucial to people who are staying home. "To be able to provide some kind of normalcy and sense of relief that they're going to be able to get the things they truly need right now gives me such a sense of pride," she said.
In her community and beyond, Henry also sees the difference made by the new Amazon jobs created since March. "Amazon has stepped up to give people the ability to continue to pay their bills, expenses, have health insurance coverage, in the hopes that perhaps when the dust clears, they're going to be able to come out on this right side up."
Bri Tye, Katy, Texas (HOU3)
Started July 2013
Bri Tye was only looking for a temporary job when she first stepped inside an Amazon fulfillment center in 2013 as an associate in the receiving department. What she found is a career. She's worked at seven Amazon buildings in five states, and today she's the general manager of HOU3, a fulfillment center in Katy, Texas.
Tye's site grew in the last month as Amazon hired for 175,000 open roles to meet the unprecedented customer demand due to COVID-19. "I have never been more proud of being an Amazonian, and the actions and responsibilities that come with it, than I am today," she said.
Since the start of the pandemic, Amazon has implemented more than 150 safety-related process changes. Tye just added one more for the over 1,000 employees at HOU3. She's dedicated a team of social distancing ambassadors who promote safe practices among their peers. "This is truly a time that signifies that no matter your job title, you can be a leader," she said. "One of my favorite quotes is 'If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.'"
Katie Smith, Robbinsville, New Jersey (EWR4)
Started March 2020
Katie Smith's world had come to a stop. Recently laid off from her job in the food industry, she was already struggling to get back on her feet. Then COVID-19 hit, bringing hiring in her field to a standstill. When she learned about Amazon's job openings, "I put in an application, and before I knew it, I was here working," she said.
Smith now helps manage inventory as it comes into the fulfillment center in Robbinsville, New Jersey. She said she's reassured by the safety procedures in her new workplace. "It's really cool what they're doing right now," she said. "When you walk in, they take your temperature, and if you're outside for a break and come back in, they take it again. And they're passing out masks for us at the front door." Smith is happy to play a part in delivering for customers during the outbreak. "I love it. I couldn't have asked for a better job."
Shannon Todd, Kannapolis, North Carolina (CLT3)
Started April 2018
COVID-19 brought a different kind of urgency to leading Amazon's 1-million-square-foot fulfilment center in Kannapolis, North Carolina. "I'm responsible for the 1,000 people who work here at CLT3, and I take that very seriously,” said General Manager Shannon Todd.
Associates go through temperature checks and acquire masks as they arrive. Todd and his team make sure the protections don't stop there. "When I come to work and I walk the floor, I'm looking for nothing but health and safety concerns," he said. "Do my associates have the supplies that they need to keep their areas clean? Do we have appropriate social distancing cues? Are we maintaining six-feet separation between all people in the building at all times."
Todd knows the work he and his team are doing is bigger than himself. "The people that work here are really doing something that very few other companies can do. We keep hundreds of thousands of people who are less fortunate and unable to get out in the Charlotte area and around the world from having to do so."
Darby Griffin, Haslet, TX (DFW7)
Started March 2020
The Amazon fulfillment center in Dallas, Texas is a sizable departure from Darby Griffin's preschool classroom where she's taught for the past three years. With school closed during the outbreak, Griffin recently started working at Amazon as an inbound associate, helping manage new inventory. "It was a surreal moment after I got my badge and I walked into the building," said Griffin. "It suddenly hit me, that I was moving into a new chapter of my life. I've only ever worked with kids, so this was a big change."
Griffin is hopeful she'll be able to return to the preschool that she loves. It's been closed since March 9th. "These kids are such pure souls, and they deserve the best. It's strange not seeing them every day, and I definitely do miss them." For now, her new role at Amazon is helping to bridge the gap financially, and she’s confident it’s the right fit.
"I chose Amazon because I have friends that work for Amazon and they love it," Griffin said.
Steve Zack, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania (PHL5)
Started March 2020
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen Zack was playing professional basketball in Israel. The LaSalle graduate's season, along with the rest of the league's, came to an abrupt end due to the crisis, putting him out of work. He saw that Amazon was hiring and said he "applied for a job to work during this crazy time."
He now works at the Amazon fulfillment center in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania. "Even though the coronavirus is shutting down most of the world, Amazon is still getting millions of packages out to the people who don't want to leave their homes to shop."
Maria Lopez, Katy, TX (HOU3)
Started July 2017
Maria Lopez, a single mother of five who's been at Amazon for two years, wonders how she'd be making ends meet if she worked somewhere that needed to shut down during the pandemic. "I am really excited that Amazon is a company that is allowing its doors to stay open for me to come in and work," she said. "I appreciate the extra time that they're offering to us."
In her quality assurance role at the fulfillment center in Katy, Texas, Lopez works to make sure associates are healthy and safe, and customer orders are picked and packed correctly. She said it feels more important than ever during this crisis "to make sure we're getting essential goods out to our customers."
In addition to the 175,000 new jobs in the operations network, Amazon is investing nearly $800 million globally to increase pay for our teams during the coronavirus pandemic.