Serving up success at Amazon: Q&A with veteran Brandon McNaughton
Q: In what capacity did you serve in the U.S. military?
A: I served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2009. From 2010 to 2017, I was a Special Forces officer.
Q: When did you join Amazon? What is your current position in the company?
A: I joined the company in July 2017. Today, I’m a Seasonal Site Leader in the Military Pathways Program.
Q: How has your military background helped prepare you for your current job?
A: The U.S. Army Special Forces typically operate in teams of 12 people or fewer. Their value is in their adaptability, flexibility, and ability to thrive in austere, ambiguous environments with minimal support. As the commander of such a team, I was responsible for expertly interacting with anyone from U.S. ambassadors and high-level partner nation officials, to the lowest-ranking partner nation soldier. This taught me to be comfortable at adapting my leadership style to effectively connect with and engage diverse groups of people, and it has helped me be comfortable with engagement at Amazon.
Another factor unique to Special Forces teams is that with only 12 people on the ground in remote locations, every person must contribute to the manual labor in order for the team to be successful. It is absolutely commonplace and necessary for every Special Forces member, regardless of rank, to jump in and assist the team with even the most menial of tasks. These experiences ingrained servant leadership and bias for action as some of my most core values. This comfort and skill at manual labor has been critical at Amazon, as there is no quicker way to earn the trust of your team than to get in and work beside them, showing them that you can work hard physically, too. Additionally, having the direct skills to be able to jump in at critical points in the operations and add value is huge.
Special Forces teams are at home in remote locations with minimal support, fostering a culture of creative problem solving, determination to overcome barriers, and deliver results. Often, it was not a matter of not having funding to solve problems, it was that there were simply no resources available, driving the necessity for teams to come up with frugal solutions, by default. These experiences trained me to invent and simplify with frugal solutions, and they are applicable daily at Amazon.
Q: How does Amazon support your career goals?
A: I am motivated by new and diverse challenges. In the Military Pathways Program, I am encouraged to constantly tackle new positions and new challenges, which keeps work exciting and fulfilling. I have developed a network of mentors who have helped me, through hard work, to become involved in unique and exciting new positions and programs.
Q: What's the best thing about coming to work each day? Is there a "perk" to your job that might surprise people?
A: I am constantly surprised by the ingenuity of my team. Their ability to overcome barriers and creatively solve problems is exciting and leaves me eager to see what they will come up with next!