What shocked Amazon’s Aussie boss Janet Menzies when she joined the retail giant

Adrian Rauso
The Nightly
Country Manager at Amazon Australia, Janet Menzies, pictured at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre BWU1 in Moorebank.
Country Manager at Amazon Australia, Janet Menzies, pictured at the Amazon Fulfilment Centre BWU1 in Moorebank. Credit: Justin Sanson

A meeting at Amazon typically takes 90 minutes, with half of that time dedicated to silent reading, something the e-commerce giant’s Australia boss Janet Menzies admits initially shocked her.

“At the heart of Amazon’s unique meeting culture is the six-page memo — which we all must learn to write,” the Amazon Australian and Singapore country manager told The Nightly for its exclusive Leaders Survey.

“When I first joined Amazon three years ago, I was blown away by our approach to meetings.

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“Meetings are usually 90 minutes, and start with silent reading time, usually 45 minutes, which is powerful because when we start, everyone is well informed and we don’t waste much time conveying basic information.”

Ms Menzies is at the heart of Australia’s rapidly changing retail environment, so she makes sure she has a solid routine each morning to tackle the day.

“You can usually find me at a café near our office from about 7.30am, it’s a little sanctuary before my official day kicks in an hour to think and plan,” she said.

“During that time, I finish reading the news, prepare for my day, update my “to do” list or prepare feedback for my team.

“I might even listen to a hype song, often Taylor Swift.”

The behemoth Ms Menzies is in charge of down under employs around 7000 people across the country and is looking to create an additional 4500 jobs over the next two years.

It will continue Amazon’s exponential growth since first establishing a foothold in Australia six years ago, but Ms Menzies leans into a nugget of wisdom she receives to ensure Amazon does not push forward hastily.

“The advice of ‘feedback is a gift’ can seem nauseating; however, it’s actually a really accurate metaphor that I’ve come to deeply appreciate,” she said.

“When a gift comes your way, there are so many things you can do with it, usually the best thing is to thank the person, accept it, unwrap it, examine its contents and then put them to use.

“But if it doesn’t quite fit or suit you, you should still probably thank the person and unwrap it, but there’s no obligation to keep it, what I’ve learned is that it’s important for me to at least understand what the person thought was a good gift for you and why.”

Ms Menzies says one of the things she likes most about Amazon is its “genuine feedback culture” with mechanisms to promote feedback as a practice, whether that is in meetings or in one-on-ones.

“We aim to make it safe for people to debate and share their opinions, regardless of seniority, which is important,” she said.

“Feedback is meant to be constructive and actionable rather than critical.”

Beyond Amazon, Ms Menzies believes it is “critical” that Australia collectively addresses the under-representation of women in the technology sector, so the industry can innovate and grow sustainably.

“For many reasons, including harmful gender stereotypes, women make up only a quarter of the tech workforce, despite these jobs being amongst the fastest-growing, most secure, well paid with a relatively low gender pay gap,” she said.

“During my time as CEO and chair of the Champions of Change coalition, I saw first-hand how leaders can together take practical steps to drive significant and sustainable change.

“I remain optimistic about how our Aussie ingenuity paired with bold action solve for women’s representation in tech.”

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