When Josh Teeter retired from the U.S. Army, he took a seasonal job at an Amazon fulfillment center just outside of Reno, Nevada, in what he thought would be a short-term gig leading up to the holidays. Fast forward 14 years to today, and Teeter is not only still with the company but also a director, managing several facilities across the country.
At Amazon, a company continuously growing and stretching, career growth opportunities are abundant—and supporting associate career growth across its more than 110 operating fulfillment centers in North America is a priority.
“One of the nice things about working for Amazon is with our growth, there are always bigger roles and challenges unfolding. Every leader is thinking about how to support associates and help them take advantage of these opportunities. It’s in everyone’s best interest to help people into the next level,” explains Teeter, now a Regional Director of Operations.
“Be great at what you do today”
Career growth and winning together are areas Teeter knows well. After serving eight years in the military, where he learned to be a strong team player, Teeter joined Amazon in 2004 as a seasonal inbound stower, receiving inbound packages and placing products on shelves. By February 2005, he had become a full-time area manager and has been continuously promoted over the years.
Today Teeter oversees several Amazon fulfillment centers across the U.S. In this role, he visits between 30 and 40 fulfillment centers a year, helping new leaders understand how to deliver results in an operations environment. He teaches processes and proven methodologies, listens to questions, guides decisions, and offers advice. When asked what advice he would give associates who want to move up the ladder at Amazon, he offers three key suggestions.
“Be great at what you do today and don’t worry about your next job. But when opportunity does come to take a bigger role, take it even if it doesn’t seem like the best move. Doing something bigger is always good. You’re going to learn from it, even if it’s not an obvious move,” shares Teeter. “Lastly, don’t believe your good press. You can always improve and grow.”
He adds, “Be humble. You can always be better, particularly early on in your career. Often people early in their careers think they need to prove they’re the best. The way to do that is to do a good job. Don’t hide your faults. Early in your career is the time to get better.”
For Teeter, having a mentor has been career-changing. He found that mentor in former boss Brian Calvin, who he credits with teaching him how to drive collaboration among multiple teams on strategic initiatives, which in turn contributes to Amazon’s overall success.
“Finding my mentor was completely accidental,” admits Teeter. “I think finding a mentor is either accidental, something just clicks, or it can be led by you. If you’re struggling with a task, seek out someone who is really good at that task and ask for help. That can lead to mentorship. In both cases, you have to be ready to embrace the guidance.”
Making a choice to win together
Beyond the career growth culture, professional development tools and training, Amazon supports fulfillment center associates’ career growth with its Career Choice program. Amazon believes that encouraging education in high-demand fields such as transportation, healthcare, computer science, aircraft mechanics, and machine tool technologies, among others, will ultimately benefit society. Therefore, the program pre-pays 95 percent of tuition, fees, and textbooks toward a certificate or diploma in coursework related to in-demand jobs—whether that job is at Amazon or elsewhere.
The program may sound peculiar; in fact, it's safe to say you won't find anything quite like it anywhere else. But that’s precisely why it’s so successful.
As Teeter notes, “We’re a unique environment. While people tend to be results-driven, it’s about winning together.”