In honor of World Photography Day, we’ve elected to profile Amazon Pay’s unofficial photographer and Director of Engineering and Product, Mark Griffith. Through the Q&A below you’ll get a chance to learn about Mark’s experience with photography, including how he continues to develop his craft, what cameras he uses when he travels, and how he got started. Deemed the Grandfather of FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon), Mark also shares his storied tenure at Amazon along with insights about the culture of Amazon. Spoiler alert: Mark used his Amazon signing bonus to buy his first digital camera.
Q: Hey Mark, can you give us a little background on who you are?
Mark: I have three priorities: family, outdoors, people. I count myself lucky to be able to work at Amazon, where as part of my job responsibilities I get to work with smart people delivering great customer experiences. I have found that because of Amazon’s customer obsession and high hiring bar there are always interesting problems to solve, not to mention the amazing people I get to work with on those problems. And I enjoy the opportunity to develop and help people achieve their own personal career development.
Outside of work, my hobbies are hiking, trail running, back packing, mountaineering and always carrying a camera to capture the moments along the way. I love Seattle because of the great outdoors we have all around us.
Q: Can you share an abridged version of your career history leading up to your current role at Amazon Pay?
Mark: I got my start in technology during college in 1993, when Mosiac (the first web browser) was released and the Internet era of the WWW was just beginning. I eventually joined a startup in San Francisco, WebLogic where I worked on java based server technology. WebLogicwas purchased by BEA Systems and I moved up to Seattle with BEA to run program management for the java tooling team. When the company decided to close the Seattle office 8 months later, I applied to Amazon.
I joined Amazon as an L6 TPM. I was on a team of three (SDM, PM) working on SSOF (Self Service Ordering and Fulfillment) that later became the FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) program. I was one of three eventual TPMs that helped launched FBA, and I was responsible for all the middle layer ordering and financial systems. The growth of the FBA program afforded me a variety of job opportunities over the next 9+ years within FBA. Eventually I was promoted to Tech Director before joining Amazon Pay 4 years ago.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
Mark: Meetings. ;) Typically, I have a number of one-on-one meetings with my team, the broader Amazon Pay organization, discussions on dependencies, and/or connecting with workmates at Amazon. The rest of my time is often spent reviewing programs, business metrics or attending strategy meetings. Some of my favorite meetings involve getting to connect with customers and gaining insight into how Amazon and the products we work on intersects with their own lives. Interspersed across my day are writing and responding to emails, docs, and chimes (our internal instant messenger).
Q: After 14.5 years at Amazon, what do you enjoy about the culture? What’s one remarkable thing you’ve learned during your time at Amazon?
Mark: I love that at the very bottom of every organization is a small team with direct ownership, responsibility and impact. The rest of the leadership principles (high standards, customer obsession, bias for action and deliver results) help ensure that those teams are going in the right direction, with the right teammates, at the right speed. And that at the end, great results mean delighting our customers.
Q: What is one of the reasons you enjoy working at Amazon Pay?
Mark: Payments is such a fundamental activity. The exchange of “money” for value is as old as human civilization. There are unique opportunities for Amazon to extend the trust and convenience to purchase experiences that extend outside Amazon.com.
Q: As the resident photographer at Amazon Pay, outside your duties as the Director of Product and Engineering, what inspired you to take up photography?
Mark: That all started when I bought my first digital camera as my daughter was born 20 years ago. When I began at Amazon, I took some of my signing bonus and bought a DSLR and that has largely accompanied me on my outdoor activities. BUT I also enjoyed bringing it to work and capturing moments through the years. Here is one from 14 years ago when FBA was still in the planning phases: https://www.flickr.com/photos/niffgurd/35217311710/
Q: When you travel, is there specific camera you bring with you?
Mark: Ha! I always travel light, but that doesn’t usually include cameras. I typically bring at least two mirrorless cameras (Sonry A7Riii, SonyRX1 and/or SonyRX100) and then at least two Go Pros, the Hero7 and the super tiny GoPro Session. In some cases, I’ve brought along a drone when I’ll be in a place that allows drone photography.
Q: How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
Mark: Purely working at it. I take lots and lots of photos. The whole idea of working on something consistently for 10,000 hours, and trying to get better at it, really applies here. I also follow other photographers online, and I often find myself asking the questions “how” and “what” and “where” to stay educated.
Q: What’s one of your favorite moments you’ve captured with your camera?
Mark: Wow, that is a really, really hard question. I have almost 35,000 photos I’ve posted on Flickr. Two stand out:
1. This one of my two youngest:
2. And this one of a climb of Mt Stuart:
Q: If you had a personal motto, what would it be?
Mark: Never compare yourself to others or you’ll become vain or bitter. And happiness is a journey not a destination.
Learn more about working at Amazon Pay through our career site.