Amazon’s UK Country Manager Doug Gurr was Year 13’s guest speaker this week. Doug has two degrees in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge, and a Doctorate degree in Computing from the University of Edinburgh. He joined Amazon in 2011 and was China’s Country Manager from 2014 to 2016. Outside work, Doug is Chairman of the British Heart Foundation and in his spare time has completed 12 Ironman triathlons.

Doug began his presentation talking about his career and his early days setting up an internet delivery company, to becoming a senior executive and board member at Walmart’s UK operations through to his current and imminent move to the position of Director of National History Museum.

Amazon is synonymous with online shopping and entertainment yet Doug gave students an insight into the aspects of the business that are less well known. Alongside designing smart, innovative consumer technology devices Amazon also invests in empowering businesses and content creators through their digital and physical infrastructure. For example, writers and music creators can use Amazon’s resources to publish their products online without having to go down the traditional route of securing a sought after publishing deal. As a highly successful multinational company Doug educated the students on Amazon’s guiding principles of customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence and long-term thinking.

The latter part of the presentation focussed on the Degree Apprenticeships and Graduate Training Schemes that Amazon offers and the importance of leadership, curiosity and a can-do attitude. Born in Yorkshire Doug concluded with a poignant motivational quote:

“Regardless of your starting point with hard work, determination and drive you can achieve anything you want.”

When someone who is a successful as Doug speaks to youngsters there is a moment of awe and wonder that simply grasps their imaginations and certainly this was the case this morning. There was much talk about the support Amazon provides to ‘new businesses’ and the publishing aspect the company offers, especially amongst some of our avid English Literature students.

Thanks go to Speakers for Schools, Amazon and Doug Gurr for organising this event today.