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Amazon’s top horticulturalist says he has the best job at the company

He oversees the 40,000 plants in Amazon’s giant biodomes known as the Spheres.

Amazon’s top horticulturalist says he has the best job at the company
[Illustration: Aistė Stancikaitė; source image: Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images]

[Every night] I send myself an email with the subject line: “rocks.” The idea is to separate the “rocks”—the big priorities—from the “gravel.” When you check your email in the morning, it can become a sinkhole. By sending myself this note, I’m able to use email in a more productive way.

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At the Spheres [the giant biodomes at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters], we have 40,000 plants—800 different species from more than 30 countries—and thousands of visitors per week. Making sure that all those folks have a good experience is important to me. I’m getting people excited about nature, but also helping them physically feel better, and potentially, I hope, take better care of our planet.

I walk to work—if the weather is bad, I take the bus—and stop by my desk underneath the Spheres. It’s a steam environment where there might be soil on the floor and plants coming and going. When I was traveling to procure plants for the Spheres, botanical gardens really opened their doors in terms of sharing plants. I would always arrive with a suitcase full of packing materials—plastic wrap, ziplock plastic bags, paper towels, labels—and I would often bring back 100 to 200 different types of plants from a single botanical garden, in addition to going to nurseries and committing to purchase some plants. Living things are always unpredictable, but I’m a planner, and a little bit of planning goes a long way.

I try to get out in nature as much as I can. About five years ago, I bought an ’85 VW Westfalia camper van. I’m exploring Washington and a little bit of Oregon and places like Yellowstone. That’s often where I’m at when I need to recharge.

Time he gets up: 5:15 a.m.

First thing he does in the morning: “Make coffee, walk the dogs, water the plants.”

What he does while commuting: “Meditate on my big priorities.”

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Email strategy: “When I’m traveling, I go back and find every email I can respond to and close the loop. I stop when I hit 100.”

How he handles social media: “I like to take pictures in the Spheres, and sometimes I post one to Instagram. It’s nice because it slows me down.”

Best habit: “Trying to instill a sense of gratitude in myself and in my team. We have arguably some of the best jobs for horticulturists on the planet. I tell our founder, Jeff Bezos, when I see him that I have the best job in the company. He’s the CEO, but man, I love my job. And I’m grateful for it.”

Worst habit: “I have to be conscious of my emotions when I’m in front of my team. How we appear to folks can [rub] off.”

Last thing he does at night: “Plug in my phone, outside of the bedroom. We have a ‘no screens in the bedroom’ policy.”

Time he goes to bed: 9:30 p.m.

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A version of this article appeared in the Winter 2019/2020 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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