and battling established behemoths such
as Barnes & Noble,
Amazon goes public at
$18 a share.
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
A 50;YEAR;OLD FICUS NAMED RUBI. A RHODODENDRON TAXIFOLIUM
from the Philippines, now extinct in the wild. The world’s second-largest living wall.
I have come to Amazon’s urban campus in Seattle to meet Beth
Galetti, the company’s senior VP of human relations. But instead of
ushering me directly into a conference room, she offers me a guided
tour of the Spheres, the three conjoined geodesic domes—containing
40,000 plants, seating areas, and good coffee—that Amazon opened
last year on a former parking lot in the Denny Triangle neighborhood.
Part botanical wonderland and part work space, the glass-
encased Spheres are designed to let the thousands of Amazon staff-
ers who toil in nearby buildings get away from it all without having
to walk more than a few blocks from their desks. “We wanted to
give our employees a place to experience nature,” explains Galetti,
who is wearing a puffy winter jacket and floral scarf and is clearly
having fun playing forest ranger. “When you’re in a typical office
environment, the best you might get is a plant.”
The Spheres’ Edenesque splendor seems
all the more striking after Galetti and I make
the five-minute trek to the anodyne tower
where she works. By the standards of enor-
mous tech companies, her surroundings
are willfully mundane, reflecting Amazon’s
long-standing stance that it should be invest-
ing above all in delighting customers rather
than its own creature comforts: “It sets the
tone for our frugality,” she says. Her office
is tiny—three visitors would constitute a
crowd—and sports few accoutrements other
than a standing desk and the requisite shelf
of family photos. (In one, Galetti poses with
her beaming dad during an Amazon “Bring
Your Parents to Work” day.)
Like most—okay, all—HR executives, the
46-year-old Galetti isn’t exactly famous. But
in her nearly six years at Amazon, three as
a division leader, she has quietly become
one of its most influential figures. Galetti
is the highest-ranking woman at the company, and the only woman on the 18-person
“S-Team” (short for “Senior Team”) that reports directly to founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
And she has presided over a hiring spree of
Amazon has a global full- and part-time
workforce of 647,000, which is 50% more
people than Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, and
Microsoft combined. Among U. S. companies,
only Walmart, with 2. 3 million, employs more
people, but Walmart’s total head count hasn’t
budged significantly in years. By contrast,
Amazon employs more than six times as
many workers as it did when Galetti joined.
It has been adding an average of 337 people a
day and currently has 28,000 open positions.
But raw numbers, vast as they are, do not
convey the scope of Galetti’s role at Amazon,
THE COMPAN Y GREW IN TO A BEHEMOTH SLOWLY, THEN ALL AT ONCE.
The fledgling Amazon.com
book site makes its first
sale, to a customer named
it celebrates his purchase by naming a building after him.
International expansion begins as the
company opens sites
tailored for the U.K.
(with 1. 2 million
books) and Germany
Amazon allows third-party merchants to sell
through its storefront.
By 2017, such shipments
would account for the majority of sales. (Layoffs
occur in 2001, after the
dotcom bubble bursts.)
In a departure
from its retailing roots, Amazon
online infrastructure to
Amazon Web Services estab-lishes a new
now a $30 billion
Amazon Prime lets customers
pay an annual fee for fast shipping. Today, it has 100 million
members, who also get everything from streaming video to
Whole Foods discounts.