Amazon and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have renewed commitments to serving personnel, reservists, veterans and families by jointly re-signing the UK government’s Armed Forces Covenant – nearly a decade after first signing the Covenant in 2013.
The Covenant, originally introduced in 2011 with a focus on helping the Armed Forces community to access the same support from government and commercial services as the public, states: “Those who serve in the Armed Forces, whether Regular or Reserve, those who have served in the past, and their families, should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services… recognising those who have performed military duty unites the country and demonstrates the value of their contribution.”
By re-signing the Covenant, we renew our commitment to endeavour to uphold its key principles and to demonstrate our commitment to the Armed Forces; to veterans and Reserve Forces; to military spouses and partners; to a Reserves-friendly HR policy; to national events like Armed Forces Day and Reserves Day; to Armed Forces charities; to those deployed; to upskilling and retraining veterans and military spouses; to advocate for the military community in the UK.
Impact of the Covenant
Gillian Russell is Amazon’s Senior Program Manager of Global Military Affairs – she served in the Royal Navy as a logistics officer for 18 years, including time in Afghanistan, and her husband is also currently serving in the military.
“We were proud to be one of the first major multinational companies to sign the UK government’s Armed Forces Covenant, and we believe the Covenant has had a deep and meaningful impact on the prospects and opportunities available to the military community,” Gillian explains.
“Amazon and AWS are now voluntarily re-signing the Covenant together, teaming up to further our commitments and to continue developing our progress so far.”
In 2019, Amazon received a Gold Award in the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme, which publicly celebrates our positive attitude and market sector-leading policies towards the Armed Forces community, and highlights our work supporting current and former defence personnel as an example of best practice in the UK business community.
“As large and diverse organisations, Amazon and AWS have immense power to support the military community here in the UK. Our activity includes support for talent acquisition and retention, and we develop training and mentoring that is in tune with their specific needs. We also engage with the community through talks, thought leadership, mentoring and networking, and we leverage Amazon’s technology and resources to tackle major challenges faced by military communities such as homelessness and veteran suicide.”
Gillian adds that Amazon’s commitments to the Covenant are not an act of charity: “We must re-frame how we think about ex-military personnel, their families, their skills and the challenges they face when transitioning out of military life. We want to change perceptions about the potential value of veterans – unfortunately in that sense there is still some discrimination within our society.”
“Whether they’re serving abroad, building Nightingale Hospitals or supporting the COVID-19 relief effort and vaccine rollout, our military personnel commit to go above and beyond. The Armed Forces Covenant rightly recognises their sacrifice and enshrines protections already enjoyed by other UK citizens.”
“Military personnel, veterans and their families are potential change-makers. They are trained to learn new skills over a lifetime, to adapt and to face challenges head-on. We also have a huge tech skills gap in the UK and there is a talent pool of 14,000 military leavers every year who can help to fill that gap.”
To find out more, we spoke to ex-military personnel, reservists and spouses employed by Amazon who discussed the huge variety of skills they bring to the table, the challenges faced when transitioning out of military life, and their potential as change-makers.
Jess Pinnock - Global Organisational Psychologist, Amazon
Jess has been involved with the Armed Forces both personally and professionally. She has done multiple pieces of consultancy work for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) before coming to Amazon, and she is a military spouse as her husband serves in the British Armed Forces.
“In my role I feel completely supported by Amazon. I’m able to work remotely which is important as a military spouse, since I have to go where my husband is needed for work. There is an openness and willingness to look after people who have some kind of military affiliation, be it ex-serving members or military spouses,” Jess explains.
“Working with the military has taught me how to work with people from different backgrounds and characteristics, and how to interact with people from all walks of life and dispositions. In my role as a consultant I became prepared to work in challenging scenarios and build skills in stakeholder influence and interpersonal intelligence.”
“People serving in the military give up so much professionally and personally to serve our country, so it’s only natural that we provide career prospects after they leave. Amazon reasserting its commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant is simply the right thing to do, both recognising and supporting our Armed Forces and their families, especially for people who have given up so much for others.”
Gary Scott Wishart – Amazon Apprentice
Gary joined the Armed Forces in 1999 and went on to serve a tour in Afghanistan as a combat medic in 2008. Today he is still a member of the reserve forces, in a role focused on recruitment.
“My experience in the Armed Forces helped me build skills such as interacting with the public and mentoring. As a reservist, I now help new recruits decide what path to take in the army. I love passing on skills and knowledge to new recruits, and now working at an Amazon fulfilment centre I do the same for new starters, as I have helped the picking department train new hires and teach them how picking works.”
“There is a vast array of people in Amazon who are ex-service personnel, and that provides a fantastic support network. There are hundreds of people on our internal network for support and collaboration. I’m a people person, so I love making new connections."
Gary adds: "I'm now about to complete a two-year Operations Apprenticeship for Team Leader. It is great that we have opportunities at Amazon to further our skills and knowledge."
Ben Morris – Global Account Manager, AWS
Ben spent nearly ten years serving in the army before returning to civilian life 13 years ago. He began his military career as an officer in the 7th Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, and carried out exercises all over the UK as well as the US, Canada and Poland.
“From there, I moved into an Armoured Brigade, working with tanks and armoured infantry,” Ben explains. “This was a specialist role called a Forward Observation Officer which focuses on the front end of the battle, when I served in Kosovo, Iraq and other areas in the Middle East. I then began a role in the private office of a four-star general. This gave me amazing visibility, experience with strategic decisions, insight into how the army works with the government, and the complexity of Defence spending.”
“You might be surprised that there are parallels between life at AWS and in the Armed Forces, and these help the difficult transition from military to civilian life. The Amazon Leadership Principles, for example, will resonate with anybody from the military. In fact, I’ve never felt so comfortable in an organisation as I do here.”
Ben adds that the Armed Forces Covenant “represents fair and equitable opportunity for all by looking after veterans, giving people space to shine, and providing a community to lean on. Other veterans, reservists and military spouses should know that we respect and understand where they have come from, and that we are giving back to them.”
Vicky Wales – Fulfilment Centre Manager, Amazon
Vicky joined Amazon’s Durham fulfilment centre nine years after leaving the British Army, and today she goes above and beyond her day job by supporting and mentoring other ex-military employees at Amazon.
From age 18 onwards, Vicky worked her way up the ranks of the army – she started within the logistics team before moving to the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, one of the first women to ever hold her position, where she was preparing others physically and mentally for service.
“I loved my position in the British Army and saw great success,” Vicky explains. “I trained people at all levels, from junior cadets to royalty!”
Unfortunately, Vicky suffered a training accident and injury which brought her military career to an end after 15 years. She went on to work as a general manager for a sports company and an operations manager before coming across opportunities with Amazon last year.
“I had been furloughed but I didn’t want to slow down during the pandemic, so when researching jobs and learning about Amazon, I was super excited by the opportunity. When it comes to values, leadership, training and teamwork, Amazon is the most diverse workplace I’ve ever experienced,” she explains. “You have a sense of belonging and, thanks to affinity groups, you can network, get support and build a community while developing your career.”
Amazon’s UK Consumer Military Internship
This year, Amazon launched the UK Consumer Military Internship for the first time which offers a path directly into corporate roles in e-commerce for those transitioning from the Armed Forces. Those on the programme are supported throughout their transition to the corporate world, including a military mentor who already works at Amazon, tailored support from line management and an onboarding buddy.
Scott Waters has recently joined the programme having spent 16 years in the Royal Navy: “It’s quite daunting leaving the military after a long period of time, there is self-induced pressure to make a good decision about where to go next because you’re leaving such a secure bubble.”
“I feel the transferable skills you gain in the navy can be heavily underrated outside of the defence industry,” Scott adds. “One of the major factors that made Amazon appealing as an employer is that transferable skills are seen as invaluable to Amazon’s work and culture. You see and feel the value of that culture every day – when you ask hard questions, respectfully disagree and ask for help.”
Jack Rowden joined the Army as an officer after university, a journey that took him from London to Afghanistan, Kenya and back again. The time eventually came where he wanted to be able to choose where he lived while still challenging himself.
“I wanted to work somewhere progressive, so it’s been great to see how seriously Amazon takes its social responsibilities,” Jack explains. “The Leadership Principles also match up to my own values, so this internship felt like a natural fit.”
“The military internship expands on the usual opportunities you find for ex-military within Amazon,” he adds. “There’s a real recognition of the skils that veterans can bring to roles in other areas of the business, outside of operations. It’s an inspiring opportunity for those who want to work in a more corporate environment.”
Abigail Sawyer is also on the UK Consumer Military Internship, having just left the Royal Air Force where she worked as a nursing officer, and in aviation safety. As these roles involve both desk work and medical evaluations, Abigail is no stranger to flexibility: “In the military you could be working on multiple workstreams, so learning to spin plates has been a really useful transferable skill for this internship!”
“When you leave the military, the top priority is to find stability and opportunities,” she adds, “and I feel lucky to have found both with Amazon. Being on this internship is a testament to the Armed Forces Covenant, I come from a medical background but they have taken a chance on me and are investing in training me for an e-commerce role. The support has been incredible.”
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