As the coronavirus outbreak transformed our concept of ‘normality’, people from different walks of life had to put their business on hold. For many of them, a temporary role at Amazon has provided a welcome opportunity, and a way to step up at a challenging time.
They may come from different backgrounds, but they share the same mission. The people who work in Amazon's operations network are making sure customers can get the products they need while the pandemic makes staying at home a matter of both personal and public health. Since the beginning of the emergency, the company has opened 15,000 new full and part-time positions and delivery driver opportunities across its UK fulfilment and logistics network to help meet customer demand and assist existing associates fulfilling orders. For many who had to put their business or work on hold due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, a temporary role at Amazon has provided a welcome opportunity. A judo instructor, a digital nomad, a professional speedway rider, a pet home boarding franchisee, and a wedding photographer: here are just some of the people who are stepping up during these unprecedented times.
Coalville, judo instructorA national judo medalist and member of the senior British squad in the Under 63 kg category, Verity won her first national title at 11, and she has competed in the Commonwealth Championships and other international events. Before the outbreak began, she was teaching martial arts to more than 250 children in 15 schools across Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
“Going from having a full schedule to nothing in the span of 24 hours has been a complete lifestyle change,” she says. “Keeping active was part of the reason why I looked for a temporary position at Amazon. I am used to training six days a week, sitting at home is just not for me!” Verity has joined the Receiving team in Amazon’s fulfilment centre in Coalville. “Seeing how the whole process comes together from beginning to end has inspired me to work on my own processes, and improve the way I communicate with teachers and headmasters. It’s great insight,” she explains. What she loves the most about her new role, though, is being around people again: “Everyone has been really warm and welcoming. There are many other people who started at the same time as me, and we have become friends,” she beams. “Amazon has opened its doors to people who are struggling. The job keeps me active, it provides an income during these tough times and it gives me a chance to socialise. And it feels great when all the hard work is acknowledged.”
Peterborough, YouTube channel owner & digital nomadMicha Boon, a true globetrotter, has built her whole life around travelling. “Prior to the start of the Covid-19 emergency, I was working as a digital nomad and running a YouTube channel with over 80,000 subscribers. I was a full-time traveller, and I loved the lifestyle,” she explains. In March, as the pandemic escalated, Micha was creating promotional content for her channel in India. “I was completely oblivious to the chaos that was unfolding. I couldn’t have imagined that, only a few days later, I would find myself on an emergency flight back to the UK as India was closing it borders,” she recalls. Back home, while she was self-isolating, she realised the full impact of the situation on her career: “I needed to put my business on hold. At that point, I was terrified about the future and about my health.”
Days later, she found a job within Amazon’s Operations network, in the fulfilment centre in Peterborough. “I had always heard good things about Amazon and I feel very grateful to have landed on my feet so quickly. Not everyone that I know has been able to continue working at this difficult time.” Micha feels lucky: “This job has allowed me to keep my mind occupied, keep myself safe and save money for new adventures. I want to continue to inspire people to travel, and I see this role as a stepping-stone in continuing this journey.”
Doncaster, professional speedway riderNew Zealand-born Ricky Wells grew up in California before moving to the UK. For the past 20 years, Ricky has lived his dream – being a professional speedway rider: in 2009, he won the American National Speedway Champion title. For him, the coronavirus outbreak has meant the cancellation of all speedway events throughout Europe: “The closing of the competitions has resulted in my sponsors withdrawing from this sport,” he explains. “My wages were tied to my professional performance as a rider, based on race finishing positions. All of a sudden, I found myself out of work, and out of money.”
Ricky had never worked in a warehouse before, but he found an opportunity to start over with a temporary position in the Amazon fulfilment centre in Doncaster. Always a racer, he enjoys the pace of his new role: “I like it because it’s always busy, and people are really friendly. It’s funny, I can’t count how many times I have been asked how a guy from California ended up in Doncaster. But I like it a lot here!” Besides removing the financial stress he was facing, Ricky finds that the job has given him fresh purpose: “Amazon provides a service to many people who can’t go out and buy the products they need. It feels good to be a part of it.”
Dunfermline, dog home boarding franchiseePet lover Elaine and her husband have run the Fife and Kinross franchise of Barking Mad, a dog home boarding business, for the past six years. They offer dog sitting services and bespoke dog holidays, matching the pets with the best human hosts. By the end of March, though, their business had virtually disappeared, and the couple was left without an income, “while still having bills to pay,” as Elaine says.
Elaine heard about the opportunity to work at Amazon’s fulfilment centre in Dunfermline through a colleague, and immediately applied for a temporary position with an agency. She joined soon after as a stower, choosing the night shift: “The enhanced hourly rate provides a much-needed income, and the schedule allows me to still spend time with my family and my pets,” she explains. She appreciates the structure that her new job has brought to her day-to-day life and that of her family: “In these troubled times, having a routine is very valuable. The work on the floor is intense, but enjoyable. There is a bit of banter, but people are respecting the need for social distancing. It’s clear that Amazon are taking the situation very seriously and doing their best to provide a safe working environment.”
Rugby, professional photographerBefore the pandemic started, Paul’s work was all about creating the perfect image, covering everything from weddings to portraits, to industrial shoots as a professional photographer. He was also active in his local community as a church leader at Myton Church, Warwick. “My business has allowed me to manage my time as a house-husband, bringing up four children and supporting my family,” he explains. “When my wife had to reduce her working hours after being unwell, the income from my photography activity became all the more important. Then the coronavirus arrived, the demand for my work dried up, and I found myself in need of employment.”
After a brief stint in a supermarket warehouse, Paul was recruited as a temporary worker in the Inbound team at Amazon’s fulfilment centre in Rugby. It was not his first experience in a multinational company: “18 years ago, I had a senior role, managing teams of up to 100 people and a gas contract worth £150 million,” he recalls. After gaining an MBA, though, he had chosen to take a different path to spend more time with his growing family. “I had thought the industry world wouldn’t interest me anymore, but now the juices have started flowing again,” he admits. “I appreciate a challenge, and I really enjoy meeting my colleagues every day.” Paul is fascinated by the workings of Amazon’s operations world: “I am constantly impressed by the way the fulfilment centre is managed. The way the company has adapted its operations to take care of its people and still deliver for customers during the pandemic is pretty amazing. Apart from my own home, it’s the safest place I have been.”