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Zappos Milestone: Profiles of 10 Employees

From free lunches to personal improvement, Zappos team members reflect on the best things about working at an Internet phenom.

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Vanessa Lawson, lead trainer.

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Vanessa Lawson, lead trainer

Joined: 2007 as facilities assistant, shipping and receiving
Responsibilities then/now: “I was hired as a temp in the shipping and receiving department. I moved to the content team, where I wrote descriptions for outdoor products, then made another move to the training department, called the Pipeline team. We’re responsible for creating and delivering classes [for employee advancement]. I’m currently an instructor for Zappos’ company culture, history and prospective [company growth] and public-speaking courses.”
Biggest change: “We offer more than 10 classes for employees [to help them advance] within their departments. It’s an incredible initiative to roll out courses created for [employee advancement].”
Favorite perk: “We are all encouraged to be ourselves. On a daily basis I hear employees’ stories about how they worked for companies where they felt beaten down by their managers, were unhappy with the environment and felt like they needed to fit in to the company mold. I love watching employees come out of their shells and really find themselves here.” 
Lesson learned: “I found a passion for people, not necessarily for shoes. I really believe Zappos has revolutionized the online shoe business and has been the leading innovator throughout the years.”

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Donavon Roberson, business development account manager

Joined: 2007 as customer loyalty team representative
Responsibilities then/now: “I started on the call center floor and then moved to the help desk. After a few months, I became the assistant manager, then operations manager. I oversaw the daily workings of the department, from our [in-house transit service] to the reception desk. Recently, I joined the business development team. My responsibilities include oversight of the Zappos Insights services and our business-to-business incentive rewards programs.”
Biggest change: “We had to go through a round of layoffs. The way the company handled it was not only commendable but something I could be proud of.”
Favorite perk: “We are encouraged to move around within the company and try out different areas. I love it.”
Lesson learned: “I have gained a greater respect for those in the shoe business. I didn’t realize all the ins and outs until I got here. A shoe was a shoe, nothing spectacular. I don’t feel that way anymore.”

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Loren Becker, Pipeline supervisor

Joined:
2004 as customer loyalty team representative
Responsibilities then/now: “I started handling general calls in the call center. I soon became part of a group of team members who trained all new customer loyalty team employees. As Zappos continued to grow, so did the training team’s role. We started having all employees go through the customer loyalty training course and spend 40 hours taking calls. We grew the course from a one-week customer service-focused course into a four-week comprehensive program. Today, the training team’s grown into the Pipeline team, made up of 11 trainers who develop and instruct classes [in such topics as] communication, grammar, Microsoft Office, finance, culture, history and more.” 
Biggest change: “Watching Zappos expand from 50 or 60 people in an office we thought we would never fill to having 700-plus people spread over three buildings in Las Vegas alone. It has also been pretty wild to watch us grow from 300 brands, primarily in footwear, to more than 1,300 brands in clothing, watches, jewelry, cosmetics, electronics and more.”
Favorite perk: “Happy hours, picnics and holiday parties are always fun. Full coverage for medical, dental and vision with no co-pays isn’t a bad perk either.”
Lesson learned: “I’ve learned more about the service industry and how to treat people than about the shoe business specifically. I’ve learned to appreciate good-looking shoes and find myself looking at people’s feet in public a lot more than I used to.”

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Melissa Rick, project manager.

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Melissa Rick, project manager

Joined:
2005 as project manager
Responsibilities then/now: “I’ve worked in human resources, legal, risk management, real estate and payroll functions. Now I focus on our charitable efforts.”
Biggest change: “Seeing the company grow from fewer than 20 employees to many more today. Then [we moved] part of the company to Kentucky in 2002, and the rest of the company to Las Vegas in 2004. Each move was a startup in itself and brought many changes.”
Favorite perk: “Working with very inspiring people.”
Lesson learned: “Shoes are more complicated than other categories, with all the different variables, but they’ve given us a great foundation to build upon when we add new products.” 

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Drew Kovacs, recruiter.

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Drew Kovacs, recruiter

Joined: 2007 as recruiter
Responsibilities then/now: “I drive recruiting for software engineers and related positions and ensure a ‘wow’ experience for candidates and hiring managers.”
Biggest change: “Becoming a billion-dollar company and debuting on Fortune’s ‘Best Companies to Work For’ at a record spot — 23 — at the same time.” 
Favorite perk: “The wacky, hard-working and passionate bunch I work with in recruiting and across and across the company.”
Lesson learned: “Just like any business, it’s all about customer service, which is about establishing real relationships with individuals, whether they’re customers, vendors, candidates or co-workers.”

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Darrin Shamo, senior search engine manager, marketing

Joined: 2004 as marketing assistant (intern)
Responsibilities then/now: “When I joined the marketing department, I was one of only three on-site employees dedicated to marketing. In the early years, I compiled lists of our affiliates, processed public relations sample requests, built reports for comparison shopping engines and more. Over the years, our department has grown and become more specialized. I work with the talented search team to coordinate many of the company’s direct response programs.”
Biggest change: “Watching the department grow exponentially, then split in two [in June 2008] as we separated the direct response and branding programs within marketing.”
Favorite perk: “Each month, our department skips out of the office for a few hours for team building. This is a great time to leave any stress at the office and connect with the teams on a personal level.”
Lesson learned: “People really don’t mind buying shoes, clothes, bags, electronics, etc., online, so long as we remove the obstacles. When you get enough talented people behind a common vision, anything is possible.”
 
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Eric Villafuerte, human resources generalist

Joined: 2006 as customer loyalty team representative
Responsibilities then/now: “I started in the customer loyalty team call center, where I was responsible for answering calls about things such as how to place an online order, shopping different Websites, researching an order status, assisting with returns and exchanges. I then joined our recruiting team, where I assisted creative services, front-end development and training with their recruiting needs. As a human resources generalist, I work with several departments, including merchandising, content, creative services, marketing, Powered by Zappos, Zappos Social Media and our online visual merchandising team.”
Biggest change: “It’s not the change but rather the constant focus on delivering exceptional service to our customers, vendors, community and one another that continues to amaze me. I don’t think I’ll ever be surrounded by another group of individuals with the same passion and determination to make a difference in the lives of others.” 
Favorite perk: “Trust. It’s a huge perk when your manager trusts you to do your job. I’m thankful to all the managers I’ve had. As a human resources generalist, I try to instill this quality within our managers and employees in their everyday communication and interactions.”
Lesson learned: “Be it shoes, apparel, accessories, handbags, electronics, whatever, it’s about service. Be true in your communications and keep your promises. If you fall short, take ownership and do whatever it takes to make it right.”

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Miguel Pascual, marketing coordinator

Joined: 2008 as marketing coordinator
Responsibilities then/now: “I write pay-per-click search engine ads for women’s shoes. Working on the direct marketing team doing search marketing and creating comparison shopping engines is both challenging and rewarding because results are immediately measurable. Other aspects include keyword research, data analysis, reporting trends, writing ad copy, coordinating marketing needs with the development team, merchandising and working with our legal department.”
Biggest change: “People move to different departments, teams, or maybe switch roles because there’s opportunity for growth and advancement. This environment is really like a ‘choose your own adventure.’ There’s so much to do and so many directions to pursue, depending on your skill sets and interests. The only thing holding someone back from advancing would be themselves.” 
Favorite perk: “Free lunch.”
Lesson learned: “You don’t have to sell shoes in a brick-and-mortar store. People will buy them before trying them on if you gain their trust by providing a flexible return policy, a great online shopping experience and outstanding service.”

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Augusta Scott, customer loyalty team.

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Augusta Scott, customer loyalty team representative, resource desk

Joined: 2007 as customer loyalty representative
Responsibilities then/now: “I now have far more responsibilities in handling issues from the customer loyalty team reps at the resource desk. I’ve been able to learn several skill sets, which include training interns and giving core value presentations at new hire training classes.”
Biggest change: “Expanding our business to international shipping and more exposure through the media.”
Favorite perk: “Free benefits, food and our discount.”
Lesson learned: “How big the shoe business is.”

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Kathleen Joseph, merchandise planning coordinator II

Joined: 2008 as merchandise planning coordinator
Responsibilities then/now: “I assist the merchandise planning analysts, working as a partner with the buying team to identify risks and opportunities. I compile sales and inventory data for weekly, monthly and quarterly reports, and update and publish analytical recaps that support business needs. I’m also responsible for accurate data compiling for departmental projects and maintaining the consistency and integrity of merchandise planning tools, reports and processes.”
Biggest change: “Zappos is an ever-changing adventure. That sense of innovation is what led us to our billion-dollar year — before we anticipated it.”
Favorite perk: “The instant feeling of being among friends and family whenever I set foot here.”
Lesson learned: “When all is said and done, your customer doesn’t frequent your business just based on the selection of offerings you provide. They come back because they want to be treated well and given the best customer service the industry has to offer.”

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