Ethics In Tech & Lack Thereof

Sleeping Under The Cell Tower

By Vahid Razavi

Welcome to the (Amazon) Jungle

While recovering from my injuries I wanted to get back to work in the tech sector. I was looking fora job that would reflect my background and industry experience in cloud computing. The biggest and largest provider in this space was Amazon Web Services (AWS). At that time, AWS had 10 times the business of its next 14 competitors; it was complete market dominance. Amazon had thousands of partners and over a million customers, so when I saw an opening for a senior alliances manager I jumped on it. In May of 2015 I was contacted by an Amazon recruiter regarding a position in the channels and alliances team for big data and analytics partners.

My hiring manager was a four-year Amazonian, a true bar-raiser, and I hold him in high regard to this day. I felt welcomed and open, so I shared my work at BizCloud and Ethics In Tech. We evenjoked about my NSA Comedy events. The interview process at Amazon was rigorous. I first had to deliver a PowerPoint presentation to the team about finding the right partner for channel marketing strategies. I was then interviewed in 45-minute increments by six other Amazonians.

It was a rigorous process, but I was excited about the opportunity and my prospective boss. The Interview process flew by. Shortly after they gave me first a verbal and then a written job offer,contingent upon a full background check. I accepted the offer, as it was a generous package with a start date in late June 2015. I would be tasked with managing a handful of select AWS strategic technology partners in the big data space and with acting as a single point of contact to assist these organizations and grow their businesses by partnering with Amazon Web Services. I would be doing everything from developing a to-go market strategy, to solution development, joint marketing, field enablement, and more. Within a month of my hiring my manager was reassigned to a group outside of the channel and alliances organization. A new boss was hired; he only lasted eight months.Finally, a general manager was brought in from VMWare. He was its director for cloud computing at the same time that I was protesting outside VMWorld annual conferences against CSC rendition flights and torture.

The GM then hired an attorney to be my boss. During my first year at Amazon, two out of the five partners I managed earned the vaunted Amazon Partner of the Year award, but for some reason this was not enough. Both the GM and my new manager created a toxic, backstabbing work environment; I became their target. They started a witch hunt to find, or gin up, issues with myperformance where none existed. I heard many rumors about how they repeatedly attempted to document problems they could peg on me even though we had only met once.

I would have had no issue if they’d had the balls to just fire me because of how I stood up to CSCand its partner VMWare. I’d utilized every legal method granted under the First Amendment Protecting those bastard companies and their inhumane business practices. I am proud that I ran social media campaigns against them and filed lawsuits to protect the BizCloud brand from the tarnish of association with CSC. I might have suffered a severe spinal injury but I was nevertheless brimming with backbone. My back was broken, but when it came to standing up to tech bullies and their inhumanity I never broke my values.

In August 2016 I was extremely stressed out due to the hostile work environment. Depression set in and my bipolar disorder reared its ugly head once more. Seeing the red flags, I checked myself into Stanford Hospital. I spent three nights there for evaluation under psychiatric care; I could no longer tolerate the back pain that was greatly exacerbated by work-related stress and my prior suicide attempt. I spent the next few months at Stanford’s Pain Management Center while on a short-term protected medical leave of absence. From burning the nerve endings in my back, to deep tissue massage and acupuncture, I tried everything I could in an unsuccessful quest for relief. As if all this wasn’t bad enough, I still had to deal with work supervisors who seemed hell-bent on finding something, anything, they could use against me as a pretense to show me the door. As you can see by my co-worker K——’s response to the inquisition-like email below, he was taken back by my managers’ line of questioning and couldn’t for the life of him figure out why they seemed out to get me:

D—

I spent some time with J— , Y— , and M— yesterday. Both mentioned challenges I have working with Vahid. Not sure where that is coming from. Just to be clear, I have no issues working with Vahid. I think there are areas where he can improve but thatis definitely true for me as well.
Thanks.

If you asked anyone who’d worked with me I bet they would tell you something similar, but the persecution continued. Management’s war against me involved more than just talking to my coworkers.The new manager, working on behalf of the GM, cancelled my participation at ReInvent(AWS’s annual conference) on two separate occasions. I’d attended ReInvent my first year at the company; however, the following year he passed me over in labor of new employees freshly hired to our group. After multiple back surgeries I finally returned to work in March 2017. Amazon had denied me long-term medical leave due to the fact that my injuries were self-inflicted and caused by a suicide attempt. On the day I returned I saw brand new personnel starting in our channel alliances group; they were being given partners and accounts to manage. I was told directly by the GM from VMWare that all of my partners had been reassigned. Consider this: Amazon Web Services has over30,000 partners, and 100 is considered strategic. Here I was returning from a lengthy but protected medical leave and they couldn’t even find five additional partners for me to manage? Feeling Burned yet again, I fired off an email to CEO Jeff Bezos explaining my situation:

Dear Jeff,

I am one of many thousands of your employees and I wanted to share with you my experience working for Amazon for the past two years. As you read my story,consider if this represents the company that the NY Times has described or the one that you have articulated in your response to Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld article.

My story is as follows; I was brought on in June of 2015 after a rigorous onsite interview process led by S—— as a Senior Alliances Manager for Big Data and Analytics. My job was to work and manage a select few Strategic Partners of AWS.Over the course of these two years I ran the partnerships and the GTM strategy for some of AWS’s largest ISV partners. The workload changed over time and I have managed anywhere from three to seven partners as per instructions from management at different times. These partners included companies such as Splunk,Tableau, Informatica, and others. With the support of the management team and fellow Amazonians we worked hard on building joint solutions and executed a GTM strategy with these partners. As a result of our combined efforts, Amazon Web Services was recognized as Alliance Partner of the Year by both Splunk and Tableau.I had the honor of accepting the award on behalf of AWS at Splunk’s SKO in March Of 2016.

In August of 2016 I took a medical leave of absence for the first time in my career of 20 plus years. My medical leave was extended due to my disability. Shortly after I Was placed on medical leave, a new manager J— was brought on. I had the chance to meet him in person, as I was on his interview loop during lunch when he was first interviewing at AWS. I have never worked with him in any capacity outside of having a lunch meeting with him. Per the attached email during my absence, J—, under the direction of senior management, solicited unwarranted feedback on my performance from my fellow co-workers. Specifically, he was fishing for challenges associated with my performance.

As you can see by the response from the segment lead for big data and analytics attached to this email, he is dumbfounded as to the reasons behind this solicitation and the language used in requesting such feedback. I would like Amazon to extend a professional courtesy and share with me the reviews that J— has collected in my absence so I can identify areas that I can improve on. I would value any solicitation and feedback as long as it is in team spirit of improving our performance and not to our detriment when we are absent from work due to illness.

My request for extended medical leave was denied so I returned back to work without any restrictions or limitations. Upon my return from the medical leave, Imeet with D——, the GM for Global ISV and Tech Partners, and he informed me that he has hired my replacements, that he has no positions within his current team for me. In addition, he said he would be open to considering a new role in one of his ISV teams as an Inside Partner Representative qualifying inbound marketing leads on behalf of our partners in a new hotline that he wants to set up for them. He made it clear that this position has not yet been created but he would like me to work in this capacity.

I ask you, do you think that is a fair progression of my role within your organization? Would you feel comfortable making such a recommendation after reviewing my background and experience? I ground my teeth in inside sales for BayNetworks back in the 1990s. I gained a vast amount of valuable skills as a result butI did that over 20 years ago. It is disheartening that after 20 years and the past two years accomplishments with AWS that this is the position that AWS management hasinline for me. Please do not misunderstand me, I just don’t see a reason for a passive aggressive management style. They could simply ask me to leave.Since I have been back I have seen a number of interview loops for similar position to the one I had prior to my medical leave. We are currently hiring Partner Development Managers in San Francisco office. I would like to know why I am not being considered for those opportunities and encouraged to take an inside sales role?

When I accepted the award on behalf of AWS at Splunk SKO I had much hardware installed in my body. Regardless of my disabilities, I can still stand and make an impact on the partnership and business relationships on behalf of the company that I work for. I hope I have an opportunity to use my current skills within Amazon Web Services.

Extending a leave of absence to employees with a disability would be considered reasonable accommodation, and I am grateful to Amazon for providing me with this leave. It would also be considered reasonable accommodation to be considered for a similar role to the one I had prior to my medical leave.

I know how we Amazonians love long narratives. For the sake of being concise, Ithink I will save a few thousand words and share three pictures. The first two have todo with my physical disability and shows some of my operations. The last photo is from Splunk SKO accepting the Alliance Partner of the Year Award in 2016.

As the CEO and founder of Amazon and my employer you have the right to know what takes place in your organization. Only you truly know the answer to question above in regards to: what story does my history with Amazon represent —NY times, or your response?

Thank you for the opportunity of working for your company for the past two years.

Sincerely,

Vahid Razavi

Senior Alliances Manager

Big Data and Analytics

I received a response from Amazon HR acknowledging that my work conditions had indeed changed, but instructing me to continue working with my boss to resolve any issues I had. That’s Right, Amazon was telling me I should continue working with a boss who was actively trying to disparage and discredit me.

Then, within 10 days of my return to Amazon, the channels and alliances team announced a strategic partnership with DXC, the new combined company of CSC and HP selling BizCloud.DXC said that its alliance with AWS would make it easier for its enterprise customers to unlock the efficiencies and innovations of the cloud and that it would offer service-integrated solutions for AWS. Following this announcement, my treatment at Amazon grew much worse. I sent a second email to Jeff Bezos explaining how my work had changed. I was now basically a glorified waterboy. That’s really not hyperbole; I’d been reduced to ordering meals for the team and escorting candidates on days that the office was under construction (when most other employees were asked to work from home). I would be the disabled escort for these candidates, leading them around as I Hobbled with my cane. Why they chose me for this task instead of a receptionist, security personnel,or even the hiring manager, I do not know, but I can only assume it was part of their effort to make things so unbearable for me that I left on my own accord. This is what I wrote to Bezos:

Dear Jeff,

I wanted to write you a quick note and thank you for taking the time and attention from your day and your organization and assigning an investigator to the matters and concerns that I had raised to your personal attention. HR employment attorney Anne DeCleene was very prompt in her follow up and from the onset she worked diligently towards meeting her SLA commitment of providing a response within two weeks. As I have been assured that she has informed you of her results of her investigation I would like to respectfully disagree with her conclusions. Having said the above even though I disagree with her conclusions based on your Amazon Leadership Principles, I have a reinforced strong backbone. I disagree, yet commit fully to AWS and Amazon. I am looking forward to my conversations with Senior HR Manager L— on how I can best contribute to Amazon.

Wishing you a wonderful Sunday.
Sincerely,

Vahid Razavi

Senior Alliances Manager