A lot has changed at Amazon over the years, but for 19 of them there has been one constant, and that’s Gus Lopez.
Lopez has held a number of leadership roles at the Seattle-based tech giant during his time there, and he’s now the general manager of Amazon Restaurants, the company’s food delivery service. He’s also our latest Geek of the Week.
“During my time at Amazon I have worked on new product launches and various seller businesses, including creating and building Seller Central, Amazon’s interface to enable sellers to manage their business,” Lopez said.
Born in Havana, Cuba, his family moved to the United States when he was 3 years old, and he grew up in New Jersey.
“I was fascinated with computers at an early age,” Lopez said. “And throughout high school, I helped the physics, chemistry, and math teachers and even the baseball coach with a wide range of computing projects. After high school, I earned computer science degrees from MIT (bachelor’s), Brown (master’s), and the University of Washington (PhD). Prior to Amazon, I worked at Bell Labs and NorthWestNet.”
Learn more about this weeks Geek of the Week, Gus Lopez:
What do you do, and why do you do it? “My current role is leading the Amazon Restaurants global business. Through Amazon Restaurants, customers can get hot food from thousands of restaurants delivered right to their door in an hour or less. This is probably the coolest thing I’ve done in my career so far — delivering hot, delicious food quickly to customers in a fast-evolving space with lots of interesting, open challenges.”
What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? “Success in the world of tech requires a lot of testing and iteration. It’s next to impossible to get everything right on the first try with any technology product, but detailed measurement and conditions to “fail fast” are key requirements for success.”
Where do you find your inspiration? “I love tackling problems that no one has yet solved. At Amazon, we spend our energy obsessing over how to earn and keep customer trust and that means creating a product they’ll love. To me, that means building what no one has done before. I get excited about finding novel approaches when they play a role in solving a problem.”
What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? “I’ve traveled to remote areas of the world (e.g. Greenland, Borneo, Sahara Desert, Siberia), and I’m perfectly comfortable decoupling from technology when necessary. That said, my first serious withdrawal from technology occurred after several days without mobile connectivity.”
What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? “My workspace is fairly simple: laptop, pens, small pile of the important papers I’m reviewing, business cards of key recent contacts, R2-D2 lamp, Darth Vader LEGO clock, prop replica of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber … all the essentials to get my work done.”
Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) I meticulously take notes to track my “To Do” items both at work and at home. This helps me maintain a prioritized list that is constantly being updated.
Mac, Windows or Linux? “Mac.”
Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? “Can I pick from Needa, Solo, or Phasma instead?”
Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? “Time Machine. It would be so amazing to experience different eras of history first hand.”
If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … “Our field is so rich with areas to innovate that it’s difficult to pick one. Before accepting any investor money for a new startup, I would test my favorite ideas with customers. If customers were receptive to these ideas, I would then apply their feedback, build a business plan, and figure out how much investment was needed. That could end up being a lot more or lot less than $1 million!”
I once waited in line for … “I have camped out overnight for Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con. (For the uninitiated, that’s where the studios bring actors, directors, and writers to engage with fans about future projects). I’ve actually camped out for Hall H more than once. In fact, I just did it again in July.”
Your role models: “My role models range from heroes of mythical proportions to people who played a direct role in shaping me and helping me learn. Since joining Amazon, I’ve continued to be impressed with the caliber of leaders we hire and develop and have been fortunate enough to work closely with leaders who helped me in developing in different aspects of technical, product, and business leadership, along with coaching me on building great teams. There are so many mentors to list who have played a pivotal role in my career development, and each has demonstrated different strengths that I aspire to master.”
Greatest game in history: “Monopoly.”
Best gadget ever: “Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones.”
First computer: “Apple IIe.”
Current phone: “iPhone 6.”
Favorite app: “Prime Now.”
Favorite cause: “Amnesty International. At the most fundamental level, human rights are inalienable. Amnesty does great work to drive transparency and positive change all around the world.”
Most important technology of 2016: “Amazon’s first delivery by autonomous drone.”
Most important technology of 2018: “Autonomous vehicles.”
Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: “It’s almost a cliché to say this but: work hard and have fun. A lot of people I know do one or the other well (but not both). In many ways, what you do in your career and outside of work, are interdependent and complement each other. I think it’s important to be passionate about your work (whatever it is you do) while also enjoying what you do outside of your profession.”
Website: Amazon Restaurants
LinkedIn: Gus Lopez