Not only is Alex Kravis’s job as head of product and creative teams for Amazon’s Prime Video X-Ray a gig that blends her passions for film and TV with her degree in information sciences, her work is restoring some household harmony.
When watching shows and movies with her wife, Kerry, in the days before X-Ray, their debates over actor identification could get heated. “We used to get into fights,” Kravis said.
Now if she’s watching some of the tens of thousands of shows that have the X-Ray feature, all that Kravis needs to do is toggle her remote to the list of actors that runs along the side or bottom of the screen. She can peruse their other roles and, depending on the program, the feature can also provide song titles and performers, trivia and added clips such as cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
In September, Kravis’s team launched X-Ray on the NFL’s Thursday Night Football. It includes a Twitter-like scroll of the plays, player and team stats, and links for buying team merchandise.
In her education and career path, Kravis tried to balance what she loves with what’s going to pay the bills. Her undergraduate studies melded film studies and accounting, and she followed that with a master’s that tackled database design, web programming and other tech pursuits.
She came to Amazon more than 7 years ago to work in analytics. On her first day, Kravis recalled, her boss asked, “‘What do you really want to do?’ And I was like, ‘I’d like to survive. I’d like to keep my job.'” Then she confessed that she’d love to be in film and TV. He told her that in two years, she should make that move. And so she did.
Kravis still can’t believe her role, which these days can include hanging out with the casts and crews of some of Amazon Studios’ own programs.
“This is my jam,” she said. “It’s super cool that I get to focus on this for my work.”
But what about Amazon’s reputation for being a high-stress environment that churns through employees?
“We often hire people who are overachieving, and I think that people who are overachieving feel like they need to get everything done,” Kravis said. While it can get intense at the Seattle-based retail and cloud computing behemoth, it can work given the right approach.
“The key to anything in product management and business, and even managing your own life and working here, is prioritization,” she said. “What are the 3-5 things that I’m going to get done today or this month or this quarter, and focus on those relentlessly.”
We caught up with Kravis for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.
Current location: Seattle
Computer types: MacBook Pro 13-inch (work computer only — haven’t had a personal computer in more than 5 years!)
Mobile devices: iPhone X
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Well, here are the first page apps on my iPhone X (besides the native apps like Safari, Mail, iCal, etc.): Wunderground, Lyft, Amazon Go, Amazon, Prime Now, Starbucks, Netflix, Prime Video, Amazon Chime, Fly Delta, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Notability, Amazon Music and Yelp.
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? My workspace is currently a cabana/office that is surrounded by my team. While I generally prefer to sit among my team (I’m a big extrovert), it’s great to have private space to think, take calls and always have a space for meetings! I also take time roughly each quarter to evaluate my desk set up — sometimes that involves just cleaning up but often I’ll create a new organization scheme or invest in new peripherals (ex: keyboards — I have a lot and am really into tactile feedback) to help optimize my workflow.
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? Ruthless prioritization and writing those priorities down every day helps me stay focused on the most important things and feeling OK about leaving the rest for another time. My approach to managing my life is not that different from managing a project.
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? Instagram! I love that it’s photo/moment based and ever since stories came out I’ve been super engaged (sometimes I will post for weeks on stories and not once on my wall — I like the low pressure). I use it for fun and keep in touch with friends but also to follow what’s going on in the Zeitgeist across all age groups since Instagram seems to be the one social network that appeals to most people. It helps me stay in tune with what is going on in pop culture, entertainment and interactive media.
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? 17,039 but it’s 99 percent ads and notifications for my personal account. I’m comfortable with that number lingering around. I get a lot of FYI emails or things I filter automatically.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? About 30. I’d say it’s a lighter week.
How do you run meetings? That totally depends! Some regular meetings I run with a strict agenda, for others I will provide an agenda/structure and let the participants fill in the rest (e.g., brainstorming). Others will be short and sweet, like stand ups — I find those are critical to have regularly to keep key leaders in touch and to ensure there is a time every day where everyone has access to one another.
Everyday work uniform? Uniqlo Flannel (usually red, blue or black/gray), Gap black t-shirt, Gap jeans (blue or black), Vans (black). I occasionally will throw on a bomber jacket. I definitely have a uniform. I don’t like to think hard about what I’m going to wear every day. It makes packing easy too.
How do you make time for family? I try not to work on weekends, and if I do, it’s usually on Sunday afternoon (when my wife also tends to be working). I’m pretty good at setting boundaries at work and on the flip side, my wife is really understanding and supportive of when I need to crank it up a bit. My managers have also been really understanding about needing time with family. When my wife got a 1-year assignment working on the East Coast last year, my boss and I worked out a schedule where I worked remotely for one week each month. I was lucky to be in a position and have a boss that allowed me to do that.
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? On a semi-daily basis: 1) baths (TMI?), 2) re-watching old favorites — right now it’s “The Office” — while doing a jigsaw puzzle and drinking tea (I know that’s really specific, but it’s a thing for me), and 3) playing video games (this is a new one, not sure how long it will last). Probably 3-4 times a year my wife and I will actually be binge-watching the same TV show at the same time. I love when that happens and we get totally immersed together and nothing else matters! The last two shows we binged were “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Sharp Objects.” Twice a year I go to Las Vegas with friends where I truly unplug; it’s a weird, invigorating place for me.
What are you listening to? My favorite band is Sylvan Esso (I’m always listening to them). But today I was last listening to Why Don’t We – they’re a boy band that came up on Instagram; not sure why but I really dig their music. OK, I also really love Justin Bieber (specifically, 2015 JB and his ’90s-vibe hair).
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? I use my news app, which is mostly comprised of content from NPR, New York Times and Washington Post.
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? Next up is “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli. I LOVED the movie “Love, Simon” (which was based on the book) and have been really into YA/coming-of-age movies and shows.
Night owl or early riser? Naturally a night owl. When my wife isn’t around (she’s an early riser), I go to sleep late (midnight or 1 a.m.). When she’s around, I end up going to sleep much earlier (10 or 11 p.m.). The only difference is that I get more sleep when that happens.
Where do you get your best ideas? I get my best ideas when I’m inundated with the thing I’m trying to “ideate” on. For example, I have a creative content team in Santa Monica — I find I do my best thinking about content creation when I’m actually in L.A. (vs. in Seattle). I find it really helpful and inspiring to be totally offsite from work, but surrounded by a city so deeply shaped by the entertainment industry. But also, shower epiphanies are a real thing.
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? I’d love to know more about how folks like Sheryl Sandberg manage their time and scale themselves; she’s the chief operating officer of a major tech company, has written several books and also goes on tour, runs Lean In, is a frequent speaker at events, is likely often tapped for diversity-related events and initiatives (as am I), all while being a single mom.