Why Zappos has a Chief Fungineer
I’d heard that Zappos is harder to get into than Harvard, so how was I of all people going to get in? I certainly had a unique set of skills, but not necessarily what they were looking for. So on the application I put down “Drummer,” wrote a song based on the 10 Zappos Values, filmed myself performing the song, and sent it in.
I had the “humor filled” pleasure to interview Tyler Williams, the Chief ”Fungineer “ at Zappos.
What is your backstory?
I’m originally from Alaska and before I came to Zappos I was actually a touring musician and had no experience in ecommerce or online retailing or anything even close to what Zappos does. For four years before I came to Zappos I was touring eight months out of the year, and I was getting pretty burned out. I was living in Las Vegas at the time and my wife had taken a tour of the Zappos headquarters — she was impressed by the company and suggested I hit them up for a job. She said, “if nothing else, it’ll be like an adult day care for you!” So I started diving into what Zappos is really about; I watched the company videos, listened to Tony Hsieh’s speeches, read customer testimonials… I fell in love. But I’d heard that Zappos is harder to get into than Harvard, so how was I of all people going to get in? I certainly had a unique set of skills, but not necessarily what they were looking for. So on the application I put down “Drummer,” wrote a song based on the 10 Zappos Values, filmed myself performing the song, and sent it in. I got a callback in 10 minutes, and became a Customer Loyalty Teammate in the call center of Zappos HQ that week. I then moved into the marketing department and became a Zappos Brand Marketing Manager, which eventually lead to my current position as the Zappos Fungineer!
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on?
- The Life Is Beautiful music and arts festival is a truly amazing project. So much hard work goes into it and every year it gets bigger. It’s like a yearly temperature reading where you get to see all the time and energy and resources that have been invested back into our community. You can see that it really is working and that makes me really excited.
- I also really love our porta parties — they’re turning the bathroom industry inside out and raising people’s expectations of what portable restrooms can be. Our porta-parties aren’t just plastic holes in a box; they’re interactive, fun and unique!
Which person or company do you most admire and why (besides from Zappos)?
Richard Branson and Virgin. I love how he’s been able to take that brand and make it into more than just products… they can seriously put their name on anything. They could put their name on pencil holders and create a new market for pencil holders just because they put the Virgin name on it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
In addition to being the Zappos Fungineer, I am the lead of our Brand Aura project. I really appreciate the fact that I’ve been able to give the 58 Zapponians who work with me at Brand Aura the opportunity to reach their full potentials, in ways that they may not have thought possible. I’ve seen spreadsheet analysts move to taking on full marketing campaigns and customer loyalty teamsters move to becoming designers, changing their respective career trajectories completely. In many ways, I’ve been able to positively change people’s lives!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started” and why?
I have ten:
- Today will be your least busy day at Zappos
- There’s always so much to do and take on, so I wish someone had told me that a great mindset to have is: “today is easy, because tomorrow will always be harder.”
- The amount of Fernet-Branca I would be drinking
- I wish someone had told me to build up my tolerance, because seriously — we drink a lot of it.
- Just say no to that third cupcake
- There are too many cupcakes in the Zappos HQ and I’m getting fat.
- Don’t think of things as failures; think of them as experiments
- Don’t get bogged down by shortcomings and feel free to explore, because that’s where you find the real secrets of the world. You’ll learn so much more that way than by trying to predict and control every situation.
- Try to focus on becoming invaluable to the people around you
- People tend to focus on trying to make their senior director of whatever happy… but really they should focus on being invaluable to the people around them, the people they work with every day in the trenches. Make sure that if you left your company, there would be both a work and a culture hole where you were.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Anna Kendrick. Zappos has truly become a part of who I am, and I think Anna embodies a great balance of humor, intelligence, and professionalism, making her the perfect personality for Zappos!