In conversation with…Ed Smith

Ed is busy. He is one of those people who have 15 things going at any one time. Ed leads the Amazon mass marketing team in Europe, the team that makes the advertising for the Amazon online stores, Alexa, Echo, Fire TV and the Prime membership program. He is also a director of the Make-A-Wish foundation UK – an organisation that gives children with life-threatening conditions strength through hope and joy.

He has so little time, and yet he takes the time to coach and help. We met him at a coaching session a few months back and wanted to hear his story.

And what a story it is.

What was your first-ever job?

I grew up on a large sheep property in Western Victoria Australia. Lambing season is was early spring during the school holidays.  When we had bad weather Dad would bring the almost-dead lambs to us and we’d feed them with a tube, warm their little hyperthermic bodies in a bath and try and save them, then we’d match them with mothers who had lost their babies. We had to restrain the mothers while the lambs fed for a couple of days. Once they had the mothers’ milk through their system they accepted them. We were paid $5 for every lamb we saved. We managed to save about 200 little lives each season.  It was a lot of work for young boys. I think we started at about 8 years old, feeding the lambs twice a day, feeding the mothers in the woolshed with hay and fresh grass that we had cut by hand.

Who would you most love to share a coffee with / go for a drink with?

I just love people that are really good at what they do, be that a barrister in a coffee shop, a chef, an artist, a singer – anything. A chance to spend time with someone that has full passion and skill for what they do lights me up.  I just bid in a silent auction this morning to spend a day with Chef Ollie Dabbous at Hide for Make-A-Wish – that’s a dream experience for me.

Highlight of your career (so far?)

Being part of the management team for Virtual Communities, a tech start-up in the 90s, where we raised $100mm in a week. That is something I’ll never forget.

Nature or nurture?

Yin and yang – two halves make a whole.

Best advice you ever heard or received?

If you have been gifted a passion, lucky you – follow it. For the rest of us, we all have curiosity. Follow your curiosity.  This makes life interesting and enjoyable.

What talent do you yearn for?

I wish I could play the piano and sing. I learnt at school and I am learning again as an adult. I love music but I honestly have no talent or aptitude to play it.  I’m so amazed by people that can hear a tune and then instantly reproduce it with an instrument.

What is your favourite brand and why?

I’m really hot for Hydrogen Tennis gear at the moment, it’s so cool and comfy.  Most brands disappoint me, I have very high expectations and often feel somewhat taken advantage of. Ssssss, Apple and your ecosystem! But I have a large family of brands that I like, especially clothing brands that make things with long legs and sleeves so they actually fit me.

What book do you most recommend to others?

The Chimp Paradox” by Steve Peters. This is a great first step in learning how your mind works and how to manage it. I believe it should be taught in school.  I’d also recommend the Audio Book of “Loving what is” by Byron Katie.  Just these two books I promise will lead to you having a happier life.

What last impressed you at work?

I’m impressed by something every week at Amazon – I work with the most gifted executives.  Last week we had some issues to manage and I watched teams from all over Europe jump in and support each other. It’s beautiful to know everyone has your back.

Which lesson has been the hardest to learn? What failure did you learn the most from?

I set off a firework in my bedroom when I was a teenager, showing off to my friends. I tried to blow it out, then I tried to stub it out on my bed and the roman candle blew a large hole through my mattress.  Don’t light fireworks in the house kids!

What do you want to do when you retire?

I plan to transition to a portfolio career with coaching and board roles and maybe some small projects with my husband. I don’t ever want to retire, I want to be interested and interesting as long as my mind and body allow me to!

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