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Phoenix Forward

Does Jamie Naughton have the coolest job in America?

Jamie Naughton

Zappos’ cultural ambassador spends her days keeping employees happy

When anyone lists companies with amazing corporate cultures, Zappos is often at the top. The person responsible for that: Jamie Naughton.

Naughton began work at Zappos in 2004. She chose the company in part because of its quirky and welcoming atmosphere, which has earned the online shoe retailer a reputation as one of the most coveted organizations to work for in the country.

“This is the best company I’ve ever worked for, and one of the best companies I’ve seen,” Naughton says, unabashedly, noting the importance of team spirit and the family environment. “I’ve been here seven years. I’m a die-hard.”

As “Speaker of the House,” she is the unofficial ambassador of Zappos, the only direct report to highly recognized CEO Tony Hsieh and the person responsible for touting the company’s culture both externally and internally. Naughton’s days are spent travelling and speaking to companies, executives, authors and researchers about how Zappos’ culture-first business model works and why it has made the company a huge success. Zappos, which launched in 1999, had more than $1 billion in sales in 2008, Naughton says, and in late 2009, Amazon.com Inc., acquired Zappos for $1.2 billion.

Naughton’s initial title at Zappos was Cruise Ship Captain, a reflection of the fact that job titles are offbeat at the company. In that post she was largely an internal employee event planner (“Shuffleboard at noon on the Toledo deck,” she quips), since Zappos is known for its activities, which include fun takes on anniversary and birthday parties as well as company picnics.

During her time at Zappos, Naughton graduated from University of Phoenix (2007) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration/Management. She says the university prepared her well for her current role as she was required to conduct class presentations while in school and become more comfortable with public speaking as a result.

“One of the important things that University of Phoenix teaches is critical thinking — thinking outside the box, pushing the envelope and not doing things because everybody else does them,” she says.

Naughton now faces a new challenge: Helping employees transition to a move to downtown Las Vegas, which has struggled for years with crime, homelessness and other problems. Naughton has also been meeting with downtown business owners so they can prepare for the onslaught of 1,200 new employees in the neighborhood, most of them young and ready to spend money on restaurants, bars, dry cleaning and other services.

Hsieh, himself now a legend of sorts in the corporate world because he’s young, innovative and successful, calls Naughton “a brand ninja,” someone whom can easily step in for him in the public sphere. “Jamie lives our brand with a deep understanding of our culture,” he says. “Zappos is more than just a job. Zappos is Jamie’s passion, and it is inspiring to have that passion on our team.”

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