Amazon layoffs continue as company switches its focus to generative AI, internal memo says

November 17, 2023

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Amazon will reportedly fire “several hundred” employees of its Alexa division to shift priorities to “maximizing our resources and efforts focused on generative AI.” It is not the first time that Amazon has laid off employees this year.

The memo, sent by Daniel Rausch, Alexa & Fire TV’s VP, and published by Geekwire, says that the company will be reaching out to affected employees today. 

They will also be provided with a separation package that includes a severance payment, transitional health insurance benefits, external job placement support, and paid time to conduct their job search.

Amazon has been under pressure to keep up with the fast-paced AI race in the past few months. The company is reportedly building its own model called Olympus, which boasts bigger parameters compared to OpenAI’s GPT-4. 

Read the full internal memo below: 

From: Daniel Rausch

Subject: An Important Update for our Alexa Team

Team,

We’re really encouraged by the progress we’re making with Alexa: customers are interacting with Alexa tens of millions of times every hour and there are more than half a billion Alexa devices in customers’ homes. Our investments in generative AI are also bringing our vision for an even more intuitive, intelligent, and useful Alexa closer than ever before. As we continue to invent, we’re shifting some of our efforts to better align with our business priorities, and what we know matters most to customers—which includes maximizing our resources and efforts focused on generative AI. These shifts are leading us to discontinue some initiatives, which is resulting in several hundred roles being eliminated.

Today, we will reach out to colleagues in the U.S. and Canada who are impacted by these role reductions. Notification emails will be sent out shortly, and we expect all notifications in the U.S. and Canada to be completed this morning (Pacific time). We will communicate with impacted colleagues in India next week, and are following local processes in other regions, which may include time for consultation with employee representative bodies, and possibly resulting in longer timelines to communicate.

To those of you impacted by these reductions, please know we did not make this decision lightly. I want to sincerely thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the organization, and to our customers. We are committed to supporting you, and are providing packages that include a separation payment, transitional health insurance benefits, external job placement support, and paid time to conduct your job search.

While this was a hard decision to make, we remain very optimistic about the future of Alexa. I want to reiterate that Alexa remains an incredibly important part of our business. I’m proud of the innovation we’ve driven, and continue to drive. Incorporating a new large language model into a voice-forward, personal AI, has been and continues to be an enormous scientific and engineering challenge. I’m excited for our customers to soon experience the future of Alexa, and to hear their feedback, so that we can continue to invent and evolve the experience for them.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or anyone on the leadership team if you have any questions.

-Daniel

 

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