Toward the end of her time in college, Beryl Tomay landed an internship in software development at Amazon. Like many of her peers at Canada’s University of Waterloo, Tomay’s hopes for her internship centered on career growth, but she said what she found was an experience wholly different from that of her classmates. Most would never dream an internship could lead to a spot on the team behind the creation of Kindle, their name on a patent alongside Jeff Bezos, or a photo on their desk reminding them of the time they met Oprah. But for Tomay — now the director of Last Mile Technology at Amazon — this is reality. Recently, Tomay invited us into her office at the retail giant’s new Bellevue campus.
Bring Your Dog to Work
This frame filled with photos of Tomay’s dog, Luna, is the first thing to catch your gaze upon entering the space. “I would love to bring her to work,” Tomay said, remarking that Amazon’s dog-friendly culture would be welcoming of her American Eskimo pup. Sadly, Luna doesn’t do well on her own. “When I’m in meetings, she gets sad.” To keep Luna’s tail wagging, she goes to work alongside Tomay’s husband, and Tomay gets this great collage of photos to feel like her furry friend is there.
The Patent Puzzle
In the corner of her office, you’ll find this display of individual puzzle pieces, stacked together, creating a small but impressive wall. Each piece represents a patent: Clear pieces represent a patent that has been submitted, and blue indicates one that has been successfully issued by the patent office. “Yeah, I’ve had a few,” Tomay said, laughing humbly. Tucked away in this puzzle is a patent with Tomay’s name alongside eight others, including Jeff Bezos, for their creation of “Whispersync” technology: a way to synchronize bookmarks, highlights, and notes across devices.
To say that Tomay is a music lover is an understatement. “I have a bit of an obsessive personality where I tend to obsess over one band at a time,” Tomay said. Back in 1996, Radiohead was her flavor of the year. As a result, she launched a fan-site that she titled after a demo song the band had never released. When they came to Canada in 2000, she wrote on the site, “Please play the song.” And they did. She keeps the ticket stub in her office as a reminder. Queen is her current craze, and the evidence is everywhere.
The Time She Met Oprah
It’s one of her favorite things: a photograph of herself, the Kindle team, and Oprah. It was back in 2008, the early days of Kindle, and Bezos was set to appear on Oprah’s show, where they would talk about the exciting new e-reader. Bezos did the interview, and at the end he announced that everybody had a Kindle hidden underneath their seat. “There was a ton of excitement,” Tomay said, smiling at the memory.