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Amazon robotic arm hard at work

Amazon Automation 2021 and Beyond

Strangely, over the last 5 years, Amazon’s headcount (HC) growth rate has been about 20% higher than their sales growth rate. It’s is odd because we think of them as an automation, innovation, and machine learning company who heavily use robotics and benefiting from one of the highest revenue per employee ratios in retail. While these features are all true, there has been a consistent trend which is counterintuitive and offsets the improvements of innovation and robotics: as Amazon has tripled revenue from…

Like any major technology, AI can be used as a tool or a weapon. More ethical guardrails are needed, but most technologists believe that the number of people benefiting from beneficial tools will outweigh the negative impact of those tools being weaponized.

One of the technologies squarely in the crosshairs of that debate is generative adversarial networks (GANs). These technologies have gained popularity recently as tool used to create “deepfake” videos showing realistic of celebrities and political figures doing things they did not. …

Made in MS Paint

The futurist book Life 3.0 by AI researcher Max Tegmark opens up with a story about a benevolent AI taking over the world by making blockbuster movie hits. First, the AI makes thousands of auto-generated movies at low cost, then becomes very profitable, developing a following. Finally, the AI expands into news media, influencing elections, but wielding it’s power in the pursuit of democracy, universal social services, and efficient markets.

While the overall moral of the story is about the power of AI and the impact it could have on society, I found it interesting that the baseline belief required…

Benchmarks are a key indicator of progress in the AI field, and great progress has been made.

Large models are compared against large test sets of questions, images, and tasks. As a control, humans take these tests to set a benchmark for comparison vs. AI models. Over time, one of the easiest way to demonstrate industry advancement is progress on these benchmarks. In many cases AIs are not only meeting, but far exceeding, the human performance line, leading researchers to develop newer and harder benchmarks.

Thus, an even more interesting signal of AI industry progress is the gradual increasing of…

After another year of learning, challenge, and growth in the AI finance world, I am taking the time to recap some of the big trends and think about overall progress during a tumultuous year.

With overall IT investment growth slowing overall during the pandemic, COVID-19 has caused budgets to shift toward the bread and toilet paper of the tech world. 2020 investment has been primarily in cloud infrastructure to enable work from home scenarios, higher online traffic, and increased security and compliance needs. However, AI has still played a large role during 2020 as customers use more and more AI…

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

Working in cloud finance, I often get the question: “what should I do to prepare for an interview?”. The question is hard for me to answer as working in cloud finance is quite different than other finance roles which I have had exposure to. However, this article aims to provide some key learning resources and tips for people interested in applying for roles as a cloud finance manager.

First, there’s a lot of “cloud” to cover as the space is pretty large and all-encompassing. The laundry list includes: Technical skills, industry trends, cloud economics, hardware specifics, engineering management/partnership, and core…

Review of 2019 in Finance for AI

2019 has been a really interesting year to be a finance manager in AI. The industry continues to change and innovate at a rapid pace, but the practical implementations have not seemed to reach a popular boiling-point. There is still no flashy consumer-ready iPhone-esque implementation of AI. However, there are certainly tons of behind-the-scenes machine learning implementations gradually improvements our services and impacting our lives. In Finance, this has looked like a lot of seed investment across the industry which I believe will soon start to sprout into large consumer visible impacts in 2020. …


In 2018, I joined Microsoft finance after 7 great years with Procter & Gamble. After gaining a lot of background in IT, product, and sales team finance at the world’s largest packaged goods company I wanted a change of pace. So I joined the world’s largest software company. Specifically, I joined the finance group for Azure (Microsoft’s cloud business) specializing in our Cloud AI Services. It has been an awesome year and a half of learning and business building. This blog is a summary of some of my key learning along the way.

AI Financial Models

The AI space is changing rapidly, and…

Amazon hiring of humans has been relatively flat for 3 quarters. Meanwhile, they have continued exponential hiring of robot employees and increased automation across new generations of fulfillment centers. This trend demonstrates Amazon’s focus on their competitive advantage of headcount productivity, but also indicates the payout of past investments in automation capital.

As this trend continues, Amazon is approaching an inflection point where headcount will plateau, followed by an ongoing increase in headcount productivity, driving additional operating profit for reinvestment.

Amazon is already one of the most productive retailers with retail sales per headcount (HC) of $330K. For context, other…

AmazonGo tests the flexibility for America’s second largest profession.

For consumers, early tech adopters, and downtown Seattle employees, it’s been an exciting couple weeks of news in the world of computer automation. It may not have been such an exciting time for the 3.5 million people whose jobs this news affects. While there is a bright side, the cashiers and drivers of America are officially in a race against the clock to gain some labor force flexibility and trade up their jobs.

In the news:

  • On December 5th, Amazon announced a grocery store that will remove checkout lines and cashiers.
  • On December 13th, Uber announced that their driverless cars…

David Hall

Miami University Alum. Microsoft - Finance & Accounting.

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