Supporting and celebrating tech talent has always been key to Amazon’s success, so we were delighted to receive Women in Tech’s Tech Employer of the Year 2019 Award in recognition of our commitment to gender diversity.
That commitment takes many forms, from Amazon Amplify to our work with the WISE Campaign, which encourages women and girls to pursue technical careers and qualifications.
This year’s award is a testament to the hard work, dedication and innovation of our female tech specialists across all areas of our business and gave us a perfect opportunity to catch up with five of them.
We asked about their careers to date, challenges and opportunities at Amazon and their hopes for the future of women in tech.
1Fiona McDonnell, Director of Consumer Retail
Fiona joined Amazon in 2015 as Director of our Toys category in Germany and moved to the UK as Director of Beers, Wines and Spirits for Europe in 2017 before taking up her current role as Director of Consumer Retail. Alongside her day-to-day work, she is also the executive sponsor of Amazon’s efforts to drive diversity and inclusion across the UK.
When launching Amazon Amplify earlier this year, in her role as chair of the cross-industry Women in Innovation Advisory Committee, Fiona told The Daily Telegraph: “It’s time for UK business to put its foot on the accelerator in the journey to achieving greater gender parity.” An engineer herself, Fiona is passionate about helping more women enjoy an exciting career in this industry. In light of our research with WISE, which revealed that a 10 per cent increase in women in STEM careers would lead to a £3bn boost for UK business, Fiona’s case for gender parity is more important than ever before.
2Suzie Miller, Solutions Architect, Amazon Web Services
Besides her day job as a Solutions Architect for Amazon Web Services (AWS), Suzie also supports colleagues, allies and carers in her role as chair of Amazon’s People With Disabilities employee affinity group in the UK.
Suzie is particularly passionate about accessible and inclusive design, saying: “It’s not just the right thing to do – it also has a strong business case when you consider that 19 per cent of working-age adults are disabled. Organisations that fail to create inclusive products are missing out on unique expertise and a huge untapped customer base.”
Suzie recently wrote for European CEO about the many benefits of accessible and inclusive design.
3Dipika Sawhney, EU Scaled Engagement Lead, Amazon Advertising
Dipika’s story of entrepreneurialism and digital innovation has seen her use software engineering skills and a passion for marketing to build two successful start-ups, and she now mentors new business leaders on how to be successful.
Having completed her MBA at Cambridge University, where she won the ‘Best and Brightest MBA Award’, Dipika joined Amazon to work in our advertising business. She now leads a European team that engages with small and medium-sized enterprises.
“In essence, I am creating and growing start-ups within Amazon,” she says. “I love being part of a new business, reacting to new challenges and recruiting early adopters for exciting new products.”
Dipika champions the cause of diversity within Amazon by working to recruit and retain more women across the business, and outside Amazon she advocates for more female entrepreneurs in the tech sector.
Last year, Dipika’s commitment to charitable causes was recognized by her receiving the #SheInspires award at the Inspiring Indian Women Awards, hosted at the Palace of Westminster.
After the awards, Dipika spoke to Asian Voice about her experience at Amazon and plans for the future.
Dipika has a positive message for women who are considering a career in tech: “This career can be extremely fulfilling for women. We need diverse personalities, backgrounds and unique voices to make any business successful. By learning and challenging ourselves, we will continue grow in a positive manner – one step at a time!”
4Helen Lyashenko, Software Development Manager, Alexa
Helen is proud to be a Software Development Manager in the Alexa team, where she manages a group of engineers focused on enhancing Alexa’s question-answering capabilities from multimedia.
“Working on this kind of product is really cool,” she says, “what we do is changing the way people live.”
Helen also leads the London chapter of Amazon Women in Engineering (AWE) and is an active campaigner for gender parity in the tech industry.
She’s optimistic for the future, saying: “The culture is evolving and I think we’re getting there. Careers in technology and science are extremely rewarding, and women should feel as entitled to those opportunities as men do… if just one girl decides to go into STEM thanks to our efforts, then I’ll have done my job.”
5Lauren Kisser, Director, Alexa Info International
Lauren is excited to be leading a team working to ensure Alexa can answer any question our customers ask. Originally hailing from the US, she previously held leadership roles at our Cambridge Development Centre for Amazon Web Services and Prime Air before taking up her current position. Lauren is a long-standing diversity champion and advocate for STEM education for women and girls.
She is the executive sponsor of the Diversity Working Group in Cambridge, which fosters a diverse workplace by building the recruitment pipeline and attracting more women into key positions. Lauren is also an advocate for the link between diversity and innovation: “Diverse teams are better prepared to spot opportunities, so we have to encourage everybody to contribute to the creative process in order to think and act innovatively.”
In an industry where the future of women working in technology roles is more important than ever before, Lauren remains committed to acting as a role model for others, and she hopes to inspire more girls to consider a career in technology.