Amazon employees at all levels have access to a broad spectrum of career coaching and mentorship opportunities across the business. This gives them the opportunity to share lived experiences, grow their network and develop personally and professionally.
To round off Women’s History Month, we brought together five women involved in mentoring schemes at Amazon to discuss what mentoring means to them, and why it’s important for women to help drive other women forward.
Ria Johal - Program Manager, Amazon
Ria joined the Amazon in 2019 and is a Program Manager and UK Chair of Amazon’s People with Disabilities (PwD) Affinity Group.
She is passionate about creating spaces for people, especially those from marginalised communities, to share their stories and build emotional connections.
In 2021, she created and launched Amazon’s reverse mentoring programme, which matches senior team members at the company with junior members of staff to learn their stories. The aims of the programme are to champion intersectional, lived experiences and encourage employees at different stages in their careers to share their stories.
The programme has since been scaled across Amazon’s global offices and is open to employees in all teams and businesses.
“Mentorship provides a way for people to show up and learn from each other, which creates authentic allyship,” said Ria. “I’m keen to promote role models who aren’t shiny and perfect, as the best way to learn is by hearing from real humans who have tenacity and resilience; to me, that’s far more aspirational than perfection. We need to normalise sharing with each other and remove the stigma. Everyone has their own unique journey and should have a platform to share it.”
Flo Wilkinson - UK Space Planning Program Manager, Amazon Fresh Stores International
Flo joined Amazon in 2021 and is part of the reverse mentoring programme, where she has been partnered with Sophie Wilshaw, Director of Customer Experience and Marketing for Amazon’s European Hardlines retail team.
“In reverse mentoring, you’re able to talk about things without getting judged,” said Flo. “It allows you to navigate through things and express honestly how you’re feeling about situations.
“There can be so many thoughts floating around in my head – progression challenges, imposter syndrome, wondering if I fit in, ideas for the business – and I didn’t know how to channel them. The chance to connect with a more experienced, senior woman at Amazon sounded invaluable to me, as I was excited to connect with someone who could challenge my thinking and push me on in my career.
“Sometimes I feel like people don’t always appreciate the way I look at situations or how I have been shaped by experiences I’ve had, so I was keen to take the platform to explain my truth and share with a leader so they could understand my position.”
Sophie Wilshaw - Director of Customer Experience and Marketing for Amazon’s European Hardlines retail team
Sophie is Flo’s senior mentor in the reverse mentoring programme and is involved in several other mentor relationships throughout Amazon globally.
“The diversity of thought I’m exposed to because of mentoring is fascinating,” said Sophie. “Mentorship connects me with people I trust to bounce ideas off and share my challenges with, and I now love being one of those people for someone else.
“I really enjoy mentoring as it allows me to invest in the great talent we have here. It can sometimes be difficult for employees at large companies to have meaningful exposure to senior staff, but I think it’s important to be given guidance early in your career and have a safe space where you can ask burning questions and share your challenges.”
Speaking on the reverse mentoring programme, Sophie said. “Flo completely blew my expectations of reverse mentoring out of the water; she’s actively challenged me on my thinking which I hugely appreciate. She’s brilliant and I can’t wait to see how far she goes in her career.”
Flo added, “Sophie is incredibly personable, and she’s shown me that women in leadership don’t need to adopt a male leadership style to assert their authority. She has such an emotionally intelligent way of leading, which is inspiring to me.”
Radhika Madlani, Public Policy Manager, Amazon
Radhika joined Amazon almost three years ago, and has been mentored by Amazon’s Head of Impact, Eugenie Teasley, since late 2022.
Speaking about why she wanted to join the mentoring programme, Radhika said: “I was at a point in my career where I felt I could use some guidance on the direction I wanted to take and having those conversations with myself were not as impactful as I hoped.
“Having a mentor has been really beneficial. It has enabled me to think differently and has provided an aspect of accountability. It has also cemented the fact that standing out is better than blending in. Being authentic and using your lived experiences will help you excel."
Eugenie added: “Mentoring Radhika is extremely beneficial for us both as we are able to look at things differently, enabling us to have some unscripted time to discuss various topics and learn from one another.”
Ramona Williams, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Change Manager, UK and Ireland
Alongside her job as DEI Change Manager, Ramona is the President of Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN) UK Ops Affinity Group and is a mentor in a number of different employee programmes.
Her role, as well as her position as Amazon BEN President, gives Ramona the opportunity to work with women across multiple sites, business lines and teams at Amazon. She is also the creator of the UK’s first BEN Ops reverse mentoring programme, Trading Places, where she recently acted as a mentor for the UK country manager for Amazon Logistics.
“I love being involved in things like mentoring programmes and affinity groups because they have a genuine impact on women at Amazon,” said Ramona. “Particularly as a Black woman, I think it is important to know that we can all be role models and a source of support for others. I love hearing how the work we do helps people as individuals – that’s the most rewarding part of what I do here at Amazon.
“Having the opportunity to meet many women working across Amazon has also helped me to grow my own creativity. A lot of the things I’ve delivered in the last two years are new and haven’t been done before, and the inspiration behind some of those programmes came from the women, and the underrepresented individuals that I interact with.”
Read more about Amazon’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.