By signing up you accept the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

This Amazon Manager’s Superpower? A Diverse, Collaborative Team

Amazon is well-known for being customer-obsessed. From next-day delivery to "just walk out" shopping, the tech giant has long focused on meeting—and exceeding—customers' expectations.

It stands to reason, then, that in order to understand all of the different people who use Amazon and create products and experiences that delight them, Amazon's team should be as diverse as possible to reflect the diversity of their customers.

That's exactly how Julie Mitchell, Senior Manager of Solutions Design & Innovation Engineering at Amazon Robotics, explained it: "Amazon's culture of customer obsession, ownership, and 'insist on the highest standards' helps drive the need for diverse thinking and knowledge sharing. To innovate on behalf of our customers and provide truly useful solutions requires a broad understanding of requirements and deep knowledge of technical systems. This breadth and depth can only be achieved by learning from one another—and being insatiably curious."

We asked Julie, who will be featured on the "Get Inspired: Women Are Powerhouses Amazon Leadership Panel" at our upcoming Diversity Reboot conference (register now! It's free), to give us a sneak peek into how Amazon creates a culture that celebrates difference and uplifts diversity, while still driving hard towards business goals.

Setting the tone: creating space for ideas

As part of her role, Julie regularly attends design reviews. These meetings are focused on evaluating designs against their stated goals, identifying issues, and solidifying a go-forward plan.

At her first design review at Amazon, Julie went in confident that she had it all figured out. "I was sure I had considered all the data and presented the best proposal," she says.

Alas, she did not.

"Someone had a much different view of the same data than I had," remembers Julie. "[They] explained their perspective, which opened up a completely new way of thinking about the problem. After the design review, we came up with a much better solution that performed better than what I originally thought was possible."

Julie and her teammate ended up coming up with an answer that was better for everyone involved, but it required checking their egos at the door and creating a culture of open-mindedness that allows each individual to feel comfortable sharing their best work.

And only their best work is good enough for Amazon's customers, says Julie. "My team is responsible for developing robotic solutions that help simplify our operations," she explains. "To be good at this, we need to listen to our internal customers' needs, and innovate on technology to deliver value in a safe, scalable and reusable architecture. We can only be successful if we consider a diverse view of needs, and iterate on ideas until we find the best solution."

That kind of iteration happens all the time at Amazon—"daily!", per Julie—and it's what she credits with her team's success.

"Most technical decisions my team makes are a trade-off of priorities and competing requirements, so my team is most successful when we can look at a problem from many different perspectives to find the most optimized approach," she says. "Having a diverse team helps us to challenge each other's solution bias and enables objective design reviews of technical solutions to customer problems."

Managing towards inclusion

A culture of open-minded consideration of everyone's ideas, and moreover, a culture where everyone feels comfortable sharing those ideas, doesn't happen accidentally. It requires a commitment from team leaders and team participants alike.

It was the chance to be that kind of leader that first drew Julie to Amazon. She had worked in tech throughout her career, and was excited for the chance to really decide the future of what product development in her area could look like. "I was excited about the possibilities to use my engineering and leadership skills to build an innovative solutions design team," she says. "I love the Amazon culture with leadership that is not afraid to think big and take risks, all for the benefit of our customers."

Having a diverse team means working with people from different backgrounds, different walks of life, and who have different preferred ways of engaging at work, communicating with peers, or delivering feedback. "It's important to build diverse teams with folks from different backgrounds, subject matter expertise, genders, and experience to get unique perspectives on the work. Then, it's imperative to recognize and reward knowledge sharing and collaboration so folks feel empowered and supported in engaging in work that is outside their direct ownership," says Julie.

In order to facilitate that collaboration and sense of empowerment, Julie uses a variety of channels for sharing ideas and brainstorming, including:

  • Weekly design reviews. "[These are] where each design lead gets a chance to present their work to the design community and receive feedback on their work," explains Julie.
  • A shared repository of "lessons learned." "Track[ing these] drive[s] knowledge sharing and best practices in our design," says Julie.
  • Bi-weekly training sessions. "[These] cover core technical skills needed to be successful Solutions design engineers so everyone has access to the same knowledge and we can share unique skills across the team," per Julie.
  • Onboarding buddies. When someone new joins Julie's team, they're paired with a buddy to help them navigate the different people and processes required to be successful in their role and to help answer any questions in a low-stakes, one-on-one setting.

Regardless of how they're engaging with each other, Julie appreciates the chance to work on solutions with a diverse team. "It's directly led to producing highly innovative solutions," she says. "We thrive on learning from each other's unique perspectives and building upon each other's ideas for an outcome that is better than it would have been if only a single individual developed it. I consider diversity to be my team's superpower in tackling our broad scope of design work across the Amazon team."

If you're interested in learning more about open roles at Amazon, visit their PowerToFly profile here. To register for Julie's panel, which is taking place Thursday, February 4 from 2-3 p.m. EST, sign up for the Diversity Reboot conference!


How These Companies Are Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

According to a recent study, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 150% since the pandemic started. But these acts of violence are not new — they are part of a much larger history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.

That makes celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (which was named a month-long celebration in May by Congress in 1992 "to coincide with two important milestones in Asian/Pacific American history: the arrival in the United States of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843 and contributions of Chinese workers to the building of the transcontinental railroad, completed May 10, 1869") this year all the more important.


The Secrets to Balancing Work and Family Life

3 Pieces of Advice from Working Moms at Pluralsight

Being fully committed to work and family is a challenge that many working parents have to take on. It can be exhausting and thankless pursuing a fulfilling full-time career, while taking an active role as a parent. Achieving a healthy balance can help keep you motivated and productive at work, while allowing you to be fully present when you're home.

We recently chatted with working moms at technology skills platform, Pluralsight, about their best advice for striking that elusive work-life balance. Here were their key points:


How to Make the Most of Being on a Growing Team: 3 Tips from Plex’s Adriana Bosinceanu

When the startup Adriana Bosinceanu was working for got acquired, things changed fast.

She went from being one of eight engineers on a small team building a streaming service to joining a company that was five times larger and had a much bigger scope.

That company was Plex, where Adriana has been working remotely as a software engineer for the last four and a half years.

As her team grew from two people to ten, Adriana decided to lean into the opportunity to grow; along the way, she found herself deepening her technical skills, her self-confidence, and her relationships. We sat down with Adriana to learn exactly how she did that, and to hear the tips she has for other engineers experiencing growth opportunities on their team.

Career and Interview Tips

10 Tips to Stand Out at a Virtual Job Fair

Your guide to preparing for virtual career fairs and making a great impression with recruiters

According to a LinkedIn survey, up to 85% of jobs are filled via networking. For job seekers, virtual job fairs make networking with recruiters more convenient. You can interact with potential employers from all over the world, ask them questions, and apply for jobs. Every event is different, but they most often include video conferencing features, chat rooms, and Q&A sessions.

Dilyara Timerbulatova, Virtual Job Fair Coordinator at PowerToFly explains that, "virtual job fairs have many benefits, namely connecting top talent and recruiters that would otherwise never cross paths. These events are a tool to help companies build well-rounded, diverse teams that align with the company culture and business vision."


Pride At Work: Learn more about Our Partners, Sponsors & Speakers

Learn more about our amazing speakers and sponsors at our June 2021 virtual summit Diversity Reboot: Pride At Work, three days of conversations and panels plus an interactive virtual career fair.

Our Pride At Work summit certainly made us proud! PowerToFly was thrilled to present talks by members of the LGBTQIA+ community alongside some amazing allies. Our conversations ranged from leaders at the highest levels of government positions to visionaries in the worlds of business & tech to artists from the music and entertainment industry. If you tuned in, and celebrated our speakers, thank you! And if you missed the summit or would like to re-watch any of the talks, those conversations will all be available to watch for free on PowerToFly.

We want to extend a HUGE thanks to our amazing sponsors American Express, NGA, Smartsheet, S&P Global, Raytheon Technologies, PwC and Esri plus our media partner MMCA.

If you can, please consider donating to some of the amazing organizations we highlighted at the summit including GLITS, fighting for the health and rights of transgender sex workers; Garden State Equality, the largest LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization in New Jersey, with over 150,000 members; National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, including people living with HIV/AIDS; and NYC Anti-Violence Project, empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education, and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy.

Plus, don't forget to visit our Merch Store and grab yourself some PowerToFly apparel. 100% of the proceeds from our sales will be going to TransTech Social, supporting transgender and non-binary people in tech.

Finally, registration for our July 12th - 15th virtual summit Diversity Reboot: Tech For Social Impact is now open! Join us to learn about founders from mission-driven organizations and their social impact. Register for free here
© Rebelmouse 2020