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Amazon: Diversity as a success factor

Ingrid Ebner von Amazon auf der WomenPower 2018

An interview with Ingrid Ebner, Amazon

Women are still under-represented in management positions, and this is particularly noticeable in male-dominated industries. Reasons for this can be of different nature. However, what many companies are already aware of today is that the promotion of women must be an important part of corporate culture in order to ensure that innovative strength remains sustainable in the future.

Amazon is one of these companies. Diversity is a top priority here, and in addition to origin, age, culture and education, it also includes gender. Any international company that wants to stand its ground in today’s world must draw its diverse points of view from a variety of sources. Ingrid Ebner has been working for Amazon for over 18 years and has been able to experience the diverse career opportunities for herself. Today she is responsible for the logistics of heavy and bulky products in Europe.

As a woman in a leading position and in a male-dominated area such as logistics, she knows what is important at Amazon and lets us share her experiences in this interview.

Amazon is in Germany for more than 20 years now. You are with the company for 18.5 years which is incredibly long. Did you never feel bored?

The words bored and Amazon don’t go together. The company is constantly evolving and growing and so are the roles and responsibilities. When I joined, Amazon was still a start-up with less than 100 employees in Germany. The job was literally hands-on as I had to build-up my own desk on my first day. Since then I have worked in many different roles, launched Supply Chain in multiple foreign countries for Amazon and developed myself and the team further and further. Today, I’m a director, responsible for heavy and bulky products in Europe.

Why did you join the company?

Before I joined the company, I worked in a brewery for ten years. This was a very traditional workplace, and back then I was yearning for a more creative environment. That’s why I applied at Amazon. I have not only found a creative environment, but also a very international one. Yesterday, I was in a meeting with 25 people and among them were 13 different nationalities.

Looking back, what was the happiest and most challenging moment at Amazon?

There were a lot of happy and challenging situations in my time at Amazon. The recent happiest moment was when I got my new position leading end-to-end operations for heavy and bulky products at Amazon. It is a great opportunity as I’m responsible for fulfillment, supply chain and transportation. At least two of them are out of my comfort zone and are great and interesting challenges.

In those challenging moments, what helped you to pursue your path?

I’m a positive person. I know that I will not be able to manage all situations just by myself, I’m involving my colleagues and my team to solve such moments together. There are a lot of smart people at Amazon.

Amazon is constantly inventing on behalf of its customers – when was the last time Amazon invented on behalf of the diversity of its workforce?

We are a diverse company. Diversity and inclusion are deeply enrooted in our DNA and something that gets greatly supported. We just launched our new “Women’s Internship Network in Operations” (WIN-In-Ops). This is an add-on to our normal internship program. The program provides female interns with access to accomplished Amazon women, who give them support though tailored mentorships and career guidance. Peer networking, joint learning experiences and structured leadership training are also part of the program which shall enable interns to become future business leaders themselves.
Furthermore, Amazon has ten Affinity Groups with over 25,000 members worldwide. Affinity groups build communities and provide opportunities for leadership development for Amazonians. They have executive and company support, and through them, Amazonians form networks, to learn from and help each other. The biggest one is Women@Amazon, bringing women together, developing mentoring opportunities, and exploring initiatives to hire and develop women.

How important is diversity during the hiring process at Amazon?

When we recruit, we pay attention to also have diverse backgrounds on the interview panels. Why are we doing this? Our goal is to hire and develop the best and we need diverse perspectives to innovate. They come from many sources – among them are gender, race, age, national origin, sexual orientation, people with disabilities, culture, education, as well as professional and life experience.

YOUR TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL CAREER AT AMAZON?

Amazon gives you tools and support to achieve your career goals, but you own your career. One of our leadership principles is to learn and be curious – so ask the right questions and always be ready to learn and develop yourself further. The company is growing and so are the possibilities within it. Therefore, the way Amazon recruits is also special – we are not just recruiting for a current position, but also for the potential growth ability of a person.
I also suggest to build-up an own network within the company. For example, I’m based in Luxembourg and I organize a monthly event for women in Operations. We meet informally outside of the office for lunch or dinner. Any Amazonian is welcome to join!

If Amazon was a person, how would you describe him/her?

Definitely a person that constantly looks for new opportunities and has a wide spectrum of talents.

When thinking of powerful women, who comes to your mind?

There are so many people that fascinate me, for example Bertha Benz or Elly Beinhorn. Both were true pioneers.

Which characteristics does a woman need for a successful career at Amazon?

Our Leadership Principles are very important and they don’t differ between men or women. However, there is something that I see across all industries: Women should sometimes be more vocally proud about their achievements. This is not about bragging, but about being self-confident and making yourself heard.

Amazon offers free public tours through its European fulfillment centers. For Germany, a registration is possible via www.amazon.de/touren (the tours are in German language). The company blog from Amazon also offers more insights into the operations business of the company.

 

Would you like to learn more about Ingrid Ebner and the women @ Amazon? Then you might also be interested in this post on the Amazon Blog.