Elsa Scola: the YouTube influencer behind the engineer
"When I was a child, I dreamed of becoming an inventor but, as I grew older, I realised that today's inventors are engineers," says Elsa Scola.
Based in Spain, Elsa is a software engineer at Amazon, where she has been working for over two and a half years. Her primary responsibility is to improve the user experience of the company's search engine. Recently, she switched teams and now works in the machine learning department. Elsa studied computer engineering at the University of the Basque Country and holds a Master's degree in big data analytics.
In addition to her contributions to Amazon, Elsa is an inspiration to other women in engineering, encouraging them to pursue a career in the field through her YouTube channel. She shares her experiences, gives advice and offers insights into her day-to-day life at Amazon, and her channel now has over 11,000 subscribers.
Vera Steitz: from the Caribbean Sea to Rostock, Germany
A cruise ship used to be Vera’s daily workplace. As deputy captain she sailed the world’s oceans for six years – a dream come true. The birth of Vera’s daughter in 2021 was a wonderful turning point that realigned her life’s compass. In her new role as a mother, she suddenly found the prospect of spending three months at a time at sea, less dreamlike. Vera knew that she wanted a job that offered a good balance between family and career, and this is where Amazon came in. Today, she is leading our delivery station in Rostock, in the north of Germany.
Vera recalls: “I never thought that one day I would work for Amazon. I had no idea about packages and logistics being dealt with in this way, but when I spoke to another delivery station manager during my interview process, I thought there is no reason not to try it.” Between morning briefings of employees, coordination of workload, processes, security checks, meetings and, most importantly, team work – there were no major differences in her daily tasks. “Instead of saving the day for the cruise ship passengers, we now save the day for our customers waiting for their Amazon package.”
There is, however, a major benefit that stands out for Vera: “My job at Amazon allows me to do everything I want both professionally and personally. I really appreciate the fact that I can easily plan my work day. I normally start around 7 a.m. after I have taken my little one to kindergarten - this would have been impossible on a cruise ship.”
As delivery station manager, Vera is responsible for around 150 employees. "I try to lead my team with a lot of empathy, which means being there for my employees and being approachable at all times. I especially enjoy the international environment and culture that we at Amazon are fostering, based on diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Ramona Williams: a diversity, equity and inclusion leader
Ramona Williams, from Milton Keynes, works at Amazon as a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) change manager for the UK and Ireland. Ramona divides her time between homeworking, Amazon’s corporate office in London and supporting the various delivery stations across the network.
Alongside her job as DEI change manager, Ramona is the president of Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN) UK Ops chapter, and is also a mentor through various employee programmes.
Ramona works with women across multiple sites, business lines and teams at Amazon. She also works alongside Amazon’s many affinity groups, including Women at Amazon, to help them develop and achieve great things within the company. Ramona is the creator of the UK’s first BEN Ops mentoring programme, Trading Places, which recently saw her act as a mentor for the UK country manager for Amazon Logistics.
Speaking on why she’s so passionate about helping other women at Amazon, Ramona says: “I love being involved in things like mentoring programmes and affinity groups because they have a genuine impact on women at Amazon. 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.”
Renáta Horváthová: supporting strong and inspiring women
Renáta Horváthová, senior operations manager, has been working in Amazon's fulfilment centre in the Czech Republic for nearly eight years. In addition to managing the inbound department, Renáta acts as a mentor for employees who want to work at improving their soft skills and develop their careers. She is also a supervisor for students who come to Amazon for internships.
A large part of her agenda is working with the team during regular face-to-face meetings to address employee motivation and support for personal development. What she values most about her job is that no workday ever looks the same as another. Going outside of her comfort zone provides an opportunity for personal growth. In her opinion, all experiences, difficult trials and falls are necessary for personal development.
“One of the important skills you need to have as a manager is to motivate people. I call upon my colleagues to have confidence in themselves,” says Renáta. “I am excited; we have specialised programmes, like Women in Leadership and Women Career Development, that support women in building their careers and boosting their self-confidence.”
Phoebe Musonda: the importance of being her authentic self
Based in Luxembourg, Phoebe is head of international direct fulfilment operations at Amazon’s Supply Chain Optimisation Technologies (SCOT) team. She leads a team across 12 countries that optimises the way Amazon fulfils orders for items that we do not store in our fulfilment centres, such as live plants.
“Let’s say you want to order a plant for Mother’s Day,” explains Phoebe. “We want you to be able to do that on Amazon, but we don’t have greenhouses inside our fulfilment centres. So, we work with external vendors who select the plant, pack it, and dispatch it, and we deliver it to you”.
“In my time in direct fulfilment, we and other parts of the SCOT team have figured out how to do this within Amazon’s existing transportation network, so we’re not putting additional trucks on the road. The warehouses—and greenhouses—already exist, the trucks, routes and technology already exist. We are putting it all together to expand the range of products we offer, give customers the same great shopping experience and empower thousands of small businesses.”
Phoebe started her career in a building materials company, where she coordinated the movement of freight by rail. When she joined Amazon in 2017, she brought that experience with her and used it to increase Amazon’s use of rail - driving sustainability and cost efficiency without sacrificing speed.
Phoebe says: “Every single one of the 1.5 million people who work at Amazon has a unique background, and unlocking that is crucial to our ability to innovate.” She also emphasises the importance of equity and psychological safety: “People need to be able to bring their authentic self to work so they can do their best work. They also need permission for candour—feeling free to speak up, ask for help, disagree with an idea or admit mistakes. They need to know they won’t be rejected or punished, including through microaggressions. As a Black woman, I need to know that I won’t be called ‘intimidating’ for expressing a strong opinion. Thankfully, encouraging diverse opinions is part of Amazon’s DNA.”
Phoebe is also a mentor to more than 30 fellow Amazon employees, and a founding board member of the Luxembourg chapter of the Black Employee Network (BEN), one of Amazon’s 13 employee affinity groups.
Learn more about Amazon’s Supply Chain Optimization Technologies (SCOT) organisation.
Sylvie Houlière Mayca: an unstoppable leader
Based in Paris, Sylvie is the head of the AWS sales team covering enterprise accounts - an organisation that she has built from scratch after she joined the company in 2019. Sylvie, who is now managing a team of 30 people, had to deal with illness a few months after joining Amazon. Her optimism, energy and boldness helped her to overcome the challenges she faced and achieve her goals.
In 2020, after being diagnosed with cancer, Sylvie chose to be very open about her illness within the company. It seemed inconceivable to her to leave her team, so she decided, together with her management, to continue working with an adjusted schedule and workload. With the support of Amazon's management team, she successfully found the right balance between taking care of herself and staying connected to the company. “I think that the culture of Amazon has played a big role in finding this balance, as the values of inclusion are strong within the company,” Sylvie says.
During this tough period, Sylvie had to adapt her diet and also discovered complementary activities that helped her to better tolerate her treatment, such as cycling, yoga, swimming and walking. She also worked on symptom and pain management - thanks to psychological support and neurocognitive workshops - to regain concentration and memory. She quickly realised that few patients had access to these much-needed complementary activities that significantly improve the quality of life during treatment.
This gave her courage to launch charitable project LaMaison Goxa Leku, the first oncology support care centre in the Basque Country (southwest of France) which has generated new sources of learnings.
Hanna Ziarkowska: from book lover to site leader of a logistics centre!
Hanna Ziarkowska is the site leader of Amazon's logistics center in Sosnowiec, Poland. When she joined Amazon in 2014 as an area manager, Hanna was the first person ever hired for this position in Poland! Before she started to work at Amazon, she had explored operational work in the book department of a major retailer during her studies.
During her professional adventure with Amazon, she has been a member of the central team responsible for opening new logistics centres in Europe (including in Polish sites Lodz and Gliwice). She now leads the logistics centre in Sady, near Poznan.
Hanna, who has a Master's degree in ethnology and cultural anthropology, not only focuses on managing the operation of the logistics centre but is also involved in the growth of Amazon employees. For years, she has been initiating and co-leading development programmes, acting as a mentor for many Amazonians and supporting them in their careers. She admits that it is working with people and direct contact with them that inspires her the most.
DEI topics are especially close to her heart - during all these years at Amazon, she has been able to see how important it is to give equal opportunities to all employees. Each of them contributes a lot to the organisation, making their teams work more creatively and effectively. That's why she often acts as a spokesperson for DEI at conferences or debates.
Olimpia Merlo: encouraging girls to discover the tech industry
After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in economics, Olimpia grew a career in tech for herself. As head of partner development for Amazon Web Services (AWS) Italy, she developed the Italian version of AWS GetIT, a programme destined to introduce middle school students - especially young girls - to cloud computing and STEM in general. The project is having excellent results in terms of teachers’ feedback and stakeholders are pleasantly surprised to see an all-women team.
Children aspire to study technology, but they mainly see male role models. Gender representation is a huge issue for Olimpia: “I didn’t have any female role models to look up to when I was a young girl. Today, I see an enormous difference compared to 15 years ago, when I first started out in this sector, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” she explains.
Olimpia has two sons and thinks that equity depends on how we raise future generations. When asked what advice she would give to a girl pursuing a career in tech, she said: "First off, I’d say, ‘don’t be shy’. I’ve seen that us girls usually wait until someone says ‘nice job’, instead of just going for it and garnering the recognition we deserve. The second thing I’d say, is to make sure you create a network of other women who can both inspire you and lend a hand.”
These fantastic women have different backgrounds, ages, passions and aspirations, but they share one common ambition: supporting other people and especially women in reaching their full potential.
Thank you to Elsa, Vera, Ramona, Renáta, Phoebe, Sylvie, Hanna, Olimpia and to all the women who contribute every day to more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Amazon.