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3 Puerto Ricans establish their leadership footprints at Amazon

At present, the number of Puerto Ricans in leading positions on e-commerce platforms is increasing. In the case of Amazon, there are outstanding executives, including three professionals from Puerto Rico whose leadership styles have made a great impact on the performance of the departments they lead and, thus, the entire company.

It is well-known that the values ​​of individuals determine business culture, and this is not the exception. Now, we are going to get a deep insight into these Puerto Ricans’ leadership journey and their approach to running the business they work in.

Ana Sánchez-Jauregui, Director Grocery Private Brands
“Operator by training and, builder by heart”

Ana Sánchez-Jauregui

Ana Sánchez-Jauregui is the Director of Amazon Grocery Private Brands. She completed her studies at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, and been working at the company for almost seven years. She has built expertise in the creation and operation of brands, stores, and categories. Therefore, part of her wide-ranging experience includes P&L ownership, innovation strategy, product design and delivery, negotiations, consumer segmentation and insights, product portfolio management & pricing strategy, and OmniChannel.

One of Amazon’s leadership principles is “Customer Obsession,” a doctrine that is intrinsic to Sánchez-Jauregui’s leadership strategy.

“At Amazon, it is all about customer obsession, even when making tough choices there is no question that customer is always first. […] I am really passionate about the potential to delight customers,” she said.

In the heart of it, her values, mission, and vision are entirely interlinked with the company’s one. Under this premise, her team is working on making healthy and delicious food more accessible.

“My team mission is to develop high-quality products that are accessible at every budget such as Happy Belly Cage-Free Eggs or Fresh Brand 100% Natural Chicken,and crave worthy products with real ingredients like Aplenty Mini cookies made with real butter and sugar,” she said.

Nevertheless, her favorite strategy is “permission to fail:” “we all want to be successful, and it is hard to take chances when we think we may fail. I have taken roles that people have said ‘are you crazy? That is not going anywhere’. In some instances, we had incredible results and in others, we failed miserably.

“I keep that in mind with my team and reinforce to them that if they take risks and fail it is ok. It is the only way to keep innovation and ‘Day 1’ alive.”

Sánchez-Jauregui’s journey at Amazon has been full of knowledge and rewards, through which she has been able to overcome challenges of different nature and break paradigms.

“On the more personal side, being a Latin woman can be intimidating when there are not a lot of people who look like you in positions of power. Even small things like having an accent make you question if you can get there, but now I am able to joke about it. I learned to find strength in what makes me unique, instead of trying to fit a mold,” she said.

Helping others grow
Sánchez-Jauregui said the company “works with and for people by making a positive impact.”

 “Ultimately, if people are happy, they will give their best. I am privileged to lead a team of talented individuals that develop, design, operate, and market high-quality and high-value products.,” she said. “While it may sound cliché, helping others grow their careers is among my most important contributions and biggest pride.”

This supports the premise that “Leaders develop leaders” and the executives take seriously their role in mentoring others.

“A few years ago, a junior member in my team shared one of the most touching stories in my career. At that point, I was hiring for her manager, so I directly coached her for a period, eventually getting promoted. During that period, her father was terminally ill, and she could share the news of her promotion right before he died. She said that she could feel her dad was so proud of her and had peace of mind that she would be ok in life. I could not believe that a promotion would have such a profound impact on her family.”

Innovative business projects
Sánchez-Jauregui has led innovations in multiple sectors from concept to launch. She has had the opportunity to invent daily, using disruptive and innovative technologies that have an impact on the daily lives of customers.

“Working on Amazon Go (a technological innovation that I knew nothing about at the time) and years later being able to launch the first grocery store powered with ‘Just Walk Out’ technology — no lines, no checkout! — was definitely a milestone project,” she said.

Most recently, her team launched “Aplenty,” the new differentiated Amazon food brand. About this project, she says, “our team innovates every day ranging from this state-of-the-art technology to our differentiated grocery brands, our incredible fresh prepared food, and the great value across the store.”

Customer needs are constantly evolving
Regarding her perspective about the future of the e-commerce business, Sánchez-Jauregui considers that private brands offerings have evolved drastically in the last few years, going beyond commodity-low-cost deals to truly differentiated selection.

In this sense, the company maintains its focus on bringing customers what they ask for — including access to cheaper high-quality groceries — and delighting them with an innovative shopping experience.

“In the grocery business now, and in the future, it is essential to offer customers a seamless grocery shopping experience in-store or online, with consistently low prices, convenience, and great selection. (…) Our goal is to continue building private brands that fill customer needs gaps, and we believe our journey has just started,” she said.

Dianell Brull-Harris, GM New Delivery Programs
“Servant leadership is a core value in my professional life.”

Dianell Brull-Harris

Dianell Brull-Harris is the general manager of New Delivery Programs at Amazon and has been working in the company for seven years. Her academic background includes a BSBA in Accounting at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, a master’s degree in Industrial Project Management at UoP, and a Degree in Strategic Leadership at Cornell University. Moreover, among her areas of expertise are business, product, P&L Management, Supply Chain & Operations.

“I work for my customers and my employees, so I must always be solving on their behalf. That is one of the main reasons why I love working for Amazon. Our Leadership Principles are very aligned with that philosophy.”

In the case of Brull-Harris, “Learn & Be Curious” is her favorite leadership principle, which is foundational to her leadership style. This is based on the statement that leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves, being open to new perspectives. “Being curious about your customers, stakeholders, industry, and even opposing ideas is the most important thing we can do as leaders and builders.”

In her view, curiosity and accepting that there is always something to be improved is essential to drive innovation and deliver on behalf of customers.

“It is humbling and keeps you grounded on who you are doing this work for every day and makes challenges and lessons along the way just a daily part of how you lead your businesses and teams,” she said.

Likewise, diversity is another key factor in her personal and professional life since it enriches her way of thinking, the teams she creates, and the products and services those teams build. “Beyond the servant leadership, customer obsession, and curiosity that drive how I lead my teams and business, Diversity is incredibly important to me.”

In this context, diversity includes unique skills, experiences, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds that make them who they are. Besides, along with equity and inclusion, diversity informs how they build their products and teams.

“Being a female leader from Puerto Rico informs how I see the world and how I lead. I am the product of many people who have believed in me and given me chances and big platforms to succeed, learn, and grow. For that, I am very fortunate, so I make sure that I also create the same opportunities for others.”

Removing complexity in service delivery
Either helping strategic vendors, leading Finance Operations teams internationally, or working with Amazon Business customers to understand their needs, Dianell Brull-Harris has been able to perform an exceptional managerial strategy.

“Since I started at Amazon, I have had the pleasure of working with fantastic teams and leaders – all while being tasked with solving some really interesting problems on behalf of customers and selling partners. […] I have always ensured I start with the customer and work back from that and strive to remove complexity to deliver the level of quality and service that allowed us to go beyond a $1 billion business.”

A new centralized Vendor Support Organization
The New Delivery Programs team has collaborated with vendors to transform how they approached vendor support and developed guides, training materials, and curriculum to train over 500 worldwide employees.

“These partners did so eagerly, enthusiastically, and with the customer’s best interest in mind,” she said.

Thus, they have been able to dive into customer and vendor experiences and inspect processes, by simplifying and addressing long-standing gaps worldwide.

“It was humbling and inspiring to be a part of and the lessons I learned about our selling partner experience continue to influence how I think about new products and services. […] While I cannot get into the details of my current project, I’m really proud of the partnership with an incredibly smart international team to set up a new centralized Vendor Support Organization,” Brull-Harris said.

The biggest opportunity lies in truly understanding customers
Brull-Harris assures that retail is constantly evolving, particularly in a pandemic, because consumers are learning of new ways to discover products and their expectations for speed and convenience are getting higher.

“That transformation is happening at an unprecedented pace, and companies are rushing to adapt. While many will focus on creating online capabilities, I believe the biggest opportunity lies in truly understanding customer preference and adjusting to them in a scalable way,” she said.

She also points out the use of Amazon’s Leadership Principles every day, whether they are brainstorming ideas for new projects or discussing the best approach to solving an issue.

Abe Díaz, Principal Technical Product Manager for Disaster Relief
“Success and scale bring broad responsibility”

Abe Díaz

Abe Díaz is the Principal Technical Product Manager for Disaster Relief at Amazon. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez and he has a master’s degree in Information Security from Lipscomb University.

Díaz has worked at Amazon for more than five years, building expertise in mobile, payments, and disaster relief (logistics). By harnessing Amazon’s spirit of innovation, grit, and heart, he has been able to help the company build strong communities worldwide and take a hands-on approach to creatively fulfilling customers’ needs.

As a manager, he also takes the approach of servant leadership, which consists of “listening to understand what the unmet needs, motivations, and goals of customers are, employees — and in my case, of nonprofit organizations and partners — to collaborate them to solve challenging problems by building long-term solutions, while obsessively looking for opportunities to help them reach career success.”

Regarding how he aligns his department with personal values, Díaz said, “The Amazon Leadership Principles allow employees to speak a common language in how we discuss ideas, tackle problems, and build solutions. The newly added principle ‘Success and Scale Bring Broad Responsibility’ resonates with me in how I operate and collaborate with business teams across Amazon.”

Leading humanitarian initiatives

“I’m able to inspire teams and push for projects that employ using technology and innovation for good and purpose to specifically thread those efforts for Amazon’s disaster relief support around the world.”

When Díaz started his career at Amazon in 2016, under the Amazon Payments Organization, he worked to launch the global offering of Prime Video by helping integrate with payment processors across the world. As a result, customers in more than 200 countries could access and pay for this monthly subscription.

In 2017, he was responsible for the financial engineering systems for Prime Video Channels that calculate royalties to be paid, convert currencies, and allow customers to subscribe to HBO, Britbox, and many other channels in the U.S., UK, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, among many other countries.

The same year, after Hurricane María ravaged Puerto Rico, he volunteered to help coordinate the first humanitarian flight by Amazon.

“In that effort, we delivered thousands of emergency relief items to Puerto Rico to help the community, and the following week, we delivered even more relief supplies to help the U.S. Virgin Islands community,” he said.

By 2019, Díaz joined Amazon’s disaster relief team full-time. Since then, he led over 45 global disaster relief initiatives.

“Some of those key efforts include, leading three humanitarian relief flights to the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian, helping with Amazon’s international COVID-19 pandemic response, building the Disaster Relief Hub, and donating over 10 million relief items in 3 years to support people impacted by natural disasters around the world,” Díaz said, adding, “this is what Amazon is referring to when they talk about leading with empathy and social responsibility.”

Amazon Disaster Relief Hub
The latest project Díaz launched is the Disaster Relief Hub. In 2020, when the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with the Atlantic hurricane season, they made a proactive decision to cut the time of response and the number of employees needed to support large-scale disasters.

“The Disaster Relief Hub was our most effective way to accomplish this task,” he said.

The facility is in Atlanta storing emergency supplies to fulfill the emergency needs for disaster relief efforts. Atlanta’s proximity to these areas helps Amazon’s community partners swiftly respond to natural disasters.

“We have pre-positioned over 500,000 Amazon-donated relief items that will support global humanitarian aid partners, providing natural disaster relief support in the U.S., the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico), and Central America,” Díaz said.

Emily Cruz Villegas is a journalist and freelance content writer from Venezuela, with four years of experience as an academic researcher, mainly focused on economic development, public policies, and digital diplomacy. She has postgraduate education in International Relations at the University of Salvador (Argentina), and a master’s degree in Public Management at KDI School (South Korea). She may be reached at [email protected].

Disaster relief in a sustainable way
For Díaz, there are opportunities to provide and invest in disaster relief in a sustainable way, especially when delivering supplies to island locations.

“For example, in instances where it makes sense to do so, we prefer to donate water filters instead of bottles of water. Additionally, we aim to donate solar chargers instead of batteries. Not only will these sustainable donations help preserve water and reduce waste, but they’ll also help communities be more resilient and prepared long term,” he said.

The leadership construction and the power figure now are getting equally possible for both Latin women and men, as we can see with these examples. What is more, there is no doubt that at Amazon, leaders are owners that work together under the same core of values and objectives.

By their servant leadership and prioritizing customers first, these Puerto Ricans keep a strong judgment and good instincts to continually raise the bar and drive the company to deliver high-quality products and services.

Even though every business faces a unique set of challenges, they have organically aligned their teams behind a set of shared principles and values to create a sense of accountability and transparency in the company.

They truly embrace the company’s purpose and use it as the foundation to grow themselves along with customers; aspects that have helped them build momentum over time and create a footprint they are proud of.

Author Details
Author Details
This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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