Tell us about your background?
I’ve been at Amazon for about four and a half years in a few accounting and finance roles. I’m also on the board of Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN) in the UK, an employee resource group, or affinity group as we call them at Amazon, and I lead the community outreach and engagement pillar. This pillar serves as a bridge between Amazon and other Amazon businesses like Amazon Web Services (AWS), and the Black community in the UK. Our goal is to foster relationships and provide support to local Black communities that Amazon and AWS serve.
Born in London to Nigerian parents, my upbringing led me to believe that the typical career choices were to become a doctor, lawyer, or accountant. I settled on accountancy. I often wonder what choices I would have made differently had I been aware of the vast array of different career paths available when I was starting out. That’s why I’m passionate about early careers advice and support.
Tell us about the programme and how it came about?
The AWS team were already connected with HDR UK, and when they learned about the BIP, they reached out to BEN to explore ways in which Amazon and AWS could support the programme. Since BEN had recently run a few mentoring programmes with other organisations, I proposed that BEN could utilise its mentoring programme structure to assist the BIP interns.
The purpose of the mentoring programme was to provide professional support and guidance to the BIP 2023 cohort. 100% of mentees were matched with a mentor and the programme commenced in September, immediately after the BIP closing ceremony, and ran for three months.
What was your role in the BIP mentorships?
I led the design and execution of the programme, in partnership with the AWS Inclusive Talent Acquisition (ITA) team. The success of the programme would not have been possible without the strength of this collaboration, along with the support of my fellow colleagues at BEN and AWS.
How did the initiative work and what did it offer?
The programme was designed to provide mentees with a clearer understanding of their career path and to help them to apply their newly acquired skills to future endeavours.
After mentee applications closed, the BEN team carefully reviewed the preferences and goals of both mentors and mentees, and took into account several factors such as expertise to ensure compatible matches.
All mentees had five one-to-one sessions with their mentor over the course of three months. Sessions were tailored to meet the needs of the mentee, covering topics such as CV writing, presentation skills and landing a job.
By the end of the mentorship, the mentees were expected to have developed both soft and hard skills under the guidance of their mentor and aligned with the goals they set at the beginning of the mentoring sessions.
Have you been mentored yourself?
I have. I’ve become a big advocate of mentorship and there have been many times when the support and guidance of a mentor has helped me achieve my goals – including applying for roles at Amazon. My mentors have helped me build confidence and overcome imposter syndrome, empowering me to explore exciting, new opportunities for growth within the organisation.
One of the major advantages of working at Amazon and AWS is the access to mentoring programmes that connect you with senior leaders, including those at the VP level. Recently, I participated as a mentee in BEN’s annual mentoring programme for Amazon and AWS employees. This programme has provided me with direct access to senior leaders who share my heritage, allowing me to learn from their experiences and gain insights into navigating the professional world as a minority. Being mentored by these senior leaders allowed me to envision myself in those positions and understand what it takes to get there.
Recently, I have connected with two new mentors for support and guidance as I transition to a new role. Connecting with these mentors, who come from different backgrounds, and who acknowledge and address the unique challenges faced by people of Black heritage in the workplace, has been incredibly empowering.
What would you describe as the potential benefits of mentorship?
As a mentee, you benefit from both professional and personal development. It’s about building confidence, aspiration and life skills.
Mentorships benefit the mentor as well. Being a mentor has played a crucial role in developing my people management skills. It’s helped me to understand the perspectives of others and the needs of employees and customers.
Are there particular challenges mentorship can help with for young Black people?
Growing up I was always told I had to work twice as hard as a Black woman to be recognised, which can manifest as imposter syndrome, or perfectionism. These notions can be ingrained in people from under represented communities and something we have to dispel. Mentorship can empower people to overcome some of their limiting beliefs and set them up for success.
What was the impact of the BIP mentorships?
The feedback has been outstanding! In our survey to mentees the programme scored 9.3 out of 10 for satisfaction, and 93% of respondents said they would recommend it to a peer.
We’ve also heard directly from participants who landed new roles, citing benefits they’ve gained from the programme like increased confidence and presenting with impact. Here’s some of the feedback:
“I got a conditional offer to study at Imperial. Thanks for your help with interview prep; it boosted my confidence big time.”
“Good news – got the job! Official email is on the way. Thanks for your support; it really made a difference.”
“Speaking with the talented staff has truly shaped my career aspirations. My mentor has instilled in me the confidence to forge ahead and I am super excited and charged for what’s to come.”
The programme was massively successful and we’re working on a 2024 launch to welcome a new cohort of mentees.
Black Employee Network and the BIP
Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN) contributed to the Black Internship Programme in a variety of ways, underlining the company’s commitment to inclusion, diversity and equality (ID&E). In addition to the mentoring programme, this included:
- Running one of the Friday afternoon sessions – “Hints, Tips and Tricks for A Successful Application and Interview”, to provide interns with insights and guidance on CV writing, applications, interview preparation and execution. The session also highlighted Amazon and AWS, the company’s work in the healthcare sector, focus on ID&E and the BEN affinity group.
- An online session on Data Science careers and how to tackle imposter syndrome.
- A presentation at the BIP closing ceremony on the benefits of mentoring to kick off the mentoring programme, and prizes for the Technical Challenge competition.
- Opportunities to learn about life working for Amazon and AWS, including office visits to meet mentors one to one.
- An in-person workshop held by BEN for Amazon and AWS employees on taking charge of your career which was delivered by an inspirational author, mentor and corporate director, and included copies of the author’s book and a networking lunch.
Would you like to be a Black Internship Programme host? Find out more about the programme and how to get involved.
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