Rebecca is on a mission to build a more diverse and inclusive environment in tech
Being on the board of Amazon’s Black Employee Network (BEN) helped Rebecca upskill and change careers at Prime Video.
I never imagined that I could land a program manager role at a big technology company, let alone experience a career change to being one. I’m Rebecca Wijeyesinghe and I’m a program manager for Prime Video technology teams in the UK. I began my career journey at Amazon in 2018 as an executive assistant, supporting various directors in Amazon Transportation Services before transferring to Prime Video Technology in June 2021.
When I first arrived at Amazon, I quickly realized the amount of opportunity there is here. In fact, internal mobility is one of Amazon’s superpowers. I saw that there was space for me to develop in areas that I really cared about, like diversity, equity, and inclusion.
I’ve had the privilege of working with some truly inspirational colleagues from many different business areas. Had it not been for BEN, I don’t think I would ever have connected with them.
In 2019, I joined the board of the Black Employee Network (BEN), one of Amazon’s 13 affinity groups. BEN exists to provide a sense of community and support to employees of Black heritage. It aims to recruit, retain, and empower Black talent. We also advise the business on better ways to consider the unique experience and point of view of Black professionals.
It’s some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. Every single manager I’ve had at Amazon has supported and encouraged my work with BEN and recognized the value that affinity groups bring to employees and, in turn, to the business.
I’ve had the privilege of working with some truly inspirational colleagues from many different business areas. Had it not been for BEN, I don’t think I would ever have connected with them. For example, our BEN leadership team includes individuals from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon Devices, Finance, Partner Risk and Student Programs. Together, we have worked on projects that have involved Alexa, Amazon Music, PR, and, of course, other Amazon affinity groups.
In 2021, BEN launched a group mentoring program for employees of Black heritage, led by a senior Black leader. It’s important to show Black Amazonians that you can carve out a long-term career here and that people that look like us are in senior positions, because representation and visibility matters. I took part in a mentoring circle myself and it’s probably what gave me the motivation to explore other career paths.
In June 2022, BEN brought Windrush Day celebrations to Amazon for the first time and we were delighted to welcome back our Notting Hill Carnival warm-up event after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. This meant a great deal to me personally. As a west Londoner of Guyanese descent, I grew up going to Notting Hill Carnival; it’s a tradition deeply woven into the fabric of Black British culture.
Earlier in 2022, I moved to a program manager role at Prime Video Technology. I never joined BEN to further my career. Being a minority can sometimes be a lonely place and my commitment to build a more diverse and inclusive environment spurred me on. However, a very positive side effect of working with BEN is the career growth, experience and confidence it’s given me, through delivering programs like the BEN Mentoring Circles, writing documents, pitching ideas and to quote one of the Amazon Leadership Principles, having the “backbone” to challenge the status-quo, which can sometimes be difficult.
I am so excited and grateful to be taking these skills to help diversify our London tech teams, through employee events and initiatives, leveraging the networks I have built through BEN and making sure we view things with an intersectional lens.
For example, BEN and Prime Video Tech recently joined forces to deliver a Black in Tech event in honor of Black History Month in the UK. A panel of Prime Video Tech employees, alongside Black entrepreneurs, spoke about their career journeys, the challenges they have faced and what they are doing to make space for themselves and other Black professionals in the industry. It was also a great opportunity for guests to network with Prime Video employees over a drink and find out what it’s really like to work at Amazon.
I’m excited for my future with Prime Video. There’s lots of innovative things the teams are working on to enhance the Prime Video experience. It’s a great time to be part of the team!