Ever wondered what it is like to work at Amazon? Curious about the type of people who thrive in one of the world's most customer-centric companies?
In this month’s profile, Roberto Carisi shares his experience at Amazon Pay as the EU’s Multi-Channel Innovation Lead. Roberto discusses his aim to learn more every day, push the boundaries, his passion for Italian coffee and how the Kiwi got its name.
Why don’t you start by telling us about yourself.
I don't accept things as impossible, I always look for new ways to reach the goal, even if a roadblock seems unsurmountable. I'm curious and passionate, always interested in learning new things on the most disparate topics. Do you know why kiwis got their name?
The fruit is originally from China, and was called Chinese gooseberry until 1959. That year, New Zealand growers renamed it Kiwi in a marketing twist, concerned that their two main export markets, Great Britain and United States, would not support importing Chinese-named products in a time when Cold War was at its height.
Can you tell us about your background with Amazon?
I joined Amazon just over a year ago, as Sr. Solution Architect at Amazon Pay. My initial focus was to drive presales activities in the UK and, on a broader level, to build a stronger culture of presales within the team. Through that experience, I’ve become passionate about new, big challenges Amazon Pay is trying to solve -- especially how to enable great multi-channel experiences for our customers. That was the start of my transition into the role of Multi-channel Innovation Lead, with a particular focus on the in-store space, where I'm currently in charge of the European strategy, technology rollout and go to market execution.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The only thing that doesn't change from day to day is my morning coffee routine. I'm an espresso lover, and I start every morning grinding my South American beans and brewing a ristretto shot on my 28 years old "La Pavoni" lever machine.
While doing so, I listen to the latest tech news from Alexa’s morning briefing and check emails to see if there is something urgent coming from the product team in Seattle. After that, my day can go many ways.
The beauty of Amazon is that no day is like the one before. Today, I might be working with a retailer on an innovative experience to enable in-store in the morning, and validating some new APIs in the afternoon. Tomorrow, I might drive 20 miles to test a new payment experience in a store out of town and write a 6-pager business strategy in the afternoon.
What’s one lesson from your time at Amazon?
The most important lesson I’ve learned so far is the importance of being able to prioritize and push back. There are so many things to learn, and so many things to do, that you need to learn what to prioritize, what to delegate and what to simply decline. I'm the kind of guy that loves to get involved, help everyone and contribute anywhere I feel I can have an impact. Without learning to say "no" and brutally select what to focus on, at the scale and pace of Amazon, I would simply be stretched too thin to have an impact.
What is your favourite leadership principle (LP) and why?
My favourite is Have Backbone, Disagree and Commit. I think this LP really empowers everyone to share their opinion, and voice their concerns, regardless of their role or seniority. Having teammates and leaders that really embrace this principle gives you the confidence to challenge decisions or ideas you disagree with, knowing that your opinion will be appreciated and will lead to a healthy debate. My journey in the in-store space started exactly like this: with a passionate chat with our EU general manager about my disagreement on the existing plan and focus, and now I'm here, leading a shared vision for multi-channel and in-store.
What is one of the reasons you enjoy working at Amazon Pay?
Amazon Pay is a startup with the scale of a big company. There is no such thing as doing what's on your job description, day after day, and be fine with it. Here you make the difference every day. While doing your job you might spot 15 other things you can impact, and you have the freedom and support of your manager to go and improve them. Taking ownership is something we expect from each other, and this allows to get things done instead of just discussed for weeks.
How does Amazon support your career goals?
We have great people in the team. The opportunity to learn from them, their style, the way they overcome difficulties and lead by example, it helps me grow a lot. But the main differentiator for me is the impact of my manager, both in my first role and now, he is constantly pushing me to stretch myself and get out of my comfort zone, instilling the idea that "I can do it", and being there, almost invisibly by my side, in case I need help, guidance, or simply reassurance.
What's the best thing about coming to work each day?
The most fun part of my time at Amazon is the chance to participate in all sort of beta programs, from new streaming channels, to unreleased Alexa devices or marketplace features. I like to try new things, and the chance to contribute to make these products and services better before they go on the market is exciting!
What are some of your passions outside of work?
Since last summer I crossed the mark of 50 countries visited, it’s proof of my passion for travel. I try to do at least 2 big trips in different continents per year, with Borneo being the highlight of 2019 and Argentina the next stop, but I'm also the kind of guy that can make a 10 hours trip just to share strawberries with a faraway friend for a day.
What’s your super power or a something about you most people at work may not be aware of (secret talent, hobby, aspiration, etc.)?
A few year ago I launched a Kickstarter campaign for HOKU, a design table lamp I created with my dad and younger brother. Even if now we stopped the production, it was a great fun, with more than 200 lamps sold, 15 trade shows attended and dozens of interviews on magazine and national newspapers, including a front page appearance!
If you had a personal motto, what would it be?
He didn't mean no, he just meant you didn't ask the right question. Try better and don't give up."
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