Amazon Web Services Sales Leader Deidra Thorpe on Her Top Advice for Young People of Color in the Workforce

Plus, how she prioritizes diversity, inclusion, and well-being at work.

Welcome to A Closer Look, an editorial series that highlights leaders who are driving innovation in their approach to diversity, equity, inclusion, and well-being in the workplace. Salesforce and Thrive Global, with support from KPMG, have partnered to make change: to bring about positive mental health conversations in the Black community, to share strategies for seeking help, and to prioritize mental well-being.

By Deidra Thorpe, as told to Clarice Metzger 

“I’m optimistic we’ll create a world that’s inclusive. The world is already diverse — but the most important thing is that we show dignity and respect for others. 

I’m a global sales leader within media and entertainment at Amazon Web Services, an Amazon subsidiary that provides cloud services. I also do a lot of work ensuring our culture at Amazon is an inclusive workplace. I grew up in an upper middle class family in California, primarily in white communities. What I noticed throughout my education, and as I worked my way through Silicon Valley and beyond, was that often I was the only African-American and the only woman in the room. I wondered why and what I could do to help change that narrative. 

How we promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the culture at Amazon Web Services 

We want to make sure that Amazon Web Services has a culture where people can thrive; where they feel respected, valued, and where they can get the support they need to be successful here in the long-term. We simply want there to be psychological safety. We’re also looking at ways we can attract top talent, ways we can adopt inclusive and diverse practices by creating growth opportunities — and then disrupting any bias that exists in our recruiting process. 

For our current employees, we offer lots of ways to get involved in making Amazon more inclusive and equitable: We have inclusion ambassadors, employee resource groups, and community listening sessions where we talk with different communities within Amazon Web Services about their experience with mental health. Those sessions are so valuable because people can share their stories and life experiences. The more awareness we raise about other people’s realities, the more we can see and understand the shoes other people walk in. 

My advice to young people of color who may not see themselves reflected in their workspaces

Early in my career, I was hesitant to speak out about my experience as a Black woman. I would sit back and observe more than be an active participant — and I observed a lot. I noticed that I had to work harder than others, and that my credibility was often questioned. Now, at this point in my career, I’m in a position where I can influence things. For example, I spend a lot of my time coaching and mentoring people from underrepresented communities. 

My advice to young women and people of color starting their careers is twofold: First, be really clear about your purpose, strength, and values. Be aware of opportunities for development and growth, but understand what your superpowers are and make sure you let others know what those powers are as you create your own brand within the organization. 

Second, make sure you have a community of individuals who can guide you in your workplace. Create your own “personal board of directors,” people you trust to give you guidance and coaching. As you navigate your career, they can help you develop new networks, offer you opportunities for growth and development, and simply be a resource who can help you be the best that you can be.”

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