Michelle Hardie is on a mission for a better world where gender holds no barriers. Thinking globally and acting locally, she is the President of the Women@Amazon for Australia and New Zealand (ANZ). Women@ is an affinity group for women and allies at Amazon to network and work together on initiatives that drive gender equality. In our conversation, we enjoyed hearing how much Michelle loves this volunteer position while also doing a stellar job in her main role as the Head of Strategy, Operations and Enablement, ANZ at Amazon Web Services (AWS).
To equality and beyond
Michelle shares how much of a privilege it was to start, and then to lead, Women@AWS in ANZ, from the ground up.
“I felt it was a courageous moment for me to throw my hat in the ring for the president role, considering I was relatively new to AWS at the time. But I was clear about my passion, and what I could deliver to the role. I was so thrilled to get the opportunity to start the affinity group from scratch.”
Since its inception just over three years ago, Michelle has put together a solid strategy for the affinity group that focuses on three pillars.
“Women@ continues to provide focus and purpose for the three initiative streams: Attract and Hire; Retain and Develop; Marketing and Community. I am passionate about mentoring, and have a range of formal and informal mentoring relationships at all levels across AWS, and Amazon, with women in technical and non-technical roles. Also, I play an important role in our interviewing process at Amazon, which I love – Hire & Develop the Best has to be one of my favorite Amazon Leadership Principles!”
Michelle is one to get things moving, and it almost seems like she is doing two full-time positions. She says the success of Women@ is a collective effort and she feels privileged to have a team of passionate volunteers.
“There is so much support from leadership, and the broader company. The work we do is holistic, and people are always willing to pitch in. It’s an ever-evolving group and we’re always introducing new things. For instance, we have a Wellness Coordinator and a book club where people connect over Audible books.”
A strong foundation of international experience
Michelle has been with AWS for the past four years. In her current role as Head of Strategy, Operations and Enablement for AWS in ANZ, she leads strategy, business and sales operations, field enablement, process improvement and program management teams to drive outcomes at scale for their customers.
Michelle has worked extensively in ANZ, as well as holding Asia Pacific and global roles. Prior to AWS, she enjoyed a 23-year career in management consulting, across numerous roles, including working with large enterprises on SAP transformation programs; project and program management; quality and risk roles; and sales effectiveness and enablement.
“I graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce/Marketing from UNSW and went into a long career in management consulting, helping clients through large scale transformation change in a range of human performance and program management roles, followed by quality and risk and sales effectiveness roles covering Asia Pacific and global. This experience across large scale change and digital transformation brought me into AWS where I have continued helping customers through their journey to the cloud.”
A framework for great ideas
Michelle says she is excited about the rapid rate of growth in ANZ. There’s an abundance of opportunities at AWS because everyone is so focused on coming up with new ideas and solutions for customers.
“The customer is at the heart of everything we do. Amazon is a place where smart, passionate people obsess over customers and innovate on their behalf. We are a company of builders who bring varying backgrounds, ideas, and points of view to inventing solutions on behalf of our customers.”
Michelle enjoys the variety in her role and the people she works with. Because everyone is so keen to innovate, the flipside of that is that there is always lots to do.
Prioritizing and focusing on the most important things are critical, and to help with this process, AWS uses a mechanism called Press Release Frequently Asked Questions (PR FAQ).
“It’s an effective customer-centric document for designing any new products and initiatives. The mechanism is simple to follow, and understood by everyone in the organization.”
A PR FAQ follows a fairly strict format:
- A Press Release (PR): written from the future point-of-view of when the new product is released.
- A Public FAQ: details the questions that a customer might have about the product, written as if it is public product documentation that is released at the same time as the PR.
- An Internal FAQ: answers any questions from internal stakeholders that have come up during the product development process.
There are no shortcuts to success
Michelle finds her work very fulfilling, but is also mindful to put space and time aside to take care of her physical and mental wellbeing through exercising and reading.
“I try to stay reasonably fit and healthy, so generally try to make it to a couple of Barre, Vinyasa yoga, and Pilates classes each week. I also regularly walk my two gorgeous Schnauzers. I love to read, mostly fiction to relax and exercise a different part of my mind!”
We asked Michelle for any final words of wisdom. She says:
- Take the pathways, not the highway: “Look for opportunities outside of your day job, use them as a learning ground to build your career and influence. Remember, you are in control of your career and things won’t be handed to you if you just work hard.”
- Build networks: “Surround yourself with people who are aligned with your values. Make time to network and build relationships. This is an important stepping stone for your career and it needs focus.”
- Follow your passions: “In everything you do, focus on what you are learning and consider what you like, and what you don’t like. Follow your passions built around the things you like doing!”
- Feed your creative soul: “I love the opportunity to build and innovate. I am really only limited by my imagination and feel privileged in having the creative freedom to work with complex problems and amazing colleagues, customers, partners and the community.”