Lauren Kisser is a Director of Amazon Prime Air, a delivery system from Amazon designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones.
Lauren Kisser
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was exposed to computers and technology from an early age and by the time I finished school, the internet was really starting to take off. I knew I wanted to be part of this revolution and took my career in that direction. My first job was with a small marketing firm where I oversaw the technology that supported the business. I quickly developed an enthusiasm for using technology to solve customer and business problems. I wanted to learn more so I left the company to study business leadership and technology at grad school. I then put my passion and education to work by driving security and compliance initiatives for Disney and Washington Mutual, a bank. This led to my dream job at Amazon – where I’ve now been for over ten years. I joined the Prime Air team about three years ago.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I’ve encountered the challenges most people face in their careers especially when it comes to balancing work and home life. I’m a wife, mother of two and a passionate career woman so finding time to prioritise everything I love is always challenging. My job is demanding, so I’m lucky that I have an amazing support system at home. My husband and I constantly focus on making sure that our priorities are aligned. Communication is the key to success in balancing family and work life. We always talk and ensure we’re on the same page and I think we have been very successful in that.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

The first thing is to have confidence. I think this can help anybody achieve anything. For me, confidence comes from playing to your strengths and not trying to be someone else. If you try to be someone you’re not, it’s uncomfortable for everyone. So it’s important to know your own voice and be confident in what you’re bringing to the team. As a leader, I look for opportunities where I can help others develop their skills. This makes for a stronger team.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

At Amazon, we have leadership principles which we use every day, whether we’re discussing ideas for new projects, deciding on the best solution for a customer’s problem, or interviewing candidates. Beyond that, I base my decision on who could have the most impact, not just in my department but at Amazon as a whole. For me it’s important to know if that person can add a spark or be a catalyst within the organisation and also be able to motivate others.

How do you manage your own boss?

It’s really about looking around corners, determining what their needs are going to be and getting ahead of that. I love problem-solving, so for me, managing my boss means identifying solutions to resolve potential issues they might face. Sometimes I don’t know the answer, but if I can spot the issue ahead of time, I can come up with a solution and provide recommendations.  It’s important to be on the front-foot as much as possible.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

Being based in the U.K., my day usually starts by scanning emails to see what’s come in overnight from our teams across the world. This helps me determine what the priorities are for the day. Once I’m up to speed, it’s breakfast with my husband and kids before starting the obligatory school run.

At our Amazon Prime Air office in Cambridge, I sit down with my team and assess what support they need for the day ahead. I also do a quick assessment of issues that might need resolving tomorrow and think about possible solutions.

Like a lot of working mums, when I get home, my attention switches to the children and getting them ready for bed. After this, I might enjoy a glass of wine with my husband while we chat about our day and then have another quick scan of my emails before bed.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations

Try to find one or two things where you can participate and deliver results but be intentional about it and don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s important to be focused and take on a few key initiatives.  Find opportunities that give you visibility within your organisation to say “hey, I’m working on this and these are the results” and share them across the organisation.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

My current coach is training me to ask more questions and to resist jumping to conclusions. I’ve learned to stop and get more information when I find myself saying things like “my assumption is” or “I guess.” These are triggers for me to ask for more details.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbie networker?

I understand networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone and can be rather daunting. My advice is to plan ahead. Before attending a networking event, think about what you want to get out of it.  Is there a specific challenge you need help or advice on? If so, use this as an icebreaker. Have a couple of questions in mind and don’t be afraid to approach people.  Everyone is in the same boat! Networking helps build skills and change perspectives. The best piece of advice I received is that people love talking about themselves so start with a simple question such as, “What challenge are you currently taking on?”

What does the future hold for you?

I’ve worked at Amazon for over a decade and truly believe in how we are solving complex problems for customers, making their lives easier and building great teams in the process. I want to continue to be a part of that journey and use my experience to coach and mentor others.  I really think that’s where I can have a big impact.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise people

I am super proud of taking part in a challenge to raise money for breast cancer research. I summited three of the highest peaks in the state of Washington (Mt Rainier, Mt Baker and Mt Adams). Each climb was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I raised over $20,000. I’m now thinking of taking on the UK-equivalent by participating the Three Peaks Challenge!