Charlotte Woffindin featured

Inspirational Women: Charlotte Woffindin | Senior Program Manager at Amazon (London)

 

Charlotte Woffindin, is a Senior Program Manager at Amazon (London).

Charlotte Amazon

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To be honest, no. I have always done things that interest me and that I enjoy – I think that is really important, otherwise the days just drag. I spent five years working for a big high-street bank before joining Amazon. Whilst there I “tried on” different roles in agricultural banking, strategy, and communications before finding I really enjoyed designing training curriculums. That’s how I got into Amazon and working with the tech community designing onboarding training for Amazon’s global SDE hires. I have loved every minute of it and learn something new every hour!

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

I love a challenge! I studied IT and web design at A-level then went on to major in business at university, so starting at Amazon was a huge challenge as the engineers I worked with appeared to speak a different language, and designing training programs where I knew nothing about the content really stretched me. But I found that asking questions was the way for me to find out more, and identify the people who could really help me. The people who first helped me three years ago are still helping me today – they just bring more engineers to the conversation!

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

Give it a go. I find that I surprise myself more than I surprise the people around me – they know what I’m capable of, more than I do. My advice would be to build a great network around you, find role models and watch what they do. Everything is new once, and until you try it out you’ll never know if you can do it. One of the greatest pleasures throughout my career is when I’m able to help someone reach their goal – whether it’s coaching them to deliver a great presentation, to become a great facilitator or to achieve a result they thought impossible. It’s a great thing to watch and be a part of.

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

Their passion and enthusiasm, and the way they earn trust. At Amazon, that is so important – earning trust opens so many doors, and can often be overlooked. Many of my successes here have been through having the right conversations with great people. When hiring at Amazon, we have fourteen Leadership Principles that help to guide how we work, how our leaders lead and how we all make decisions on behalf of our customers.

These principles aren’t just something we put up on a wall – we use them every day, whether we’re discussing ideas for new projects, deciding on the best solution for a customer’s problem, or interviewing candidates.

Being someone who fulfils these principles is normally the deciding factor for hires.

How do you manage your own boss?

My boss is based in the US, so we don’t get much time to talk. I “manage” him by keeping them informed – regardless of how small a thing it is. I keep him in the know about wins, misses and things I’ve learnt. Especially when I’ve build a new relationship which could benefit the team in other ways.

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

My day usually starts with my cycling to work – it’s a great way to get the blood pumping, some calories burned and me focusing my head on what I need to do. Then I tackle my emails; as my team is mainly Seattle-based, most of my emails come through when I’m asleep. An hour of email-admin then I can know what needs to be done that day (that I might not have known about the day before) and continue working on my big projects. Towards the end of my day is when my team starts to come online, so it’s a few calls with them and state-side partners before I cycle the nine miles home.

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

Say yes to new opportunities. You are the greatest cheerleader for you and your career. Sometimes you will get lucky and someone will notice you, but most of the time it’s through being seen (and heard). I remember the first time I was asked to speak at an event, and the reason they asked me was because they had seen me doing the introductions at a conference the previous week.

I put my hand up to introduce the keynote and that was the start of something I do pretty regularly now. Saying yes, although scary, can be really powerful for opening up some great opportunities. So whether it’s speaking at new hire inductions, delivering training or working on a difficult project, say yes and don’t look back. You will regret the things you didn’t do more than they things you did!

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Absolutely! Although it’s usually pretty informal, I’ll ask for help and advice from people around me, and I also try and attend great training about coaching, speaking and other topics I’m interested in. When I’m at conferences I’ll try and speak with interesting people there, as it’s amazing who you meet and what you gain from meeting for coffee (or wine) after.

I find myself surrounded by amazing people all the time, and make the effort to go to events where there are leaders speaking or panels, even if it means I have to work a little later in the day.

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

Networking can be scary, but the secret is that most people feel the same way. My top tips would be: [1] go with a friend, it’s easier when you know someone and getting into the first conversation together is a great ice-breaker; [2] take a look at the attendee list before (if it’s available), map out who you want to talk to and have a couple of great questions ready and a short intro about you ready; and [3] join a conversation that is already underway, listen for a while and join in when you feel comfortable. Or if you are like me, stand by the bar – everyone grabs a drink and it’s amazing who you can start talking to there!

What does the future hold for you?

Who knows! I’m just about to start a new role in Amazon Web Services, so that should be a great learning curve and something different. I want to continue working with great people and challenging myself in new areas at Amazon. But as long as I am enjoying my job and continuing to learn, I could be doing anything!

Tell us three things about yourself that would surprise us!
  • I’m a classically trained singer and often asked to sing at weddings
  • I’ve had dinner inside the England Rugby dressing room and
  • I cycled the 100-mile Ride London challenge in seven hours 24 mins for Alzheimer’s Society this July!