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The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Allison Siperco, Marketing Lead, Alexa Canada at Amazon.
Name: Allison Siperco
Job Title: Marketing Lead, Alexa Canada, Amazon
Years in the Industry: 16 Years
The Quote That Most Inspires You: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world?” – (Steve Jobs to John Sculley, when he hired him from Pepsico to run marketing for Apple)
(This quote inspired me when I left Pepsico to pursue my passion for non-profit at the Toronto International Film Festival. It has also driven my work at Amazon, the ability to work for a large innovative company that has the ability to make real change. I’m so excited now to be leading community efforts for Alexa Canada and ensure that we are making technology accessible for all.)
What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?
I ended up in marketing for both a consumer and technology focused company because I liked the mix of the creative thinking and analytical decision making. I love having data to make decisions, and also being able to come up with interesting campaigns that will speak to consumers in new ways. From Pepsico to Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to Amazon, I have loved working on projects that solve customer problems, are delightful, and provide utility.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
Although the technology field is still very male-dominated, I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by strong female leaders on the marketing side (as well as supportive male leaders).
I am a new mom and that has provided a new perspective on my career. Parenthood plus a pandemic has created many new challenges from a work life balance perspective. I am lucky to have had great parental leave policies, but leaving the workforce temporarily can impact career momentum. Sometimes, it has been a struggle to decide whether to push hard on the career front or just maintain the status quo. It’s important to remember that both choices are okay, and that throughout our career, priorties can shift, and that’s okay.
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
At Amazon, I’m a bar raiser, which is an experienced interviewer who is brought into interviews to be an objective third party. While I was working for Amazon Web Services, I was the first and only female bar raiser for our Canada public sector team. Both at AWS and Alexa, I’m often the only female on an interview loop. My colleagues look to me to provide a diverse perspective, but I am also an example for candidates who want to ensure they are joining an organization with women in leadership roles.
Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
First off, parental leave. This is so incredibly crucial and I feel so lucky to be in Canada where this is a benefit. After returning to work, the industry needs flexibility, and affordable child care is a requirement. The pandemic has made it clear how important these two are. I’m so lucky to have a flexible job, with understanding leadership, as well as reliable childcare. Even with that – it has been a rough two years having to juggle the schedule for every runny nose, COVID-19 exposure, or other daycare issue.
The pandemic has taught us that we are able to be productive in different locations, and with different working hours. And that we can also be much more efficient than the previous 9-5 schedule would have suggested.
Finally, I think we need to include more women in the hiring process to ensure we are evaluating talent from a diverse perspective.
If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?
It can be quite refreshing. I like working with diverse teams and I like being able to bring a different perspective. Whether that’s gender, work experience, or where you are from/live, all those elements can push businesses to think more broadly and ensure we are making the right decisions in order to serve our customers.
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
I’ve been involved with the Women in Communications and Technology for five years now, as both a mentee and a mentor. I originally connected with my mentor when I was looking for guidance on the tech industry itself, but the relationship has evolved more into coaching and development. Whenever I have a challenge, whether a business or career issue, I know I can chat with with her for perspective. She is always pushing me to think about factors that I can control, and how to work towards my goals. I’m so grateful to have that sort of support and recommend that everyone look for mentors or coaches they can lean on throughout their career.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
One misconception is if you join a tech company, you’ll be surrounded by all men. I work with many female leaders each day. We work really hard to recruit, hire, and develop diverse talent.
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
Overall, I’d like to see more ‘women supporting women.’ I’ve been part of a number of wonderful organizations (Women in Communicaiton and Technology, and Scala Network) where this is front and centre. Women providing coaching, mentorship, and support, through all stages of careers. It’s incredibly important to have a network of peers and mentors to guide you along the way. This is important both inside companies (for hiring, career progression, promotions, et cetera) as well as through the industry (coaching and mentoring). When someone succeeds, we all succeed, and we should want that for our peers and beyond.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
Absolutely. The pandemic really underlined just how important technology is – the ability to stay connected, as well as all the convenience now available. I often wonder what my grandfather would think of the world today. He grew up on a farm in Sasketchewan in the 1910s. He paid for my first laptop when I went to university, and was so enthralled when I showed him how it worked. Sometimes I wonder what he would make of Netflix, and UberEats, and Alexa, or what it would be like to video call his great grandchildren.
Then I look at my todder, who has figured out how to use my smartphone, and talked to his grandparents and cousins when we couldn’t be together in person. I’m excited to be working for Amazon, to continue to innovate for all customers, and make the world just a little bit better.