Pia's career at Amazon is fast-paced, innovative and has a wide international reach

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Pia Ambardar is Head of Business Development at Amazon

Pia Ambardar is Head of Business Development at Amazon

 January 03, 2019

Pia Ambardar is a woman who doesn’t fear change. She has lived in Houston, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, before moving to London to take on her current role at Amazon as Head of Business Development for Dash Europe. In her career she has been an investment banker, an actor and an Amazonian. Pia shares her thoughts about successful career change, working at Amazon and finding a job she loves.

From acting to Amazon

Pia always wanted to be an actor when she was younger as she loved performing and making people laugh. Instead, she ended up with an engineering degree and an MBA. Pia made a plan during her senior year of college that she was going to work in finance for a few years, save up her money, and then start a career as an actor.

"If it worked out, great. If it didn’t, I would go to business school and figure things out from there. That’s exactly what I did," says Pia. "I worked in finance for three years, then quit and started auditioning and performing in New York. I did mostly theatre, and actually won some awards and had a manager. After a year, I moved to Los Angeles, got an agent and performed in some indie films, commercials, small TV bits. Eventually, after a few years, I decided to execute my back-up plan and go to business school."

Pia was less scared and more excited about her decision. She had been planning it for years – through her engineering degree at undergraduate level, through selling derivatives on a trading floor, through taking evening acting classes in downtown Manhattan. Pia knew acting was her passion, and that she would have a constant regret if she never tried to pursue it as a career.

"From the outside, it looked like a nutty decision, but my approach was actually methodical and deliberate. Over three years, I had squirreled away my generous finance bonuses so I had enough money to audition and perform full-time. I gave myself a fixed amount of time to pursue my new career, and I had a back-up strategy in case it didn’t work out," explains Pia.

Lessons well-learnt

Pia learnt loads of lessons from this experience. Pia believes acting taught her how to handle rejection, helped her develop a thick skin and taught her to keep working towards her goals despite setbacks. She also learned how to listen and be present.

"A huge part of acting is listening and reacting to your cast mates, not just waiting for your turn to speak. That’s helped me a lot in business – people really appreciate feeling heard and understood," explains Pia.

"Even though I didn’t make it big, I’m so glad I had that experience and that I was bold enough to make that move. I met amazingly talented people, and nurtured the creative side of myself that until that point had always taken a backseat. I’m a big believer in pursuing what you’re passionate about, and I continue to try to do that in my career at Amazon."

Making products more compelling for customers

In Pia's current role at Amazon, she manages Business Development for Dash in Europe. When her and her team have a new idea for a product or a service, they often need to develop relationships with external companies to make that device or service more attractive. Pia cites Fire TV as an example, explaining that is a great product, but it’s even better with Netflix on it. That’s what Pia and her team's main responsibility is – finding and fostering the relationships that make Amazon devices and services more useful and more compelling for customers.

Dash refers to the Amazon products and services that simplify replenishment within the home. Dash Buttons are physical, Wi-Fi connected devices that customers place in their homes, allowing them to order products at the press of a button; Dash Replenishment Services, or DRS, is a set of APIs that allow smart appliances and devices to automatically re-order their own supplies.

"With Dash Buttons, we’re eliminating that painful moment when you’ve run out of daily essentials. You might have a Dash Button on your washing machine that you press to re-order more of your favourite detergent, or a Dash Button by your fridge that you press to re-order bottled water of your preferred brand," explains Pia. 

"DRS takes things a step further – it enables your washing machine to re-order its own detergent when it’s running low, or enables your printer to re-order its own ink when it needs it. So you don’t have to even think about managing the supplies in your home."

Bringing to life new technology

What Pia loves most about working at Amazon is being involved in new, innovative technology that makes a positive impact on customers’ lives, and bringing it to life by working with some of the largest global companies.

"As a kid I was always interested in electronics and the latest gadgets. Plus, my mom was a computer scientist who worked for NASA, so I think I inherited her love of technology," says Pia.

An international career

Pia loves the international part of my role. She works with internal teams across the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Luxembourg, and external companies located globally from Stockholm to Istanbul. For Pia, it has been really enlightening to see how different cultures react to the same technologies and innovations, how they analyse problems and come up with solutions.

"It’s certainly the global experience I was hoping for when I took the role!" adds Pia.

A fabulous workplace culture

In terms of Amazon's workplace culture, Pia likes the fast-paced the straightforward approach.

"I often joke that I’m not sure I could ever work anywhere else because I’ve become too used to saying what I actually think and not wasting time dressing it up. I’m also terrible at PowerPoint, so I love that we write documents! I also take great satisfaction in getting things done and delivering results," says Pia. Pia also finds it incredibly meaningful to follow an idea all the way to execution, and instead of having it stagnate in endless decision-making.

Some valuable career advice

With all this experience, Pia has some great advice for women thinking of changing careers.

"I think it’s increasingly common for careers to span multiple industries and functions over time," says Pia. "I have found that branching out into new areas is not as scary as it may seem, and that it can improve your career satisfaction and fulfilment."

Pia believes that first, you need to set your own standard – define what success means to you, without comparing yourself to others. Pia says that doing so frees you from the pressure of trying to live up to other people’s expectations. Pia's next piece of advice is that it’s essential to identify your strengths, and to apply them to new situations to make them stronger, until you turn them into what she calls "superpowers". Finally, Pia suggests that you need to figure out what you are interested in and to remember that people can be interested in many different things at different times in their lives. Once you know, it becomes easier to form links between what you’re good at and what you’re interested in to determine your next steps.

"Some changes are more drastic, of course, and have nothing to do with your prior professional experiences whatsoever. This is where your personal benchmark becomes critical. If you want to be an entrepreneur, or move to South America to learn Spanish, or start a rock band in your late 30s, make a plan and go do it," says Pia. 

"If there’s something that’s professionally holding you back from being happy, change it. We live in a time where people can move more freely in and out of careers than ever before."

Finally, for Pia, above all it's about being happy, both at work and at home.

"Happiness comes first from having loving relationships with family and friends," explains Pia. "Beyond that, I think it is some combination of feeling productive but not stressed out, content but not bored, passionate but not aimless."

Join talented women Pia at Amazon

At Amazon, everyone is empowered to share new ideas and to contribute their own unique special talents and abilities to the company. Search and apply for an amazing career with Amazon today.

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