From Amazon leaders to founders of voice-forward startups and Alexa Fund entrepreneurs, seven women discuss their exciting careers that have thrived thanks to Amazon

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Learn about impressive women leaders behind Amazons Alexa

Learn about impressive women leaders behind Amazon's Alexa

 June 06, 2019

Amazon is home to some impressive women who are thriving in exciting careers that help bring innovative technology to our homes - like the famous Amazon Alexa.

From Amazon leaders to founders of voice-forward startups and Alexa Fund entrepreneurs, meet seven women working to deliver the best voice experience possible.

Miriam Daniel, Vice President of Product Management

Miriam often feels like “a kid in a toy factory.” She’s had the unique opportunity in her career at Amazon to create an entirely new way of interacting with machines and this challenge motivates her every day.

To solve those difficult problems, she spends a lot of time considering Amazon customers and what they want out of voice-driven devices.

“The biggest reward is when a customer tells me that they love the products we are building and that voice technology has changed their lives for the better. We hear anecdotes from parents, grandparents, teachers, distance family members, and customers with disabilities all the time and their stories are heart-warming,” says Miriam.

She combines her work with inspiration she takes from her friends, family, and other women leaders in technology. For example, Miriam looks to Aicha Evans, the CEO of autonomous mobility developer Zoox, for “leading with her heart.”

“As a woman leader, Aicha pushes herself to think bigger and never hesitates to take on a big challenge. As a role model for other women in tech, she inspires each one of us to stand up, speak up, and chart our own individual journeys," explains Miriam.

The importance of a supportive, strong network is one thing Miriam has learnt in her career at Amazon. She credits her mentors for helping her find her superpowers and overcome her gaps.

“This is the same advice I give to students in high school and at university: it’s never too early to grow your network and seek experienced professionals who can help you navigate your career," adds Miriam.

Daniela Braga, Founder and CEO of DefinedCrowd

Founder CEO DefinedCrowd Amazon

Daniela is a woman of many interests. At work, she approaches challenges with open arms. In life, she zeroes in on people.

“I really have a passion for people: meeting new people, working with people, and deepening relationships. By absorbing different opinions, beliefs, and personalities, I can enrich my own life,” she said.

DefinedCrowd, a fast-growing AI startup that is also an Amazon Alexa Fund portfolio company. Daniela has years of experience working in speech technology, both in academia and industry worldwide, and she built DefinedCrowd to help data scientists collect, refine, and structure training data for AI and machine learning applications.

“The Enterprise Portal we built for DefinedCrowd still makes me so incredibly elated. To take a PowerPoint concept and make it a reality – and watch some of the biggest technology names in the world use it – is simply amazing," she says.

Daniela's success comes partly from advice from her mother.

“She always told me to do what you like the most and everything else will fall into place. If you’re happy and you love what you do, your career will thrive. That has been defining my career direction and ensured that every job I have taken, I loved. As a result, I saw great success from them," she explains.

Daniela is conscious of the success she’s had as a woman in technology and wants to use her experience to inspire others, particularly her daughter.

“Personally, it was difficult to pursue a career in technology without a lot of female role models to look up to," she says.

"I want to make sure my daughter has all the inspiration and encouragement she needs to pursue whatever she wants.”

Sarah Caplener, Senior Manager of Alexa for Everyone

Senior Manager Amazon Alexa for Everyone

When she started her career at Amazon, Sarah Caplener never thought  she would be leading the Alexa for Everyone team, which focuses on making Alexa a vital part of the lives of customers with disabilities, older customers, and family caregivers.

“I am proud of the team we have built and the first features we have released: Tap to Alexa, an accessibility setting on Echo Show and Echo Spot that enables customers to interact with Alexa through touch or text input, and Alexa Captioning, which allows customers to see text on-screen for Alexa responses," explains Sarah.

“Together these features represented the first steps toward making smart speakers accessible to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and have speech impairments,” she adds.

Working on Alexa was like coming full circle for Sarah. She graduated with a degree in linguistics and began her career at a speech technology startup. She worked in voice user interface design before going into product management.

“Years later, I’m back working in this space that Amazon and Alexa have made such a key part of customers’ daily lives," she says.

In her free time, Sarah works on a different kind of innovation: making Amazon boxes into whatever shape her kids request.

“We’ve made everything from spacecraft to suits of armor to puppet theaters with Amazon-supplied building materials!”

Milkana Brace, Founder and CEO of

Founder CEO Amazon

Milkana left the corporate world even though she was on a fast career track and had many opportunities ahead of her.

“I left because I wanted to have a shot at building a different kind of company. I had no specific idea, no co-founders, and no plans. But, I took the plunge and never looked back,” she says.

That company became Jargon, which allows voice applications on services like Alexa to structure, manage, and optimize their content. A year after founding Jargon, it completed the Alexa Accelerator, powered by TechStars, successfully pitching and demo-ing the product to investors. Jargon has also raised a $1.8 million seed round, which included participation from the Alexa Fund.

“My passions drive what I do all day long, whether I’m in or out of the office. I’m deeply passionate about people coming together to create something meaningful. Even when I’m not directly working on Jargon, you’re likely to find me talking to other entrepreneurs, builders, or creators to learn from their experiences or help them with a perspective that I can share," says Milkana.

During her career, she has learned about the importance of having a personal board of directors – a small group of trusted advisors who know her well and support her success.

“I think it’s helpful for any professional to take stock of the mentors, advisors, and peers that they can seek out when making important decisions and cultivate those relationships over time. Just like a company board, it’s key to have a balanced mix of experiences, personalities, and perspectives," she explains. 

"The most important characteristic, however, is to be surrounded by people who genuinely care.”

Michelle Lalljie, Senior Manager, Alexa Voice Services

Senor Manager Alexa Voice Services

Michelle's current position leading the operations and product launch organization for the Alexa Voice Services (AVS) team at Amazon marks the sixth time she’s built something from scratch.

“I stepped into AVS with a broadly defined role, assessed gaps, grew a team, and associated processes to add value to the organization,” she says. “It’s especially fun when it’s something we’ve never done before and it requires scoping, planning, and driving the solution across the finish line amidst ambiguity. What can I say, I’m a typical operations person.”

During her career, Michelle has reinvented herself many times “in the spirit of career growth.” From construction to the semiconductor industry, she’s worn a variety of hats (including hardhats!).

“I love the phrase ‘fake it until you make it.’ It examplifies my definition of confidence, rising above self-doubt to accomplish things," she comments.

Whether she’s solving big, complex problems at work or skiing in her free time, Michelle isn’t scared of stepping outside her comfort zone.

“One of the most impactful career growth statements I’ve heard came from Elaine Chang, president of Amazon China. She said that when looking for a new role, it should make you uncomfortable. Her advice was to ‘get comfortable with being uncomfortable.’ I coach people with this simple saying all the time.”

Dr. Kate Stone, Founder of Novalia

Founder Novalia Amazon

No matter the weather, Kate Stone loves winter camping. After a cold and sometimes scary night, she normally wakes up in her hammock to a beautiful sunrise between the trees.

“I like to go on adventures that push me beyond my boundaries. I tend to face some of my fears in a way that gives me confidence during the rest of the week. I have found that most of the learnings from one moment are transferable to another moment, even though they often seem quite different,” she says.

Kate drew on all her experiences to start Novalia, which develops interactive paper surfaces that connect to Alexa. Using a Bluetooth platform and touch sensors, users can capture data through touch and view interactions in real time. Novalia, an Alexa Fund portfolio company, won an investment through the Alexa Accelerator class.

“I love to create product experiences that surprise and bring wonder to people on their journeys, hopefully with what feels like a little magic or fun," she says.

Novalia and these magical experiences are a result of Kate's grit and perseverance which began when she was a student.

“I remember a school assembly where the headmaster came on stage and told us to never give up. He repeated this again and again and again, and when he finally left the stage, it stuck with me," she adds.

"I do not possess the ability to give up—it is both a super power and a curse! The power to never give up has enabled me to find a way from my darkest moments into what have been the brightest experiences of my life.”

Priya Abani, Director of Alexa Voice Services device enablement

Director Alexa Voice Services

Since her childhood, Priya Abani’s parents have always inspired her.

“They encouraged me and my sister to take up new challenges, be fearless even in tough situations, and face our weaknesses with a mindset of learning,” she says.

Priya is the director of Alexa Voice Services (AVS) device enablement, working with the community of device manufacturers to integrate Alexa into new and existing experiences.

“The learnings from new segments, like speakers, PCs, smart TVs and displays, and hearables, keep us on our toes. Over the past three years, the team has successfully engaged and innovated with hundreds of brands, earning the trust of our device manufacture community and end-customers.”

When she’s not “delighting customers with daily Alexa interactions,” Priya likes to play with her dog, Brie, or pick up a paint brush.

“I find painting very relaxing. It’s a place to escape to," she says.

In whatever she does, Priya looks for learning opportunities that also offer a little bit of fun.

“The best advice I have received from my mentors is to keep an open mind and to take responsibilities where I have fun learning. This advice has allowed me to move between roles and industries with ease of mind.”

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