In recent months, companies in the US have been responding to calls to diversify their workplace and leadership to include contributions from racial minorities as well as women. Several big corporations such as JP Morgan, FedEx among others have responded to such calls.
The latest giant tech firm responding to diversity calls is Amazon, headquartered in Seattle, Washington. The corporation has named Alicia Boler Davis, 49, to a position no black woman has ever held before in its 26-year history.
Davis has become Amazon’s Senior Vice President of Global Customer Fulfillment. By her appointment, Boler Davis joins Amazon’s prestigious “S-Team,” a group of executives that advises CEO Jeff Bezos.
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The prestigious S-Team meets regularly with Bezos to take strategic and critical business decisions. With the addition of Boler Davis along with John Felton and Dave Treadwell, the expanded leadership will now have 26 executives.
The hiring of Boler Davis comes following the announcement by Amazon’s Consumer CEO and second in command, Jeff Wilke, that he is planning to leave the company in the first quarter of 2021.
“While she was at General Motors, Alicia and I were introduced by a mutual friend and agreed to have lunch,” Wilke said in a memo to staff. “We hit it off right away. I was so impressed with her leadership experience, technical acumen, and especially her dedication to the workers on the shop floor … I was sure we shared the same instincts.”
In her new role, Boler Davis will be responsible for the worldwide network of over 175 Amazon fulfilment centres across 16 countries. Also, she will lead the worldwide network of Customer Service operations and technology, as well as the Sustainability, Product Safety, Security and Product Compliance teams.
Before joining Amazon, Boler Davis was head of global manufacturing at General Motors, where she reported directly to CEO Mary Barra. According to the Wall Street Journal, she was at the helm of GM’s connected-car and quality divisions for nearly three years.
Born in 1969, Boler Davis graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, thus becoming the first generation of her family to attend college. the Detroit born then proceeded to obtain double masters, one in engineering science and the other in business administration.
Her parents got divorced when she was only five years although they both remained part of her upbringing. They didn’t have a lot growing with her mom and three siblings, she told Detroit News in 2018. “If an iron or a washer broke, I would cut some cord, get some wire, and patch it together and repair it, because I knew we didn’t have money to fix it.”
While in high school, she participated in a summer engineering program for high school students run by General Motors Institute and that was how she developed an interest in engineering. “With an engineering degree I could do a number of things: I could practice pure engineering or go into technical sales, facilitation, or marketing,” she told Indianapolis recorder newspaper. “Once I realized that’s what I could do with an engineering degree, I decided to go into engineering.”
She joined GM in 1994 as manufacturing engineer and rose through the ranks to become a plant manager at their Michigan Orion Assembly facility, thus becoming the first black woman to become a plant manager. From there, she was promoted to senior manufacturing engineer, then area manager of the plant’s body shop in 2005, and then assistant plant manager.
In 2012, Boler Davis was appointed Vice President of Customer Experience at General Motors and by 2013, promoted to Senior Vice President for Global Customer Experience. From there, she became the Executive Vice President of global manufacturing in 2016.
For her success in the corporate world, Boler Davis has won a number of awards. She was named among Business Insider’s 39 most powerful female engineers in 2018, the 2014 technologist of the year among others.