Interview by Anna Marin and Marella Ricketts
Meet WIL Member Rita Malavasi, Public Policy Senior Manager at Amazon Italy. In this interview, she shares with us her nuggets of wisdom, from what she has learned from working in an international environment to the benefits of companies prioritising diversity and inclusion.
You come from an extensive career in International Business Development and Public Policy, and you are now working as a Public Policy Manager at Amazon in Italy. Can you tell us about how you entered the field of business development and public policy? How did you end up in Brussels in the first place?
I had the opportunity right after my first Master of Art in Economic Development and Management in Bologna to start my professional career in Brussels at the EU Office of Region Emilia-Romagna. It happened by chance, through an internship offer. After my internship, I started working as a Public Policy Manager at the same office in Brussels, the city which would be my home for the next eight years. I understood from the very beginning that it was going to be a significant and long-lasting experience for me in that city - both from a personal point of view, with the incredible people you can meet from all over the world, and from the professional point of view. I had the chance to learn institutional relations by working at the very core of the EU institutions. I developed my career in an extremely international environment that has been and still is today, the “fil rouge” of my path.
Over the years your career has taken a path towards Institutional Relations and Public Affairs. Could you explain a little more about what that means and your current responsibilities?
In addition to the international dimension, politics and public policies have been my passion from a young age. After serving as Public Policy Manager at Emilia-Romagna Office in Brussels, I came back to Italy and worked in the field of international business development for seven years, where I led a team and a network of professionals across the globe. During the coronavirus, when life suddenly got quieter because we were forced to spend more time at home, I reflected on how my career had developed and I understood that I was looking for a new challenge that could bring together the two parts of my professional career into a new path. My position in Amazon offers me exactly this opportunity to combine my background and experience in Institutional Relations and Public Policy with my know-how on business development and operations, but in a very new and hyper inspiring environment. Today at Amazon Italia I lead on Operations and SMEs policies within the Italian Public policy team. In other words that means ensuring that our presence in Italy brings a positive economic and social impact in the country, focusing on some key areas of policy: Workplace, DEI, Skill, SMES and economic local development.
During the coronavirus, when life suddenly got quieter because we were forced to spend more time at home, I reflected on how my career had developed and I understood that I was looking for a new challenge that could bring together the two parts of my professional career into a new path. My position in Amazon offers me exactly this opportunity.
What has working abroad in Brussels taught you? What have you brought with you back to Italy?
In Brussels, the opportunity that I had at the beginning of my career was extremely important. We had a small team of mostly women and a director who would give us a lot of space to bring our ideas to the table and implement them into new projects. It was a way to network with other people and organisations as well, and these relationships have stayed with me and helped me advance in my career, even if I decided to go back to my country.
In Brussels, the opportunity that I had at the beginning of my career was extremely important. We had a small team of mostly women and a director that would give us a lot of space to bring our ideas to the table and implement them into new projects.
As well as being an expert in Public Policy and Business Development, you also have experience within Diversity and Inclusion. Could you tell us more about that and if you have noticed any change in recent years in how much emphasis organisations and companies put on inclusion?
Diversity and Inclusion is a key asset for a competitive and attractive organisation today, be it a private or a public company. The topic today is given much more priority compared to a few years ago. I’m very proud that the Italian Government within the National Recovery Plan designed an innovative initiative called Gender Equality Certification (GEC) for companies that want to promote gender equality by structuring their own management system – not only to demonstrate their commitment to gender equality, but also to set and monitor specific targets for improvement. Amazon IT was the first e-commerce company in Italy to obtain this important recognition. Thanks to the GEC, we doubled down on Amazon’s commitment to strive to be Earth’s Best Employer (one of our Leadership Principles) and enrich diversity of experience in decision making by increasing female representation. From the point of view of the employees, Amazon's commitment to reach the GEC is definitely confirmation of what Jeff Bezos used to say: It’s not only that diversity and inclusion are good for our business. It’s more fundamental than that — it’s simply right.
Can you tell us a little bit about your day-to-day life at Amazon and your main responsibilities?
I’m the Ops Senior Public Policy Manager of the Italian team and I’m leading Operations and SMEs policies. Since 2010, Amazon has made investments of more than €12.6 billion in Italy and we are present in more than 60 sites across Italy, including Fulfilment centres, Sortation Centres, Delivery stations, a customer service in Cagliari, a corporate office in Milan, and our Innovation Lab in Vercelli. One of the main goals of my team is to make sure that Amazon represents a force for good in the country and that our extended presence acts as a driver for social and economic development locally and regionally. This is a key asset of our own competitiveness. In addition, I lead the team on our SMEs initiatives. In Italy we have 20,000 Small and Medium Enterprises using Amazon every day to expand their sales channels and export the most representative products of our territories all over the world. According to the latest 2021 report, SMEs that used Amazon in 2021 to sell their products in Italy and abroad created over 60,000 jobs in Italy and recorded sales abroad of more of 800 million euros. We promote free training programmes and ad hoc initiatives to facilitate the digitisation and internationalisation of IT SMEs and we work closely with the Italian Institution to enhance our achievements and to promote a stronger private-public partnership.
How has the experience of working in different countries shaped you - in both a professional and personal way? What have you learned about yourself from this experience?
I have been travelling alone since I was very young, and the international environment and mindset is what characterises my personal and professional life. Working in an international environment is a never-ending occasion to learn and to understand new points of views that drive innovation and bring new challenges both in my personal and in my professional life. It has been a great opportunity to grow.
If you could travel back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would that be?
The main advice I would give to my younger self would be to remind myself that perfection does not exist. Learning that it is okay to fail is something women especially should understand. Failing is not shameful but an opportunity to grow and to learn. This is probably the most important advice I would also give to a young woman at the beginning of her career, as well as to be brave and take the most out of every experience. Do not compromise with what you want to achieve.
Learning that it is okay to fail is something women especially should understand. Failing is not shameful but an opportunity to grow and to learn.
Video edited by Juliette Travaillé