It’s no accident that Amazon is one of the world’s most customer-centric companies. It’s all thanks to the remarkable and inspiring people that make up the Amazon team.
For this month’s Profiles in Pay, we’re closing out Black History Month (BHM) with Teri Owens, our US Merchant Success team leader. Born and raised in inner-city L.A., Teri shares how Black culture taught her resilience, determination, and value for community. From cooking traditional Southern recipes that tie her to her ancestors to always trying to learn from others’ experiences, Teri takes pride in her heritage, while recognizing the work that still needs to be done.
I’m a passionate, loyal, and curious person who seeks to understand and utilize those learnings to make myself a better person. The scripture I live by, which motivates me to give back to my community and those in need is, “to whom much is given much is required.” I grew up in the inner city of Los Angeles and have been witness to many walks of life. Growing up in the area ingrained a sense of gratitude, appreciation, and determination to learn from others’ experiences, make the best decisions to obtain the type of life I’ve always dreamed of, and mentor/coach others who may benefit from my story.
Can you tell us about what Black History Month means to you, personally?
BHM instills a sense of pride for what my ancestors have brought to this country despite having been enslaved and discriminated against. When I look back at the accomplishments Black people have made in this country, I’m amazed by my culture’s resilience, determination, and fortitude to continue to persevere. Just think, my people built the White House during slavery and created the COVID vaccine in 2021. That is progress. However, I am also not blind to the much-needed work that still needs to be done to succeed in this country.
What was your experience growing up in Los Angeles, and how did that shape who you are today?
L.A. is a widely diverse area and the type of place where you can be anything you want to be. I guess that’s why Hollywood is here. I grew up in South Central L.A., a part of the city where many Black families migrated from the South. So I have a blend of Southern roots and L.A. inner-city life. If any of you saw the movie Boyz n the Hood, that was my life. The Catholic schoolgirl surrounded by gang violence, families wanting to make a better life, and rich neighborhoods that were untouchable for a girl like me growing up. Going to a private Catholic school helped shape my life by instilling morals, values and of course Catholic guilt. The inner-city Catholic schools’ goals were to help Black students go to college while providing a deep sense of family and community in addition to dreaming big. Today, I still believe in supporting my community and dreaming big, knowing I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.
Tell us about your time at Amazon so far.
The time goes by fast at Amazon. In my 1.5 years, it seems like I accomplished more than what I ever thought. From hiring two directs, promoting one, writing docs, managing a team, leading training for our team, collaborating with partner teams, etc., I had no idea how much variety and opportunity to grow existed here. I’m excited to help grow Amazon Pay in becoming a force to be reckoned with in the industry. What I truly appreciate about Amazon so far is the people. The level of support, empathy, and human kindness is what makes me continue to fight the good fight. Amazon pushes employees to be better, and I certainly can attest, I’ve become a better professional.
What about your work prior to Amazon?
I have 20+ years in payments, having worked at Discover Card Services and PayPal. I started in door-to-door sales, which proved the best experience I could have possibly wanted. I can walk into any scenario and not take no for an answer. From door-to-door sales, I progressed to national and global merchant management, along with managing account management teams and cross-functional team collaboration. I’ve also been an adjunct professor at Los Angeles Community College, teaching Small Business Management. Teaching was an awesome experience and one path I’ll return to one day.
What is your favorite leadership principle and why?
Customer obsession. I’ve always been customer focused and know if you truly listen and strive to make customers happy (internally and externally), they’ll respect you and partner with you.
What’s the best thing about coming to work each day? Is there a perk to your job that might surprise people?
Being aligned with a global brand that makes a difference in people’s lives. Plus, I love our employee discount, but have to admit I wish it were more than 10% capped at $100. Just sayin’. :)
What are some of your passions or something that excites you outside of work?
Wow, where do I begin? My passion is living life to its fullest. I’ve been to 15 different countries, with more to explore. I love gardening, cycling (I’ve done a century ride), HIIT, reading, praying, meditation (need more time for this one), yoga, laying out on the beach (an L.A. thing), spending time with friends and family, and hosting parties. I also love cooking my family’s Southern traditional recipes, handed down from my ancestors.
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