BDL2, an Amazon fulfillment center in Windsor, CT, employs about 1,800 full-time people, nearly all women, and is led by General Manager Shirley Tarabochia. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Shirley about how she came to Connecticut from Lima, Peru and moved up in the ranks at Amazon, the guidance and mentorship she received along the way, and how she intends to continue giving back to other women.
NAN PRICE: Give us a little background about how you got to where you are now.
SHIRLEY TARABOCHIA: My dream was always to go abroad and study for my Master of Business Administration. I taught myself English and in 2015 I applied to the University of Connecticut, which offered me a full scholarship. I graduated in 2017.
I came to the United States in September 2015. In 2016, I joined Amazon as a Pathways Operation Manager intern in Shepherdsville, KY. The company offered me a full-time job soon after that. In 2017, I transitioned to a building in Columbia, SC. I loved it there and learned a lot about Amazon and the processes.
Then in 2019, I was promoted to Senior Operations Manager, which is when I transitioned to BDL2 and came to back to Connecticut. In 2020, I transitioned to the Assistant General Manager role and in 2021, I was promoted to General Manager.
All along, I had female and male allies who advocated for me throughout my career journey. I learned a lot from them.
NAN: I loved hearing your journey from interning to leading almost 2,000 people. Tell us what it’s been like to step into those leadership roles.
SHIRLEY: There’s a progression. It doesn’t happen overnight. For example, when I was an intern, I wasn’t actively leading anyone. When I stepped into the Area Manager role, I started with 50 people and increased to 100. Then, as an Operations Manager, that increased to 300. The company was super supportive. I had one-on-ones with my leaders and a specific training plan that helped me progress to where I am now.
Amazon provides mentorship and coaching and tools and techniques that give you the opportunity to progress in your career journey. I’ve had great leaders who helped me navigate through many challenges. I’ve also had female leaders and male allies who advocated for me throughout my career journey. I may not have always had a seat at the table, but I definitely brought my folding chair and have been part of some of the decision process.
What I learned school at school was also helpful, too because I could apply what I saw in books. Those were my guidance and my reference points.
NAN: You brought up mentorship, which you’ve received. How are you now mentoring forward and giving back?
SHIRLEY: Giving back is one of my top priorities. I had the opportunity to come to the United States and study at a great school with a full scholarship. That means I have a huge responsibility now. How do I give back to the university? How do I give back to future leaders who haven’t had the opportunity to receive these benefits? One thing that can be very impactful is giving back with time.
Time is very valuable—so is knowledge. It can create a major return to the community, to the university, to all those people who trusted me on this journey. That’s my way to give back.
I work with mentees inside and outside of Amazon, not only here in United States, but also in Peru. Through my connection with UConn I’m also mentoring some future professionals.
I see some of these future leaders growing and growing without sometimes pausing and enjoying where they currently are. I share about things I wish I could have done differently—I wish I could have learned how to problem solve better or I wish I would’ve enjoyed a specific role more. Sharing those lessons learned is part of my giving back to future leaders inside and outside of the company.
NAN: You touched on some of the ways you’re supporting other women employees through leadership and mentorship. In what ways does Amazon support local women-owned businesses.
SHIRLEY: On International Women’s Day March 8, three women on my leadership team and I hosted a panel discussion with a group of UConn seniors. It was the beginning of a new mentorship program that we’ll continue with things like educational sessions, resume reviews, and mock interviews.
This mentorship program just one of the many ways our Amazon facility is celebrating and uplifting our female employees. In March BDL2 hosted a mobile mammogram clinic at the facility. We’re also working on spotlighting women-owned local businesses by inviting them to our building for pop-up shopping opportunities, whether they’re selling cookies or homemade soaps and lotions in the building or bringing their food truck to the parking lot. If we can help sustain them, we will.
As females, we sometimes think we can let our work speak for itself or rely on word of mouth to advertise our business. We want to provide more opportunities for these small women-owned businesses to get out and sell their products and tell people the amazing things they’re doing.
Something I encourage a lot is breaking those biases. Let’s start breaking some of those rules of thinking: I’ll let my work speak for itself or I’m not going to raise my hand and ask for something specific. Instead, let’s go out there and request support. What’s the worst thing that could happen, they say, no?
NAN: Then we keep asking.
SHIRLEY: Right. We keep asking.