Rachel Zerrell has only been in her current job for a couple of years, but it’s a role she’s been working toward for as long as she can remember.
The diversity senior program manager for Kindle content and consumer engagement at Amazon is tasked with bringing people together from different backgrounds and helping them work with one another in ways that make use of their perspectives. She started exploring racism, sexism, and other oppressions in her early teens, then went on to study the history of religion at Pomona College.
“When I got this job, everyone’s reaction was, ‘Oh, of course that’s your job,’” Zerrell says. “I came to this role both with a lot of knowledge and a lot to learn, and I love that — that’s been a great combination.”
Every day is different, but she focuses on analyzing data and doing research, then applying those insights to help leaders go after the most important problems in the most effective ways. “I might spend the morning looking at workforce data to form hypotheses to investigate more,” she says, “and in the afternoon, I might interview a senior leader who’s done a great job of making their team in India feel included, then use what I learned in that interview to help other leaders learn those same behaviors.”
Zerrell traces much of her interest in this field to her Jewish upbringing, citing concepts like tikkun olam and teshuva (repentance) as formative. “One of the core values that I learned growing up is pluralism, which I define as being part of a community that’s both united and diverse,” she says.
In her spare time, Zerrell enjoys hiking and playing board games, and she serves on the board of directors at Temple Beth Am in North Seattle. She also does racial justice work with local organizations, including the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites.
“It’s really important to understand the societal biases and power dynamics that we all bring with us to work and everywhere else in our lives,” she says. “I think of racism and sexism not as rare, bad events, but as systems that all of us are immersed in and [that] are influencing us unconsciously.”