Navigating Innovation and Inclusion: Insights from Amazon’s VP of Shopping Video

Wayne Purboo shares perspectives on diversity, mentorship, and initiatives empowering Black professionals in business.

In today’s evolving business landscape, the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion cannot be overstated. As companies strive to develop innovative solutions that resonate with diverse audiences, the perspectives and experiences of individuals from different backgrounds become invaluable. Wayne Purboo, vice president of Amazon Shopping Video, is at the forefront of this movement, leading efforts to integrate these values into Amazon’s operations. 

The self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur has more than 30 years of experience in the media and telecom arena—spanning executive roles at companies like Solect Technology Group, QuickPlay Media, and AT&T. In conversation with Canadian Business, Purboo shares insights into the challenges faced by Black professionals in the business world, discusses initiatives aimed at bridging the hiring gap for graduates, and highlights the importance of mentorship. 

As Vice President of Amazon Shopping Video, can you describe your role in enhancing video shopping for customers?

My role focuses on creating a shopping experience where customers can make informed decisions through videos that spotlight products, creator insights, and customer reviews. Ultimately, this programming helps customers  understand how items look and fit.  Our goal is to empower customers globally with better purchasing decisions.

What’s your perspective on diversity and inclusion in developing innovative solutions, and how does Amazon integrate these values?

Diversity, equity and inclusion are essential for creating solutions that cater to our diverse customer base. Without these perspectives, we can’t successfully address our customer’s needs. Amazon is continually improving in this area, striving for a more diverse workforce and valuing different voices in all our product decisions.

What are the key challenges for Black professionals in business, and how can they be addressed?

Black professionals often face a lack of awareness from hiring managers about available talent and a deficit in social capital to effectively engage with the business community. Efforts like mentorship and coaching are important steps forward. Building awareness about Black professionals and providing them more exposure can enhance their access to business opportunities.  

How has mentorship influenced your career?

Mentorship has been pivotal in my career. I’ve learned from many mentors, both directly and indirectly, either them sharing their durable solutions or through observing how they solve problems. Now, mentoring others at Amazon, I share effective strategies that have worked for me, aiming to guide them towards success at Amazon.  

Can you discuss the Onyx Initiative and its role in bridging the hiring gap for Black graduates?

Following the social unrest of 2020, my wife Nigela and I launched the Onyx Initiative to support Black college and university students in securing their first role in corporate Canada. It’s a passion project very close to our hearts that draws on our experiences and network. We address misconceptions about the availability of Black talent among Canadian employers and align students with careers that match their studies. Today Onyx supports 750 students and 60 corporations.

Could you tell us about the Amazon Black Leaders (ABLE) initiative and its impact?

ABLE brings together Black leaders at Amazon to enhance the Black experience within the company and our communities. We focus on improving internal experiences and contributing positively to communities where Amazon has a significant presence. Through regular meetings, we track our goals and discuss various programs, aiming to uplift the community within and outside Amazon. 

What advice would you give to aspiring Black entrepreneurs and business leaders?

My advice is to not let the colour of your skin define your potential. Overcome imposter syndrome and be resilient; keep seeking opportunities and make the most of them when they arise. Recognizing that our community often gets fewer chances, it’s crucial to seize every opportunity diligently.