Chiara Longhi is the Innovation Principal Lead at Amazon Web Services (AWS) and has significant expertise in assisting enterprises in their innovation and transformation journeys. In her role, Chiara helps executive leaders across Asia, the Pacific, and Japan develop and launch innovative solutions that prioritize customer-centricity. Chiara also serves as an Amazon Bar Raiser and has evaluated almost 400 candidates during her time in the company.
Chiara’s passion for technology and international markets led her to live and work across the United States, Asia, and Oceania for the past 12 years. Before joining the AWS Innovation team, she was part of the team that helped launch Amazon in Australia in 2017 and Singapore in 2019. Previous to that, she worked for LinkedIn, based out of Hong Kong, supporting the business’ expansion across Japan and Korea. Chiara began her career in tech at AOL after earning her Economics Bachelor’s degree from Bocconi University, and her Master’s degree from New York University.
Chiara’s passion for innovation has also led her to establish the Moonshot Company, a tailored program that aims to enable people with the knowledge and tools they need to unleash their potential and reach their goals: from helping individuals land their dream job through 1-1 coaching, interviewing tips and resume reviews, to advising professionals and businesses on topics such as emotional intelligence for leadership and success, product strategy and customer-centricity innovation.
Recently we got an opportunity to sit down with Chiara to learn how she and her team are changing the world for the better.
Below are the highlights of the interview.
Q) How do you motivate creativity and innovation while maintaining a healthy work environment?
Chiara) They can absolutely co-exist, and I think they actually fuel each other! The healthier your environment is, the greater your abilities to be creative and innovative will be. The first step is to be intentional about prioritizing your well-being rather than working for and backwards from deadlines. I personally need a good dose of energy and a healthy one of stress as well to operate at my best. Multiple studies have actually shown how the sweet spot for an innovative mindset is that middle energy/middle-stress area: too little stress/ energy has a great chance of making you bored, and overly high stress/energy brings you into that wanky phase..both are not ideal when you are trying to encourage creativity. So my tip is to find what gives you energy (for me is spending time outdoors, exercising, and having quality time with loved ones), establish an ambitious but realistic plan, and then..kick it off! Something very important that I have learned at Amazon is the importance of being stubborn on the vision but flexible on the details. Not everything will work out exactly as you imagined it first, and that is not a bad thing. If you believe in your idea, don’t give up on following your north star, but be flexible in how you will get to it.
Q) What are the major challenges of the industry, in your opinion? How are you tackling those?
Chiara) When it comes to corporate innovation, the most common blocker I have noticed is actually not really linked to resources, funding, or technology limitations- it actually comes from the company culture. A company culture that hires talent but then doesn’t develop it, or doesn’t really enable and incentivize employees to experiment and innovate, will most likely struggle to bring any creativity or innovation out there. And company culture goes well beyond the free lunches, playful offices, or benefits businesses might offer their employees. Company culture starts with the type of talent an organization hires, the investment and commitment they show in developing and nurturing that talent, and the ability to create a safe environment where people are not scared to experiment and maybe fail, but are actually expected to do so.
When it comes to individuals trying to achieve their goals, the two common blockers I have noticed are impostor syndrome and fear of failing, and they both bring people to simply..never giving it a try. I always try to remind people that even if you try and don’t succeed, you are not failing, you are learning. There is a quote from Michael Jordan I love- “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”. I wish more people could turn this into their personal mantra- I am sure we would have so much more innovation around us!
There are plenty of other challenges, but these are surely the top ones from my point of view based on the insights I gathered in years working directly in this field.
Q) What are your mission and vision? And what would be the best roadmap to achieve that?
Chiara) My mission is to enable as many individuals as possible to unleash their potential and get to what makes them fulfilled, but also provide actual tools and mechanisms for them to do so. I am a huge believer that real enablement occurs when after some time, people don’t need you anymore. It is very important to inspire and motivate others, but you need to provide people with actual tools, so they can proceed in their growing journey once you leave the room. A huge part of my mission involves helping corporations as well, as they are ultimately conglomerates of individuals and such key players in people’s life. We spend 70-80% of our time at work ( if not more)- if more individuals and businesses can master their ability to be creative and innovate while also thriving in doing so, it will genuinely be a better place for all of us.
Q) What milestones and achievements are you most proud of?
Chiara) The launch of Amazon.com in Australia has probably been one of the most incredible chapters of my professional experience. I remember when I first was contacted for the role, they couldn’t share many details about it due to its confidential nature. So they flew me to Sydney from Hong Kong to meet with the interview panel, and that is when I signed an NDA and was able to get a better understanding of it all. A couple of weeks later, I was getting ready to move with a one-way ticket to Australia, which was in itself something that had never been in my plans. The first few months on the job were pure adrenaline- it was only a few of us, and we often worked around the clock. That period was so tiring, and yet you could see how much we all were loving it: we were energized, motivated, inspired by each other, and definitely felt we were all in this journey together as a team, all thriving for a much bigger purpose. Being able to then re-live a similar experience couple of years later with the launch of Amazon in Singapore made it even better, as it allowed me to look at that launch with a much more “focused” (and also less stressful) approach.
Q) What would you like to be remembered for by your peers?
Chiara) I hope I will be able to be remembered as somebody that never compromised on their values for the sake of easier or faster success. A courageous leader that was able to show up in the moments that mattered. I hope I will be remembered not just for my achievements but also for the ethic, respect, and humanity I carried throughout their pursuit. And lastly, with themoonshotcompany.co, I hope I’ll be able to broaden my own legacy, having positively influenced the path of thousands of others.
Q) What are you looking to accomplish in the next 5 years from a personal as well as professional point of view?
Chiara) There is some big news coming up on both fronts- I am an extremely superstitious person, so I tend not to speak about anything until I see it live! But you can follow/reach out to me on Linkedin or visit chiaralonghi.com to be up to date!