When Amazon Meets Automotive Leadership: Insights from Wendy Bauer

When Amazon Meets Automotive Leadership: Insights from Wendy Bauer

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Everyone wants to know about Amazon. Its ultra-fast, customer-centric culture couldn’t be more different from traditional automotive, but in the age of software-defined vehicles, leveraging cloud technology is vital for OEMs.

Wendy Bauer has a strong background in traditional automotive and currently serves as the general manager of Amazon Web Services (AWS) for automotive and manufacturing. AWS helps companies operate more efficiently and better understand their customers’ needs. Yet despite the limitless capabilities, there are often challenges in bringing enterprise cloud computing to the auto industry.

“These two worlds are colliding in many ways,” says Wendy, “but they talk past each other — often. I see it every day.”

To remove the obstacles, companies need a culture of innovation. It’s more than just cloud computing or performance diagnostics. Partnering with tech companies is a strategic decision that requires enterprise-level buy-in. From rethinking workflows to creating top-down changes in the corporate mindset, automotive leaders can unlock the potential of a full-scale digital transformation.

Wendy joins the Automotive Leaders Podcast to share more about what’s possible with Amazon Web Services. Jan presses for details about how OEMs can accelerate forward to prioritize big data. These aren’t far-fetched, futuristic ideas. But for change to happen, companies need to embrace it.

Themes discussed in this episode:

●      How Amazon Web Services can help the automotive industry

●      Why OEMs need big data to stay competitive in today’s market

●      The steps involved for an OEM to purchase cloud services

●      Why do so many companies struggle to implement enterprise-level solutions

●      The importance of failure in a culture of innovation

●      Listening skills as the key to open communication

●      The mindset required to maximize the potential of cloud technology

Guest: Wendy Bauer

What she does: Following a successful career in the auto industry, Wendy has worked with Amazon Web Services since 2019. She currently serves as the general manager for automotive and manufacturing, where she helps automotive companies leverage data and cloud-based technology to develop new products and work more efficiently.

 On leadership: “[Listening] can’t be understated … we will far sub-optimize what is possible with our organizations as leaders if we don't listen more than then we speak.”

Episode Highlights

Timestamped inflection points from the show

[0:58] Ask Alexa: Everyone knows about Amazon’s fast delivery speeds and home devices, but what are they doing in auto? Wendy describes the mission of Amazon Web Services for automotive.

 [3:48] Put simply: What does “leveraging cloud-based IT capabilities to maximize value” really mean? Wendy explains how Amazon collects data to help OEMs understand their customers’ needs.

 [6:03] Problem solving for optimization: Many automotive companies recognize the strategic decision of partnering with technology companies. Jan and Wendy discuss how OEMs purchase cloud services.

 [9:05] Speaking the same language: The tech and automotive worlds often talk past each other. What does it take to bridge the gap in communication? Wendy gives an example.

 [14:04] The speed of innovation: Wendy shares the difference between a one-way door and a two-way door — a mental model for implementing new ideas.

[16:59] Advice for auto industry leaders: How can leaders create space to fail and a culture of innovation? Jan and Wendy discuss the importance of different perspectives.

 [22:22] Building the ecosystem: The conversation turns to the future implications of software-defined vehicles. How will they affect the business model of OEMs?

[27:52] 21 traits: Of Jan’s 21 traits of authentic leadership, Wendy chooses trust and listening skills. She says that in complex business dealings, partnering is an art form. You can’t play the “blame game.”

 [36:17] Get in the boat: Jan asks about the fun stuff. Wendy brags about her team and shares her leadership secret for how they work so well together.

[42:31] Closing comments: Wendy challenges automotive leaders to challenge their understanding of what is truly possible.

Top quotes

[12:34] Wendy: “When you start to talk about technology transformation, generally things that are very valuable at an enterprise level and don't fit squarely into a bucket … technology is one variable. There's culture, there's [the] business process, there's data flow — there are so many layers to this onion.”

 [17:02] Jan: “In a lot of Tier 1 [companies] out there, the CEO will talk about innovation, and then he'll look at his VP of engineering or technology and go, ‘You’ve got that on your agenda for this year.’ And it's like, no, wait a minute — slow down. Innovation is part of the culture. It's not a thing that somebody does.”

 [30:23] Wendy: “I can't underscore the trust piece [enough]. Every minute of every day in

every conversation … in the speed that we're moving, [with] the complexity of the problems that have to be solved and the opportunities that we all have in working together, that single thread of trust just has to be there, or you not going to get anywhere.”

[38:19] Wendy: “At one of my employers along the way, I learned this notion of bad news first. Go solve it. It's not about blame. It's about making that constant improvement on behalf of the customer. I want to know what's wrong because we want to get better.”

[44:28] Wendy: “There’s such an opportunity to really advance our understanding of what is possible and what is here [with digital transformation]. It is not far away.”

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