Debra Chrapaty Unleashes Her Superpowers to Expand the Reach of Alexa Global Business

Kellie Garnett Mar 03, 2021
Women of Voice Inspiration Spotlight

As a woman in an often male-dominated world of technology, Debra Chrapaty learned long ago  to make hard choices and live unapologetically. She also learned to emphatically embrace her “superpowers,” those special qualities that make each individual’s contributions unique and valuable. After more than 35 years as an executive for startups to major global tech giants, Chrapaty now brings those superpowers to Amazon as VP and COO of Alexa Global Business.

Since August 2020, Chrapaty has led teams building Alexa entertainment and household organization experiences as well as Alexa Voice Service, Alexa Auto, and the Alexa international team. Leadership across these teams necessarily involves a dual focus: vertically across areas like music, education, and communication, as well as horizontally across worldwide geographies and systems. Her mission is to deliver ongoing innovation in customer value and to drive financial performance, not only for Amazon Alexa but for its partners across the globe. 

“From the beginning, we knew we didn’t have all the answers nor could we build everything ourselves, but we can empower them through tools and services, programs and investments,” said Chrapaty. “It’s my job and the job of every person at Amazon to help our partners realize increased revenue and customer engagement through an ever-expanding number of channels and opportunities.”

Equal Parts Executive and Entrepreneur

Chrapaty has never shied away from a challenge, and growing Alexa’s global business footprint is no exception. In fact, her leadership background makes her uniquely qualified. Chrapaty most recently served as CTO for Wells Fargo, where she managed the FinTech’s cloud, its Agile development implementation, engineering, enterprise architecture and all the tools, products, and training. Through her efforts and those of a devoted team, Wells Fargo was able to serve over 70 million customers and manage nearly $2 trillion in assets. She’s also held the reins at tech innovators like E*TRADE (president and COO), Microsoft (corporate vice president), and Cisco (senior VP of collaboration software). She’s even been the CTO for the NBA.

Tech giants aside, Chrapaty is an entrepreneur at heart, understanding firsthand the challenges Alexa developers and startups face. She’s experienced immense satisfaction helping startups grow into efficient, profitable businesses. For example, Chrapaty served as CEO of cloud storage pioneer Nirvanix and COO of Declara, an enterprise collaboration platform. And because “all work and no play” is a “no-no” even for executives, as CIO of Zynga, Chrapaty scaled the company’s gaming technology platform to support millions of users.

All this prepared Chrapaty for what she says is the most exciting opportunity in her many years in technology. When an Amazon recruiter presented the opportunity to lead Amazon Global Business, Chrapaty simply said, “You had me at Alexa.” And that’s something every Alexa developer, startup, partner, or device maker can truly relate to.

Paving a Smoother Way for Alexa Partners of All Sizes

With hundreds of millions of Alexa-enabled devices in the homes and offices of consumers, Alexa has also found its way into the hearts of developers and businesses everywhere. That, Chrapaty say, is a phenomena that has swept the globe, putting voice technology firmly on the radar of not just customers but companies worldwide. That’s why it has always been the mission of the Amazon Alexa team to build core technologies which delight customers. To grow that promise, that means enabling developers to build engaging voice-first experiences that keep customers coming back and Alexa-enabled devices that entertain, protect, and simplify customers’ lives. This all ladders up to Amazon’s overall vision for ambient computing: technology that is always available to make life easier and better – without getting in the way

From Day One, Chrapaty saw the importance of getting Alexa just right for the customer—making it personal and more helpful—but also continuing to better enable its partners in the development community. That’s why Chrapaty is doubling down on tools and programs that make it easier for partners to create more natural, immersive experiences, to leverage the best programs and tools, and to grow profitable voice-based businesses.

“It’s our partner community that helps make the voice interaction model so powerful and compelling,” said Chrapaty. “As both an executive and entrepreneur, I understand it takes time, investment, and resources to tackle the complex challenges of bringing delightful voice experiences to customers, not only for us but for our partners large and small, wherever they are in the world.”

One of those programs, says Chrapaty, is the Alexa Fund. In the past five years alone, the Alexa Fund has invested in more than 90 companies, spanning industries that include AI and machine learning, commerce, education, health and wellness, smart home, transportation, consumer tech, and many more. Now Chrapaty is excited to address challenges in diversity, equity and inclusion in startups and venture capital by launching new Alexa Fund programs that help improve equity for underrepresented founders.

Embracing a Culture of Dreamers and Builders

One of the core values Chrapaty shares with Amazon’s corporate philosophy is how to view technology’s natural growth and evolution. This shared vision believe it takes dreamers and builders to invent new technologies and that we, as humans, fundamentally can and should be both. As a dreamer, Chrapaty doesn’t just want to improve Alexa, but to push the boundaries of what customers can do with voice technology and ambient computing—and that takes time and patience. Builders, she says, accept failure as part of experimentation and learn from it. They don’t get disappointed when things don’t work right away—instead they are inspired by that process.  

“Whether you are part of the Alexa Fund, a startup that has joined Alexa Next Stage, a research team in the Alexa Fellowship, or one of the thousands of developers and device makers that make up the Alexa global community,” said Chrapaty, “We want you to be inspired by those who live and breathe the ‘builder’ and ‘dreamer’ mindsets every day,” said Chrapaty.

Embracing Superpowers to Simplify Complexity, Build Customer Value, and Make a Difference

Chrapaty knew at once she fit right into the Amazon culture which supports the idea that employees—just like her—should embrace their “superpowers.” She says her own superpowers include simplifying complexity and translating it to customer value, a talent that 35 years in technology has helped her hone. She also credits honesty, transparency, humility, keeping an open mind and open door, and focusing and committing to success. That’s why she wants to inspire not only Amazon teams but their partners across the globe to hold and strive for a high bar of excellence when it comes to delivering the “dream” to their customers.

What can you do to put those superpowers to best use? Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur just starting out or a seasoned technology veteran, Chrapaty offers a few words of advice and encouragement.

  • Never dismiss the powers of education—in both business and technology—and of giving yourself the freedom to experience and experiment with new ideas.
  • Amazon is committed to making sure our core value to our customers is rock solid—you should, too.
  • Double down on the basics—make the customer experience useful, simple, and personalized, while maintaining high standards for customer data privacy. This will build customer trust, expand your reach, and set the stage for richer monetizeable experiences.

Above all, Chrapaty knows the value of Alexa partners, from the largest to the smallest. When  partners are successful, Amazon is successful. And ensuring that success is what Chrapaty’s Alexa Global Business team is all about.

“As we say at Amazon, it’s always Day One,” said Chrapaty. “We’re just getting started with what’s possible with voice technology and ambient computing, which is we’re doubling-down on investing in services for developers and entrepreneurs. I can’t wait to see what they will build next.”

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