March 10th / 63 MIN

Amazon’s Joanna Peña-Bickley: Bringing more diversity into leadership

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Joanna Peña-Bickley

Joanna Peña-Bickley

Head of Research and Design for Alexa Devices, Amazon
About The Episode

Joanna Peña-Bickley has had an amazing arc to her design leadership career: from Chief Creative Officer at Matter Worldwide and IBM, to her current role as Head of Research and Design for Alexa Devices at Amazon, Joanna has always sought to design things that are “useful, usable, and magical.”

In this interview, we talk with Joanna about working cross functionally with both software and hardware teams, and what she’s learned about building a more connected workflow. We also get Joanna’s take on speaking design in the language of business, and how she works to bring more diversity into leadership at the companies where she’s worked.


  • How Joanna approaches building high-functioning teams.
  • What the opportunities and challenges are when designing for invisible interfaces.
  • How to create partnerships that will make your team successful.


Joanna Peña-Bickley, Head of Research & Design, Alexa Devices at Amazon, is a 21st century renaissance woman, a design technologist, known as the mother of Cognitive Experience Design. She is propelled by a multidisciplinary acumen in design, data, media and technology, her insatiable curiosity moves the C-Suite beyond obvious ideas and products, towards enduring market making experiences for the connected era.

Joanna’s award-winning artist hand has helped the world’s most recognized companies and brands, such as Land Rover, Nokia, Sephora, American Express, John Deere, Boeing, MTV, Pepsi, and Jay Z imagine and make innovative breakthroughs, with a philosophy of radical collaboration, empathetic conviction and remarkable digital craft. Whether creating one of the first streaming video players, that changed the delivery of live news events for ABC, designing the first banking app for the Apple Watch, that made banking personal again for Citibank, reinventing the connected car as a cognitive mobility platform for General Motor’s OnStar, or inventing new Alexa Devices for Amazon, Joanna’s tenacious creativity disrupts industry and makes new markets.

Named one of 2020’s Most Powerful Women Internationally by Fortune Magazine, a Power Woman of New York, 2019 President of the D&AD Digital Jury and one of Silicon Alley’s “Top 100 Rising Stars” her creativity and design leadership are fueled by the belief that human truth, data and creativity are inextricably linked to designing inventions that matter for business and Spaceship Earth.

Books Mentioned

How to Fight Anti-Semitism by Bari Weiss

Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light by Leonard Shlain

Lead from the Outside by Stacey Abrams





Meet Your Hosts

Aarron Walter
VP of Design Education

Aarron Walter is Director of Product on the COVID Response team at Resolve to Save Lives. Previously, he was VP of Design Education at InVision, and founded the UX practice at Mailchimp where he helped grow the product from a few thousand users to more than 10 million. He’s the author of a number of books, the latest of which is a second edition of Designing for Emotion. Aarron’s design guidance has helped the White House, the US Department of State, and dozens of major corporations, startups, and venture capital firms.

You can find Aarron on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Eli Woolery
Director of Design Education

Eli is the Director of Design Education at InVision. His design career spans both physical and digital products, and he has worked with companies ranging from startups (his own and others) to Fortune 500 companies.

In addition to his background in product and industrial design, he has been a professional photographer and filmmaker. He teaches the senior capstone class Implementation to undergraduate Product Designers at Stanford University. You can find Eli on Twitter and Medium.

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