In this episode of the Bet On Yourself podcast, I speak to Sage Ke'alohilani Quiamno, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Amazon Prime Video and Studios. Having wanted to be a lawyer as a child, Sage has always sought justice in the world and has since dedicated her career to ensuring that businesses – both brand-new startups and large, global corporates – are representative of the communities they serve. She is also now using her platform to give back to the people of Hawaii through trust-based philanthropy, as a board member of the Hawaii People's Fund. Sage's story from international canoe paddling competitions to boardrooms across America is as colourful as it is moving, and I can't wait to share it with you today.
[Ann 00:00:00] Welcome to this week's episode of the Bet on Yourself podcast, where we speak to some of the world's most inspirational people who have all, at some point in their careers, taken a huge bet on themselves, transforming them personally and professionally. Today, I am joined by Sage Ke'alohilani Quiamno, an award winning entrepreneur, speaker and change maker and proud native Hawai'ian. Originally from the island of Oahu, she is a nationally recognized diversity, equity and inclusion leader with experience in talent diversification, retention, employment development, internal and external DEI Communications, DEI training, data analytics and global DIY strategy. Sage currently works for Amazon Studios and Prime Global as Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader. Both professionally and personally Sage is relentlessly committed to intersectional social justice, advocating for communities of color, LGBTQIA community and pay equity. Her work is grounded in centering the experiences of historically underrepresented communities with those with intersectional identities to achieve equity. I first met Sage at this year's SXSW Conference and was hugely inspired by her, her story and her incredible work. I am so excited to be talking with Sage today and share her story with you. And if you enjoy it as much as I think you will, then please be sure to let me know in all the usual places such as a review on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or wherever you happen to be listening right now.
[Ann 00:01:34] Sage, I want to welcome you to the Bet on Yourself podcast.
[Sage 00:01:38] Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.
[Ann 00:01:41] So I want to – It's important to me to properly pronounce your full name. I have been practicing. I watched, like a bunch of YouTube videos of interviews with you so that I would get it correct. So here's my best attempt. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Sage Ke'alohilani Quiamno.
[Sage 00:02:00] Yeah. No. Oh, yeah, yeah.
[Ann 00:02:03] I read that several times and then I was like, I had this terror of like, what if the people that I've been rehearsing to set it wrong and I've been practicing it like 50 times and, and got it incorrect. So sorry. It's really important to me to say it properly. So thank you for the proper pronunciation.
[Sage 00:02:17] Oh, thank you. And I appreciate it.
[Ann 00:02:20] Yeah, well, I am thrilled to have you on the podcast today. I actually first saw you speak at SXSW, where I was also a speaker here in 2022. And the second I saw you, I emailed my team and I was like, I would love to have her on the Bet on Yourself podcast because I think so much about your approach to your life and career and your ambitions would really resonate with our listeners. So where we like to start here at Bet on Yourself is way back in the very, very beginning. I am curious, what did you want to be when you were a little girl Like, what did small sage dream that she was going to become?
[Sage 00:02:56] Yeah, well, thank you so much. And first of all for having me on this podcast. Aloha, everyone. Aloha, listeners. My name is Sage Ke'alohilani Quiamno, my pronouns are she/her And I am a proud native Hawai'ian woman from the island of Oahu, Hawai'i. And what I, you know, little Sage or, you know, little Ke'alo, what I've always wanted to be when I grew up. Right. That was the question. [Yeah.] Funny enough, I always wanted to be an attorney.
[Ann 00:03:22] Oh, boy. A serious little girl. Did you love arguing areas?
[Sage 00:03:30] Yes. So, you know, when I was younger, we actually we went to a field trip and we we went to like a court, like a courtroom. And, you know, we discussed land laws and fourth or fifth grade and really doing trials like mock trials and debating one another about land rights in Hawai'i, because land rights, especially back in the 1800s, 1900s, was a very tumultuous time of colonization and native Hawai'ians losing land. And what it meant for native Hawai'ians who did not speak English and also did not write in English. And that was in our culture, in our culture land was given to us by our by our ancestors, and they didn't need us contract. And once the US came in and slapped contracts in our faces, we couldn't read or understand. So as a little fourth or fifth grader, we debated that. And that was kind of something that I really was attracted to is I really love defending. I love defending people. I love creating arguments and proving a point or providing evidence and research. So that was what I wanted to do when I was young.
[Ann 00:04:44] I love that I wasn't expecting that answer, but it actually really makes sense given the direction your life and passions have taken in it in your career. We will come back to the next phases of your development, but I also want to get into a little bit more of the fun facts of exploring who Sage is. And I have heard that you are a national canoe paddling champion. In fact, you've done a 32 mile open ocean race. Please. How did that get started? Is that part because of the inspiration of I've seen it in Hawai'ian tradition? Is that how you first got into that through your connections here?
[Sage 00:05:21] Definitely, yeah, through my culture. So Native Hawai'ians, we canoe paddle just like Native Americans in the continental U.S., but also across Polynesia. Canoe racing is a part of my culture. It's a sport that I grew up with as a teenager. And when I moved to Seattle, Washington, I found a Hawai'ian canoe racing club and we gathered a team of women. And we actually it was about six of us that flew down to Newport Beach, California, and we did the national like a nationally famous race called the Catalina Race. And so from Newport Beach to Catalina Island, Open Ocean, we did about 32 miles and we won. We won fourth place out of 75 crews and about, 4th place is still... we still get trophies. And I think overall, it's amazing. And so out of 75 crews, we won fourth place and we were among the ranks of like really top contenders like the Asian teams. And these women are like Amazonian like this is their sport. They're like pros. And the fact that we actually played with them was a big deal. And so I love canoe racing, it keeps me grounded and to my culture. It's exactly what my ancestors did back in the day. And it connects me to water because water is a big connection for our native Hawai'ians. So yeah, I'm a really proud paddler and has been a great yeah, it's been a great grounding mechanism as I pursue my own, you know, just my life, but also my career.
[Ann 00:06:53] I think it's incredible. I love to hear about people's passions and hobbies, especially something at that level where it connects you to something deep inside your core. At Google, I was there for 12 years and one of my favorite parts of interviewing was sometimes I was challenged to assess one of our most important scores, which was your Googliness and your Googliness score was just a reflection of can we see your passions, your quirks, your passion, your strength, your drive coming out in more than just your work or education? And so you were canoe championship would have scored high on the Googliness scale.
[Sage 00:07:30] I like that.
[Ann 00:07:31] Oh, you talk a lot about you, right? Just in that one hobby that you have, I've learned so much about what's important to you and and ways that you like to express it. That's fascinating. So early in your career, you well before your career, you started your education still there in Hawai'i. You studied public relations and business marketing at the University of Hawai'i. What attracted you to that major originally? Was that inspired by maybe that that fourth grade experience of of how you wanted to express yourself and represent your culture in community?
[Sage 00:08:05] You're correct. You know, communication and public relations has always been fascinating to me, especially marketing, because how do you persuade people? Persuasion has always been very fascinating to me because it actually spurs people into action. Right, whether it's good or bad or what have you. Right. And that was really interesting to me, especially in high school. I was in speech and debate and competed in debate tournaments back in high school, but also in college. And you know, how what are the methods of persuasion? And I think communications, public relations and marketing is always such a key driver that people really underestimate. You know, when we thinking about political movements, social movements, PR marketing, branding has always been a part of it. Now we can see the you know, now we can actually see the power of that just through social media and everything else. And that's why I got into comms, is that I knew that I'm a strong communicator. I really write well, but I also like communicating ideas and I'm a storyteller. And the only probably the only subject was probably that was the PR and the business marketing. So that's how I, that's why I decided to pursue that.
[Ann 00:09:25] I find it fascinating how these connectors throughout your life, there's some consistent elements that stay the same. And then the way in which we present that or show up in our in our work, our community can evolve over time. And I find that fascinating about your career, especially in your early career. You tried on a lot of things, and I find this is the modern approach to careers. I'm about ten years older than you, and that really didn't people weren't moving and trying out as much in their early careers. I love to see this happening now because you learn so much about what you do and don't like where it wakes up. New talents or interest that you didn't know you had. And so I wonder if you can walk me through the first couple of years of your career because you did some really incredible things. And I also think it's interesting that you've had a full circle with Amazon in your career as well. You started there early and now you're back there now. So just in those first couple of years, talk me through how you chose your opportunities and how you explored some of your talents by trying on different organizations.
[Sage 00:10:27] Yeah, yeah. And so a context everyone, I am an Aries woman, so I really wanted to do astrology. I'm an Aries woman and I'm a big risk taker. I'm all about action and I'm all about taking a chance on opportunity. And so my approach, especially in college, through my internships, was like, okay, so what, what interests me and let me see what kind of opportunities I could see what I could take, but also what can I learn from them? So like first was diving into public relations, working at ad agency, second was working in communications for for the governor over in politics. What does that look like? And then, yeah, right after college decided to apply to the top probably four or five tech companies because tech, especially as a millennial, that really influenced me and I knew that my spirit was rebellious. I knew I wanted to work fast, I knew I wanted to be in technology. And that's why I applied at these tech companies. And first was at Amazon doing PR for Kindle Fire, the Kindle Fire team at that time. And yeah, I mean, my first experience out of college and it was a whirlwind because not only was it a culture shock as our native wired moving to the U.S. mainland and that totally just Hawai'i to Seattle, I think people always ask me, why did you do that? Ask me [Why leave paradise for the...?] why exactly? But that was a great experience. But I just knew that it was a large company and I went to a Catholic school all my life and all girls Catholic school, and I went to a large college, state college. But it was tough for me to work in that environment where everything at that point in my life was new. And so I decided to leave Amazon to work at startup. So I worked at a couple of startups focused in all different types of industries, whether it's women's organizations or real estate. Because I wanted to work on smaller teams with bigger impact, because I wanted to own like I wanted to all of my projects. I wanted to get credit for them and I wanted to work with no boundaries. But I knew that really early on. And so that's why I was able to kind of move because in my in my own mind, I know this is crazy for a lot of people is that like my answers are that my family worked really hard for me to take these opportunities and take risks. I learned through my mother and my grandmother and my great grandmother say I do not want to stay in a career that I absolutely hate. I, I knew I knew the toll it took on women, especially like staying in a job for five or ten years. And you knew, you know, that you want to regret. I'm a little about growth. And if something is not working for working for me, I'll leave. And I think that's not a bad thing. And I don't think it's a bad thing. You know, at the end of the day, companies don't have your best interest. And that's a very controversial statement to say. But I think for women especially deciding, you know what, when something is not working for them, no longer working or benefiting them, you can leave a situation and that can span from anything outside of your career as well. And so I took a lot of those risks early on because I wanted to grow, thrive and accelerate and learn different things. And through my all my I would say, you know, a lot of people in my career failures are like my dad's or just like me trying things for a year and a half or two years, I've gathered all of this information, this the skill set, and it made me so adaptive. So I'm able to adapt to a lot of situations. I know how to kind of quickly move and look for resources and I know how to tell a story because you need to really sell that idea of why you're transitioning or how you pivot. And that's why it really led me to entrepreneurship, which was my, my previous work before Amazon currently. So that's pretty much what, what my career looked like early on and why and why it was important for me to move.
[Ann 00:14:31] There's so much I want to unpack there because I think it's incredible examples to people right now who might be in a moment of pivot. So many people are participating in this great resignation that is now becoming the great realization, and sometimes it can be a little bit challenging. Not all of us maybe have that compass as early as you did. It took me a while to develop my own. I think a lot of ways is because of my timid nature. But I'm a Libra, by the way, so I'm the opposite of a risk taker. I'm a balancer. I'm a caregiver, and I'm all I do my spreadsheets for decision making. It's ridiculous. But I, I think because of my more timid nature, it took me a while to discover what is my individual mission, vision and value statement. And I it it sounds to me like. Do you think this was true at the time? It sounds to me like you knew what you wanted to get out of each of these opportunities you were trying. Did you have that clarity of thought or is that something that became clear in retrospect of like, I am in this role or I'm going to the smaller organization or in this purpose driven organization because I want this out of that experience.
[Sage 00:15:37] Exactly. It's setting expectations at the beginning of it, right? Like knowing when you especially when you are pivoting or going into a new position or new career path, is asking yourself what is it that I'm looking for out of this experience? It doesn't have to be long term. It can be short term. Right. And it doesn't have to be the right term for you. Right. But but at least coming with that expectation helps you not internalize when things don't work out. I think that's what happens with a lot of us is that we've been sold the dream that a career in laying it right. It's a ladder in which where we climb, we pick good career and we stick to that career and that's forever your career and that's no longer the case. Now we have free range of now looking at our careers as a jungle gym or one of those gyms that, you know, those dugout gyms where you can try different moves. It's like rock climbing, right? And figuring out the different the different parts. And you can go back and change plans and, you know, evaluating risk versus reward, right? Like, yes, you know, maybe this is financially not the not the best option, but it's going to give you the tools and skills necessary to make more you know, more better financially, you know, better decisions or what have you. Right. So for me, it's about looking at it of like in this one lifetime, you know, on this planet, what are the skills, lessons, people that you want to meet or have? Right. That to me, that to me is important because especially in the range of diversity, that to me gives you a more vibrant and also vast difference skill sets. And a lot of people would argue with me because this is where I have a lot of friends who are Gen X or older or older millennials. And we all we often kind of talk about this too, because, you know, the other debating the debating argument is that, you know, millennials and Gen Zers are not going to be able to master a skill because it takes about ten years to master of skill. And so we need more folks who stick with a position and and learn who the career path of a traditional career path for ten years. And I often argue that that concept because I believe that in all of these experiences, whether it's one or two years, you learn so much about yourself and you get to the why faster. You totally get to the why faster, and you don't waste time.
[Ann 00:18:08] I think because I am ten years older than you, I, I came up in an environment who was much less empowered. People felt that you had to stay for a long time. So I kind of I'm glad that my very first entry point into my career was Amazon as well. My I was straight out of university. I worked at Amazon from 2002 to 2005. So it was a different animal at the time that I joined, but I learned a really, really fast and it nurtured me out of this timid nature of mine. And it taught me to be an intra preneur. And that is among many lessons that Jeff taught me while I was there. But I think that changed my approach to this environment that I was in, where I stayed at Google for 12 years, which even, you know, for my generation is a very long time, especially at a tech company. But looking back, I can see that I really reinvented myself about every three years. I started asking those questions of like, what expertize do I want to start to be known? Like, where can I learn new skills? Where are the leaders I want to emulate? What was that like for you? It sounds like you had good clarity of what was important to you. You were trying lots of things so you could get to your wife faster. Did you engage with and seek out mentors? Does anyone stand out to you as somebody who really helped shepherd you along as you were trying to learn as much and as fast as possible about yourself and what resonated with your purpose driven approach to your career?
[Sage 00:19:28] Definitely. I've had a range of mentors, but I actually call them a board of directors and a lot, a lot of these women were attracted to me. So the the the funny thing is that I actually didn't choose these women. I knew that especially while I was being more boisterous, being more public, and speaking out and loudly about what I wanted out of my career and spoke more often publicly. That's when women who really valued me and wanted to invest in me came to me and said, Hey, I would love to be your mentor. Like I would like to support you in your work. And that's why I really want to encourage listeners right now who are listening in about where could I find these board of directors or where could I find these mentors? And I think because the power of social media and these outlets, you know, really manifesting but also being very intentional and boisterous about what you're looking for in your career. The people will find you. People like you will find you. And the more that you say it out loud and the more that you can bring it to conversation boldly, the more that you're courageous about it. Because I know it can be scary saying like, Hey, I would like to pivot into a tech career. What does that look like? Because, you know, sometimes people are so afraid of failure. They don't even want to say it out loud. Right. Because it's like it's such a bold thing for them to say, but it's actually like it is bold, but we need to say it out into existence. So the people that we're looking forward to supportive find us. And so throughout my career, I've always been pretty public and voice stories about what I was looking for in my next phase. And each phase of my career, especially when I was an entrepreneur, I leveraged LinkedIn and Instagram and did a lot of speaking engagements, which is scary because I grew up actually being very, really shy. I actually was very shy. Oh, and yes, to the point where like, you know, because I so I grew up in a in a Catholic school. And when you're about in kindergarten, so you're six or seven years old, they would actually have you read the liturgy in front of church like you barely don't know your ABCs and you're reading off of a, you know, text, education, text, okay. And you even know what you're saying. And you know that that I mean, it was trauma, but because of that trauma and fear, it forced me to get to really speak publicly and break through that fear. And so once I started publicly speaking and people related to me, a lot of women who are older than me, who had blocked anymore veteran careers, came to me and said, Hey, I know this is something that you like to do. You know, this is your your mission, your values, your why let me and support you. So that's how I was able to obtain them. And, you know, and mainly they have been women.
[Ann 00:22:33] I love that. I, I knew you would be a good fit for this podcast. I just knew it because we talked so much about that, about sometimes it's just the hardest part is just saying it out loud, breathing life into that dream so that other people can sponsor and mentor you and guide you who've been there before. And I really resonate to your journey of public speaking. I'd plan to come to this later in the conversation, but let's go there now because I came into public speaking very unintentionally, but once I started it, same thing. A couple of people in the audience came to me and gave me some tips, and then they recommended me to someone else. And then it became like this fuller thing. But I've always even though I was painfully shy, young, and it's still kind of I'm I'm very much an introvert by nature, even though I don't present myself that way. People assume I'm an extrovert. I love being on a stage. When I was young, that was in like musical theater or whatever, whatever way I could get on a stage. And now my adult life, I love forwarding this education and sharing with other people. What was that path like for you? Was it sounds like it was more intentional in the beginning than my stumbling backwards into it was that had that always been a goal of yours, did you enjoy a spotlight or how did you how have you grown it from from that very first stage of life? I guess you're first of all, I was reading in church, but how did it grow? How did how do the dots connect? Because I have a feeling it was probably nonlinear a little bit as well.
[Sage 00:23:54] Yeah, definitely non-linear. Yeah. You know, if you look at other great speaker's journeys doing this work like Oprah or Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, a lot of them started at church because you had to speak to word of God, right? And so I was terrified and I hated it. I absolutely hated to be I hated reading in class. I hated to be doing any public speaking from kindergarten to about fourth grade. But then through that practice is that I knew at a young age, like, I need to get over this. I said, I need to overcome this fear. I can no longer have this cripple my life because this is something that's going to be reoccurring. Like I knew that I knew that this was something that's going to prevent me from doing what I want to do because it's already happening at a very young age. I knew that someone was going to ask me to speak one day, and then about fifth grade I had my teacher, Miss Tom, you know, I decided to run for school secretary. And my my fifth grade teacher, Ms.. Tom, said, why are you running for secretary? We're going to run for president. And that was kind of my lightbulb moment. I was like, that's, you know, you're right. And that in that year, I ran for school president, but most of my middle school became a school president and through my, you know, student body activities. So in eighth grade, I became a somebody in my that middle school and in a high school class president, I was a senator and in my University of Hawai'i at Manoa. And those being a part of student body helped me really communicate my ideas, my, my, my, why of equity, you know, being the voice of the students, seeing the inequities within the schools and also institutions in general, that forced me to talk the talk I mean, to speak publicly, but also formulate what the ideas are, what is what is the community, what are you trying to communicate and what are what are the arguments? And why do you need to convince an institution to treat their students better? Or what are we asking for? Right. And then also joining speech and debate and debating was so interesting because that's when I started to really come into my own and bloom into loving the stage, you know, like I love the roller coaster feeling, like, right before you're about to jump off of a roller coaster. That is the feeling I get every time. It's an adrenaline rush right before you hit stage. But once you're on stage for me, it's all it's like a living room to me. Like I actually feel more comfortable speaking on a large stage than I am, like sometimes going to a very small, intimate event sometimes because. Yeah, yeah, it's, it's a, it's a weird, wonderful feeling. And I feel like I am my most authentic self when I'm on a large stage speaking to hundreds or thousands of people. And so that was my journey, was that it was a fear that I wanted to conquer. I was encouraged to positions that really helped me cultivate that skill set also gave me opportunities to practice and through my entire career I've been able to present speak, just like at SXSW. I have a huge engagement coming up next year, which I'm excited to do so, but I have no announcement yet, but excited for listeners who are going to follow my journey.
[Ann 00:27:25] For sure. We will be tuning in. I can... I love that. I agree. Bigger stages are less scary. I was on the biggest stage I've ever been on in South by Southwest this year. It was like huge room is just after Jonathan Van Ness. I was like, I don't have a Netflix special. There's no way I can follow. Jonathan Van Ness No, thank you very much, but there's something about that. Yeah, that feels empowering. Like kind of the energy of the room carries you. I couldn't agree more of that. Okay. There's so many things I want to ask you about before I do so. Unless we need the context of the latter part of your career, you became an entrepreneur. You are a CEO and co-founder of a company, and then you ended up doing this really incredible work at Amazon and video. But I'm curious, can you give us a sneak peek of like what are your signature messages that you are now sharing with the world? What lights you up when you your face lit up when you were thinking about this really big stage? Coming up for you, what are these topics and messages that people are seeking out from you and that gave you that glow that I just saw in your face that you're so excited to share with the world? What are the common themes?
[Sage 00:28:31] Yeah, some of the common themes is inclusive leadership. So what does it mean to be inclusive? That is a hot topic right now. Denied diversity. Equity inclusion is definitely a something that folks are really excited to learn about. Just because I know that's a part of my it's a part of my superpower is that especially culturally as a native Hawaiian, being inclusive, making people feel like they belong, connecting building community is something that I know that is my superpower. And a lot of companies are trying to crack that that nut. And they also it's $1,000,000 question because like, how do we retain our talent? It is a competitive landscape in tech. And if people feel like they don't belong, they will leave. Now, it's no longer a you know, we're the best company where for us, it's more so as a candidate, you know, like I am I especially if you're a person of color in intact, you know, you are being sought after for and so you have the power. And so no longer is that going to be the case. And so how are companies solving for that solution? But also what why another topic and theme is that, you know, talking about POC only spaces, why is it important for for people of color are especially when of color to have their own spaces. You know number one is psychological safety. Two is building community with one another, especially when you experience social isolation, but also career isolation. When you're the only you know, you're the few that's the only. And like, how do you create connection and see folks for before for you? Because there's such a barrier that women of color face within their careers. And so I'm excited to talk about these topics. But the most people hire me mostly to talk about inclusive leadership.
[Ann 00:30:23] So that leads us into you being an entrepreneur, that phase of your career where you were founding, you were the CEO. Some of our listeners I have me have taken the plunge like I did. I left Google about three and a half, almost four years ago now to found my own company. It is a wild ride coming from another organization and defending one of your own. What are your top tips, especially among creating these environments that you just described where people feel empowered to be their full self or we had the psychological safety. How did you approach that as you were starting your own company? And then I'm curious your experiences in doing that in larger corporate environments, the different challenges and nuances to getting that right once you're trying to infiltrate that and permeate that is a better word. Permeate that throughout a larger organization.
[Sage 00:31:10] Yeah. So when I when we, when I started a feature for us is a very small company with a startup, is a social impact startup. And being an entrepreneur entrepreneur is like getting your MBA. And it is something that I feel that if you really want to challenge yourself and push yourself to get to the best version of yourself entrepreneurship is it because when it comes to risk taking, talking about like really pushing yourself to a limit of like what can you produce? Who are you as a person? How you show up in business and for your for your clients and risking it all. Entrepreneurship is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it is and a phenomenal experience that I am truly grateful that I had the opportunity to do. A lot of people do not have the opportunity to be an entrepreneur and take that risk, but it was such a great learning lesson. And when you're at a small startup phase, I do get hired a lot from startups in small to midsize companies. And you know, what does it mean to create an inclusive culture? Is want is to look at your your your company as a whole. Like what are your diversity equity, inclusion, goals, strategies and what is and let's piece it on two different pillars, right? One is like hiring and retaining. How are we hiring and retaining talent? How are we attracting and growing our talent, how we're creating an inclusive culture? And then how are we holding leaders accountable? And how we how are we creating engagement? And then three is the community engagement. I mean, the fifth is community engagement. So like figuring out what your overall diversity inclusion pillars and your goals and then conquering them one by one. Right? That to me is strategically how we would approach things and being intentional about the folks that you work with and intentional on the programing. Everything from people that you know, consultants that we hire, the people that we work with, how we even design. We were first off like first year was a very advanced based service based company. I like everything from design. You know, my dream was I imagine if I don't want of color in America in in Seattle, Washington, which is still predominantly white. What would it look like if I walked into a room where it looked like me or designs was like me? Right. Like, imagine walking to a space where everything was designed for me by me. And that was the experience that we wanted to create for our customer, for our clients, for our community members, because it creates a sense of psychological safety healing, especially when we talk about women of color in their careers, because there's so much trauma and a lot of a lot of trauma within that happens with a lot of women's careers. So besides that, I don't want to go on a rant here, but that is how startups and small companies can look at building an inclusive culture. And now when we talk about a large corporation, that is a little bit that's a little bit tougher because when you are not a startup, you know, you can build that foundational culture, right, and not have to go back. But a lot of these larger tech companies, you've been in the business for about 20 years, even though in this in the landscape of the Fortune 500 companies still relatively young, you still need to walk back and really undo, unlearn and be, you know, and really dismantle the structure in which you created that has been harmful. [Right.] And then how do you start over.
[Ann 00:34:50] Yeah, I can't imagine. I one I'm so encouraged to hear that the majority of your clients were at that earlier stage. That gives me so much hope for the future that people recognize this as an essential part of their foundation building as they're getting going. So that warms my heart. And I am thinking back to my career because I did start in tech very, very early in the early 2000 and kind of watched it grow up in some intentional ways, in some unintentional ways of just sort of making it up as we went. And one of the changes in hiring standards that the way that hiring standards have changed is probably one of the glaring examples to me because in the beginning I was often the only woman in the room. I was 100% the only person who did not go to one of the top five Ivy League schools. I went to great schools. I went to University of Washington for undergrad, and I went to Berkeley for my Ph.D. studies, which I dropped out of to join Google. But I felt that difference that I didn't have that same background that they did. And I didn't come from those environments that they grew up in. And that was a big challenge. But when I was originally trained to be an interviewer, we were looking for that culture fit. And I'm so glad that that is now shifted to looking for passion and mission alignment. Is that something that you address early is how do you recognize candidates who have their have the promising skills but packaged in a different background or it's been expressed or developed in a different way?
[Sage 00:36:16] Exactly. Exactly. So you know, there is a way of looking at hiring practices where you can still hire people with a diverse skill set or background, but still aligned with the company's values. Right. Like they say, when companies are hiring for folks or people, they are looking for folks who have the same values, you know, also have the same aligned mission, aligned leadership values and skill sets. And it is especially at an Amazon level, we are talking about some of the most intelligent, ambitious folks out there who are just like skilled problem solvers. These are people who are trying to solve problems. And and to me, that that's the most inspiring. So I think when you're talking about, you know, how do we hire folks, that doesn't necessarily is a culture fit. It's about, dude, are they aligned to our values and how we operate as a company in terms of leadership and different leadership styles. But do we align our values so that I feel like that's what companies are looking for these days?
[Ann 00:37:26] I'm so glad that you are running this charge. There is nothing more beneficial for a company that wants to add elements of innovation and increase problem solving levers. There's a direct correlation between the diversity in the room and that kind of innovative, creative, problem solving thought process. So I'm so grateful that someone like you is leading the charge on that. What does your so you now see your title at Amazon? As I was scroll back up, I had moved out below in my notes. Okay, so you now at Amazon are the global diversity equity and inclusion leader for Prime Video and Amazon Studios that sounds very glamorous. I'm imagining red carpets, but I don't know if that's actually your day to day. Life involves so much. Can you give us an idea of what your average projects or challenges or day, day to day is like?
[Sage 00:38:19] That's so funny. I definitely like red carpet know I wish no. So yeah, so I'm leading diversity equity inclusion for prime video and studios and it's a massive organization to, you know, one side. Prime video side is a technology side of our organization. So we talk about technologies. The people who build the app create that experience for you as a customer. If you are prime video viewers and the other side is studios. So we have a full studio's from everything from getting executive producers, actors, writers whole gamut. So like think about Universal Studios, right? The traditional studio, structured entertainment. So it's technology and entertainment together. And so that is the work that I am doing. Some of the project, I mean I can't really go in specifically on do the projects that I'm working on, but it is about building an inclusive culture within prime video and studios and supporting employees. So I'm more on the internal side. So we have a DNI, we have a D&I team that focuses on diversity, equity, inclusion for the external products. So everything that you see, making sure that we have, you know, the way that we hire actors, writers is, is inclusive. But are we telling diverse stories? Are you coming from diverse voices? But also on my internal side is like the folks are working on this product, are they diverse? Are we hiring people who are diverse? Are we actually making them feel included in the way that we build our products for our customers? And it's creating that internal experience, measuring them goals, holding leaders accountable. And that is a lot of my work. Incredible.
[Ann 00:40:04] Next time I come home to Seattle to visit my family because they still live in Redmond, my parents and half of my siblings are still there. I would love to come see itbecause I can only imagine the way that the team has grown since I was in the original med building. And so I would love to kind of come and see the environment and this incredible environment that you're so dedicated to creating, not only for the internal team, but the ripple effect of that is enormous. When we're more inclusive on those who are on the internal design strategy side of it, that ripple effect is huge. So I'm just very excited about your work and it is such a fun, full circle moment for me to see Amazon growing up, but now in your career you're also giving back. You're a mentor, an example in so many ways, and you've also are now using that influence on boards. I know your membership in the Board of directors for the Hawaii People's Fund is dear to your heart. I would love to hear more about that and the projects and things that you are doing through that organization.
[Sage 00:41:03] Yeah, thank you for mentioning that. I'm a proud board member of Hawai'i People's Fund and it is a fun it is fund to really support the nonprofit out in in Hawaii and on base. I mean, trust based philanthropy. And so what we do is that we raise funds and we redistribute out to the grassroots movement. So radical grass root movement builders out in Hawai'i that most foundations do not fund. We are we we're flipping a script on philanthropy because a lot of philanthropic foundations have they distribute money, but it's restricted funds. And so what we do within our organization is unrestricted funds. And what that means is that we trust these organizations because they are the ones doing the ground on the boots on the ground work, especially in Hawaii. And we're the ones who support them when they need emergency funding or grant funding, or we're the folks who do it and we do it differently. We totally restructure the way that we do philanthropy and which is really transformative in the work that we do, especially on a very values driven industry that is predominantly white and affluent. What does it look like to be in philanthropy and be a native Hawai'ian ourselves? You know, imagine being a grassroot, grassroots builder and receiving funds for somebody from somebody who looks like me, who understands the culture, who understands that community. And that's what I'm excited about, is that I'm actually flying to Molokai, Hawai'i in about two or three weeks and I will be meeting some of our grantees out there pretty much restoring some of the sacred areas of Molokai, which is a a space we went through a lot of trauma on through colonization and the impact because Hawai'i is one of the most visited places on earth, and that takes a lot of resources from the land. And then what does it mean to restore that land and keep keep it being regenerative? Right? Because a lot of the times that we I mean, we see it, right. Sustainability. And so a lot of our work is focused on environmental sustainability, working for native Hawai'ian people and out in the health. And I'm excited because we continue to fundraise. If you are a frequent visitor to Hawai'i and you love Hawai'i, it's been some of your best memories in Hawai'i. I really encourage listeners to donate and contribute directly to Hawai'i People's Fund, or we do incredible work, so we still have Hawai'i to visit and learn from, and it's a beautiful place that we want to continue to have in the future.
[Ann 00:43:46] I have 1 million follow up questions to everything we've just talked about, but in the interest of respecting your time, I'm going to end with a final question, which is really to one is what excites you about the future because you've done so many incredible things. Now I'm curious what you're excited to try on next and how can we follow along? How can we follow along in your journey, connect with you online, social, etc.?
[Sage 00:44:09] Oh, I am so excited and looking forward to these young leaders I'm only I'm 31 now and I'm still considered a young leader. But the the young leaders in teenagers to early twenties they are blowing my mind the fact the way that they are advocating, the way that they're dismantling systems, the way that they're speaking up for themselves mental health wise in their families and their communities. I am blown away by them. And we don't say that enough. You know, I think a lot of our generation, we like to blame the next generation for things happening, but for them to carry this heavy burden, the weight of the world on their shoulders, but being more expressive, being more emotionally intelligent, the more that they're being invested in, you know, they're investing back into the communities and the way that they're trying to solve problems. I am just inspired and I you know, I feel a weight on our shoulders as the elder generation that we've given them so much to deal with. But I think we have a future that will be led by young leaders who are just, well, more well equipped, but also more more resources. And I'm excited for that. I'm sorry. What was your next question?
[Ann 00:45:29] Sorry. Yeah. How can we follow along with all of this? You're so purpose driven, you're so enthusiastic about it. And I imagine so many listeners want to participate, follow your example, and also support all these projects you have going on. What's the best way to connect with you? And stay tuned what you've got going on.
[Sage 00:45:44] Yeah, so follow me on LinkedIn. So definitely connect with me on LinkedIn – Sage Ke'alohilani Quiamno on LinkedIn, that is where all of my work is going to be promoted. You know, I have written a lot of articles on Forbes specifically about diversity, equity, inclusion, training. So if you are a company interested to learn more tips on creating inclusive cultures. I've written a lot of articles through Forbes on there, but I also have written If You're an entrepreneur, I've written for some articles for Fast Company and Entrepreneur Mag, and that's something that you can tap into. Also, if you are a a company organization who want somebody like me to speak to your groups, your employee resource groups or to your leadership, I definitely would love to hear from you. So just contact me on LinkedIn.
[Ann 00:46:31] Incredible. Sage, thank you for sharing your wisdom, for inspiring everyone to recommit to their purpose and finding their mission and to sit in the front seat of their life andto really grab onto that steering wheel and drive. I found this conversation really inspiring. Thank you so much for being here.
[Sage 00:46:46] Mahalo, and thank you.
About my guest

Sage Ke'alohilani Quiamno

Sage has always sought justice in the world and has since dedicated her career to ensuring that businesses – both brand-new startups and large, global corporates – are representative of the communities they serve, and is also now using her platform to give back to the people of Hawaii through trust-based philanthropy, as a board member of the Hawaii People’s Fund.