Melissa Holiday working at Amazon Warehouse in Sioux Falls SD
Back Talent

From South Dakota Indian reservations to leading at Amazon, area leader returns home and makes big impact

  • November 20, 2023

From now until at least the end of the year, Alyssa Holiday’s workdays will have little downtime.

Holiday, an area manager for Amazon, oversees one of the busiest sections of the online retailer’s fulfillment center at Foundation Park. It’s known as the “pick to pack” area, where items are picked and packed into boxes without ever touching a conveyor until they’re packaged.

Alyssa Holiday working at Amazon Warehouse in Sioux Falls SD

“She will be at full capacity the entire time,” assistant Sioux Falls site lead Vincent Gardner said.

Learn even a little about Holiday, though, and it’s clear she’s up to this – or seemingly any – task.

Born on the Pine Ridge Reservation and raised on the Yankton Reservation, she became high school valedictorian at Marty Indian School. An enrolled of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, she left South Dakota in 2007 “to pursue better opportunities,” she said.

After beginning her adult life as a stay-at-home mom, she became a single mother in 2014 and began working retail jobs in Florida. She joined Amazon in 2015 in a suburb of Tampa to gain more hours and be employed somewhere she could work at night while friends watched her young daughter.

Alyssa Holiday working at Amazon Warehouse in Sioux Falls SD

After two years as an entry-level associate packing boxes, she wanted to learn more. It took her to a different Amazon location in Florida, where ultimately “I learned to problem-solve and was an ambassador and trained all the new hires they were bringing in and did something other than constantly scanning,” Holiday said. “I was able to use my mind a little more.”

Her manager showed her an option to gain career skills on-site, and she took classes to learn computer skills as she began applying for her next promotion. She moved to another location in Florida as a logistics specialist, learning to plan routes for drivers and then learned of the chance to relocate to Des Moines, where ultimately she applied as area manager.

“I just wanted to keep moving up. I wanted to keep going,” she said. “My previous managers coached me in how to interview, and I was given the position, so I went from hourly pay to a salary and got to learn a lot.”

Alyssa Holiday working at Amazon Warehouse in Sioux Falls SD

Not only that, she led the No. 1 problem-solve launch team for Amazon in 2020.

“I learned so much about configuring things and following standards and making network changes,” she said. “Some of the standards I set in my building are now in every fulfillment center. For me, it was a big thing. I didn’t get to graduate college, and being able to do things at this caliber is very exciting and exhilarating to me. I consistently learn something new every day.”

Now 37, she moved to Sioux Falls early this year, a city she used to visit from Wagner to shop and see family in the area.

Alyssa Holiday working at Amazon Warehouse in Sioux Falls SD

“I like it because it’s a city but not really a big city,” Holiday said. “I grew up here, but I lived in Tampa and Orlando, and Des Moines is bigger, but Sioux Falls still gives you everything a city has, but it has small-town vibes, and the traffic is amazing.”

Inside Amazon, Holiday now is doing her own amazing things. She formed an affinity group for Native American team members that has grown to 45 people.

Native American employees at Amazon Warehouse in Sioux Falls SD

“I had tried doing it in Des Moines, and I was dead-set on starting this Indigenous affinity group when I got here. One of the first things I did was get senior approval,” she said.

“We had a land blessing, brought some medicine men here, and they prayed for the building and said some prayers and blessed the site, and we gave a land acknowledgement speech. It was amazing. People were crying. It was very fulfilling for me to see that.”

Now, all of South Dakota’s tribal flags hang in the Amazon employee locker room.

South Dakota's tribal flags in a locker room at Amazon Warehouse in Sioux Falls SD

“I never thought I’d see that as a Native American,” Holiday said. “We’re represented at Amazon. To me, that’s unheard of.”

The group already has volunteered for efforts like supporting Feeding South Dakota and wants to enhance its skills in science, technology, engineering and math and has offered help with resume-building. Holiday is working with a similar Amazon group in Seattle for help with workshops.

“We’re all still learning how to run this group, but we have huge plans,” she said. “I want to invest in them and give them the opportunities I didn’t have.”

Alyssa Holiday working at Amazon Warehouse in Sioux Falls SD

From leadership’s perspective, “she’s awesome,” Gardner said. “She does a lot for our site. She’s done some amazing things helping with the building launch and has lots of initiative and drive.”

While her work at Amazon keeps her busy, Holiday is enjoying family events she used to miss by living out of state and is enjoying calling herself a South Dakotan again.

“What Alyssa has done in her career is nothing short of remarkable, and the fact that she’s now offering a path forward for other Native American professionals is so exciting to us,” said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development for the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

Indigenous at Amazon display boards

“Amazon has shown itself to be a model employer as far as offering opportunities for employee growth and skill development, ongoing promotional opportunities and unique ways to engage its employees. There’s so much to take away from this story on so many levels.”

For Holiday, a career at Amazon has been “a great opportunity,” she said. “I don’t have a degree, and now I’m leading and developing the people that I used to be. For me, that’s a huge thing, and I tell that to my associates all the time: I used to be in your shoes.”

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