How Andy Jassy Became Jeff Bezos' Most Trusted Aide

Jassy came onboard at Amazon in 1997 and stood out as a promising hire.

Tech and Auto
4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Andy Jassy took over as CEO of Amazon on Monday, 5 July.</p></div>

Billionaire and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is preparing to leave for orbital space on 21 July, in a rocket built by his spaceship company Blue Origin, while his successor Andy Jassy, an employee who spent 24 years by his side, now leads Amazon as its chief executive.

Jassy, 53, took on the new role after spending 15 years growing Amazon's cloud-based web services unit into a $40 billion business.

Meanwhile, Bezos will take up the role of executive chairman of the technology firm and continue to deal with its new projects.


Early Life

Jassy spent his childhood in Scarsdale, an affluent New York suburb, and went on to pursue government studies at Harvard.

After getting his degree, Jassy moved to New York with the hopes of becoming a sportscaster and had stints at ABC Sports and Fox, but left soon to pursue a degree at Harvard Business School.

In 1997, over a week after giving his final exam, he joined Amazon in Seattle as a marketing employee.

Career With Amazon

Jassy came onboard at Amazon in 1997 and stood out as a promising hire.

A report by The Fortune quotes Rick Dalzell, the company's chief information officer at the time saying that Jassy had a competitive streak and a photographic memory that set him apart, despite his lack of engineering skills.

He was put in charge of music sales at Amazon. Post which, in 2002, he was chosen as Bezos' first 'shadow advisor', where he accompanied the CEO to all of his meetings for more than a year.

While managing operations at Amazon, Jassy's idea to make data storage cheaper and easier for other companies gave birth to Amazon Web Services.

Since then, AWS has grown into a $40 billion business within Amazon. AWS now owns over 30 percent of the cloud-computing market share.

It should be noted that Jassy's work in building AWS also attracted Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer who reportedly wanted to consider Jassy as his successor prior to choosing Satya Nadella.

Rising Through the Ranks

Ankith Harathi, CEO of Macro, explains how Andy Jassy became the most trusted aide of Bezos.

  1. Andy Jassy joined Amazon just before the dot-com boom and became Jeff Bezos’ 'shadow'. He followed Bezos around everywhere he went, taking notes in all his meetings and learning directly from the boss himself.

  2. Around the same time, Amazon was working on Merchant, that was aimed at helping stores like Target, set up their online shopping portals, without dealing with any of the technical infrastructure. Technology wasn’t Target’s specialty, but it was Amazon’s.

  3. Target (and others) didn’t have to worry about the rapid pace of technological improvements either, as Amazon promised they’d handle all future requirements as well. That’s when the struggles started.

  4. Amazon had built an amazing API-based infrastructure for other companies to use, and even started using it themselves. As their offering got more complex, they needed to move faster. They started hiring more software engineers, but it didn’t seem to help.

  5. They were spending a lot of money attracting the absolute best and brightest but something was wrong. Bezos then asked Jassy to go fix it. Jassy started digging and found a lot more than he expected.

  6. The executive team would routinely scope out a project and set a deadline of three months. After three months, they’d get a report back that it wasn’t ready. For each new project, engineers were building the backend from scratch. It was taking forever.

  7. In the summer of 2003, Bezos gathered his executive team at his house to align on Amazon’s future strategy. Among the many meetings on the itinerary, Bezos took out 30 minutes to discuss Amazon’s strengths.

  8. Most of the team elaborated on Amazon’s excellence in e-commerce – fulfilling, shipping, pricing. They were the absolute best. But Jassy thought Amazon had started to become great at something else too.

  9. From working with the infrastructure services team, he explained how they had standardised backend requirements. Now, each new project that came down the pipeline was completed ahead of schedule. Database, compute, and storage no longer took months to develop.

  10. Engineers were using off-the-shelf components and churning out projects faster than ever. Jassy posed, could they expand this even further? Every new project, or perhaps even company, didn’t have to re-invent the wheel.

  11. Bezos and the Amazon team could have left that retreat and just doubled down on their e-commerce prowess. But they didn’t. They took a bet on Jassy and his idea, Amazon Web Services (AWS) was born.

  12. Once opened up, the world class infrastructure services they had built for themselves was used by millions of developers, all building their own things. Profits from AWS allowed their e-commerce business to grow, and catapulted Amazon to the top spot. The world’s largest retailer.

"Andy is well known inside the company and has been at Amazon almost as long as I have. He will be an outstanding leader, and he has my full confidence,"
Jeff Bezos wrote in a letter to his employees

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