Future Amazon CEO Andy Jassy was Jeff Bezos’ ‘shadow’ for months: ‘I participated in all of his meetings’

Jeff Bezos announced on Tuesday that he will step down as Amazon CEO later this year and transition to executive chair of the company’s board – his successor will be Andy Jassy, who has built Amazon Web Services, or AWS, into a multibillion-dollar business.

Although he has not had the spotlight like Bezos, Jassy has been an integral part of Amazon’s growth for many years.

Jassy went to work at Amazon after graduating from Harvard Business School in 1997. Shortly after joining, Jassy took on the highly coveted role of technical assistant at Amazon and held the title for 18 months.

“At the time, we called it a ‘shadow role.’ And it really was like being Jeff’s shadow,” Jassy told CRN in 2015.

Jassy was able to “watch how Jeff operated every day, as well as his leaders and his direct reports,” he said.

“I participated in all of his meetings, including his one-on-ones,” Jassy said. “Jeff is an incredibly unusual leader who is unbelievably talented and I learned a massive amount.”

Though the experience was valuable for Jassy, it also turned out to be valuable for Bezos. As Bezos’ “shadow,” Jassy “identified a bunch of inefficiencies in how teams worked together,” Dan Rose, a former Amazon executive, tweeted on Tuesday.

The inefficiencies slowed productivity within the company – Jassy noticed many of Amazon’s projects had been stalled as a result of too much time spent “setting up storage, compute and databases,” he told CRN.

So Jassy “convinced Jeff to invest in infrastructure to reduce dependencies,” Rose tweeted.

This investment led to the creation of technology that Amazon found would be useful for other companies as well, and in 2003, Bezos appointed Jassy to create AWS, a division of the business that would provide cloud services and lease data storage externally.

Jassy, whose AWS team described him as “an extraordinarily detail-focused manager with a photographic memory and a penchant for asking difficult and insightful technical questions,” according to CRN, built AWS into a multibillion-dollar business and over time, won contracts from big companies like Pinterest, Slack and Lyft.

Due to AWS’s success, Amazon controls 33% of the global cloud infrastructure services market as of mid-2020, followed by Microsoft at 18% and Google at 9%, according to Synergy Research. In the fourth quarter alone, Amazon reported AWS revenue jumped 28% to $12.7 billion.

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

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