Amazon has been one man’s kingdom since its found. But that will change in a few months, when founder and longtime CEO Jeff Bezos steps aside from day-to-day operations and hands over the chief executive job to Andy Jassy, the head of Amazon’s cloud-computing business, the Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Amazon announced the surprising role change Tuesday afternoon when reporting its fourth-quarter and full-year financial results. Bezos said he will remain on the company’s board as executive chairman. These changes are set to take effect in the third quarter of 2021.
Who is Andy Jassy, then? He might not be so much of a household name compared with his boss Bezos, or even “the other Jeff,” the former head of Amazon’s e-commerce business, Jeff Wilke. But Jassy is the founder and brain behind Amazon’s most profitable division today. Last year, AWS accounted for just 10 percent of Amazon’s total revenue but contributed 52 percent to the company’s operating income.
Jassy, 53, joined Amazon in May 1997 the weekend after finishing his MBA program at Harvard Business School, not even knowing what his job at the then three-year-old startup was going to be.
“I took my last final exam at HBS, the first Friday of May in 1997, and I started Amazon next Monday,” Jassy said in a Harvard Business School podcast in September. “I didn’t know what my job was going to be, or what my title was going to be. It was super important to the Amazon people that we come that Monday.”
Before pursing a career in business, Jassy briefly worked as a sportscaster for ABC Sports and FOX TV before deciding that “I just didn’t have the patience to put in all the years before you got a chance to really get your shot at a big market,” he said in the podcast.
Jassy started at Amazon as a marketer. He worked closely with Bezos in the company’s early years and over time became a trusted member in Bezos’ inner circle. In 2006, Jassy founded Amazon Web Services to offer IT infrastructure services to businesses in the form of what’s known as cloud computing nowadays. It was an obscure idea at the time, but Jassy saw the technology’s vast potential and earned Amazon the first-mover advantage in the cloud market.
Although not having any technical background in computer science, Jassy has gained the reputation as an executive who understands technical topics well and is adept at explaining complex ideas to laypeople.
Today, AWS owns 45 percent of the global corporate cloud market. Its clients include a long list of Fortune 500 companies as well as the U.S. government. In 2013, the CIA contracted Amazon to build a custom cloud computing facility for the agency, marking the start of AWS’s booming government business. Since then, AWS has built cloud infrastructure for the U.S. federal government, the Defense Department, as well as state and local governments.