Big news today from Amazon, where Jeff Bezos stepped up to Exec Chairman and promoted Andy Jassy to the CEO seat. A lot of surprise out there that Jeff was stepping up and away from the day to day business, but not a huge amount of surprise that Andy got the gig, especially from those who know him.
AWS has been a technology partner that we work closely with at FOX, and one that I’ve personally worked with for the past 15 years. Andy has been on the front line of that operation from the very beginning, out there with customers selling S3 storage, then EC2 compute services, and then ultimately crafting a roadmap of infrastructure and platform offerings that enable you to build or run every type of business imaginable.
Of course, there’s also a talented team there that has been there from the beginning (shoutout to Werner 🙌), but there’s certainly no doubt that Andy has been the architect of one of the biggest technology success stories this millennium.
So based on this experience, here are the five super powers that Andy has that make him the natural choice for the big job…. 🦸♂️👀👇
Jeff Bezos is renowned as being obsessed with the consumer, and Andy has the same obsession with his enterprise customers. He’ll get hands on in deals, and he’ll ensure that his team exceed expectations - making himself available at any time and checking in regularly with the customer to get updates. Google and Microsoft have sprinted to catch up with this focus and care towards customers, but a big part of AWS’s success (in the early days, but it still exists now) was due to the customer centric culture that pervaded from Andy downward into every part of the team.
Then there’s re:Invent, an annual gathering (now virtual) where the whole cloud ecosystem gather in one place to talk about key trends and to hear from Andy and his team about their roadmap for the coming year. This event has taken the mantle (from conferences like Dreamforce) as the place where it’s genuinely worth spending a few days of your time each year to go deep on the technology and to meet peers and colleagues to swap notes on the latest trends and experiences.
To get a glimpse of Andy’s leadership style, and passion for the customer, it’s worth watching his most recent keynote (🚨 warning, 2hr 50 min duration)
Can Andy carry enterprise customer expertise into the pure play consumer side of Amazon’s business? I certainly think so. He’s been at the mothership since close to the very beginning with Jeff – the consumer will be in his DNA. It’s also worth noting that many of AWS’s major customers were consumer business too, so he knows more than most on that front and has a peripheral vision that goes beyond Amazon itself.
The best executives in any industry carry this super power, and Andy is always asking his team and his customers deep reaching questions. What are you seeing, what went well, what could we do differently? What can we partner on, what companies excite you at the moment? He’ll meticulously take (and debate) feedback and you’ll see much of that resurface in iterations to existing products or launches of news offerings.
One simple example of this came from a discussion we were having about Snowflake (long before it IPO’d and became the $85bn company 📈😶 it is today). The Snowflake team were masterfully beginning to eat into the AWS Redshift business, at the time through a strong performance and cost efficiency technology advantage and narrative. Andy was clearly spending time talking to a range of his customers to understand where this threat was coming from and why Snowflake were gathering mindshare, and in some cases, market share.
Now those conversations happen fairly frequently between the CEO’s of technology companies and their customers, but rarely do they turn into such quick action.
Within a quarter we were on a beta program for a revised version of Redshift, and by the next re:Invent a set of major upgrades to Redshift were publicly released. Just one of a few of these types of examples that have kept AWS ahead of their major competitors⚡️
Care for the ecosystem
It would have been much easier to have grown AWS through a wild spree of acquisitions. Slack, Snowflake, Segment, Salesforce (and many other companies beginning with S 😜) are all names that have been thrown around in the press as potential targets. But when you speak to Andy, he’s incredibly focused and disciplined. He wants to create platforms, products and services for the builders not necessarily for the end users or consumers – much more IaaS and PaaS than SaaS ☁️
He’s also hesitant in competing with his customers – why buy companies that alienate you with the rest of that competitive set (who may well be existing or potential AWS customers)? He’s constantly conscious of the fact that evolving or extending his own AWS stack is usually the best path forwards – and he’s certainly not prepared to pay some of the multiples that we see flying around at present. It takes serious discipline to take the harder road 🏔 when you’ve got such access to capital inside a company like Amazon.
As Amazon enter their next chapter, this level of EQ and diplomacy is likely going to be an essential part of the role 💼
Technical chops and talent management
In a company where technical and engineering talent is integral to the business, Andy can hold his own. From chipsets through to network protocols and complex data stacks – he can go toe to toe 🥊
But it goes beyond this - ask any of the technical talent inside AWS who work for Andy and there’s huge loyalty and respect amongst the best. Charlie Bell and Matt Wood are two great examples of this - both technology thought leaders in their respective fields.
This is often taken for granted but there is no doubt this this is a super power of Andy’s and the following amongst the broader software engineering community is significant - re:Invent is the tip of the iceberg example of this.
Side-note: his leadership experience of commercial teams is also a huge part of AWS’s success story that also plays into this point, and plays nicely into his new role 💵
Plays to win
Finally, despite the EQ, don’t underestimate Andy’s desire to beat the competition. He’s never been complacent about Microsoft or Google, and has always relished carving out the market share lead that developed under his stewardship at AWS. You don’t create a sector and hold the lead despite massive investment from two of the biggest technology companies on the planet without having that competitive drive. Getting ahead is one thing, staying ahead in such a hyper competitive marketplace takes a different level of leader 🏆
At FOX, we’re extremely ‘lean forwards’ on cloud technology across our entire enterprise, broadcast and digital business. AWS is a strategic partner and, amongst many things, we’re pioneering a new way of delivering ultra high quality (up to 8K), ultra low latency video signals and streams to consumers. We’ll have a deeper dive on this work soon ⚡️
Oh, and we’re hiring 😉