Andy Jassy usually starts his keynote at Amazon.com Inc.’s cloud-computing trade show with what amounts to a tedious infomercial for corporate software.
But last December, at an event held virtually rather than in a Las Vegas ballroom, the Amazon Web Services boss did something different: He talked about society. After acknowledging the tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic, Jassy called out the killings of three Black Americans that had sparked unprecedented protests across the country.
Jassy, who succeeds Jeff Bezos as Amazon’s chief executive officer on July 5, is steeped in the company’s corporate religion: Put customers first, move fast, be frugal. He shares his boss’s competitive streak and mistrust of conventional wisdom.
But the 53-year-old executive is no Bezos clone. Known for piercing questions that cut to the heart of the matter, he has a formidable radar for subordinates’ hyperbole.
At the same time, he is unassuming and connects easily with colleagues. Moreover, unlike the sometimes single-minded Bezos, Jassy has long engaged with society outside Amazon’s walls, as he showed by declaring unequivocally that Black lives matter.
Bezos isn’t going away entirely. He’ll remain executive chairman of Amazon’s board and plans to stay involved with the company’s new projects.
Yet his decision to hitch a ride on his rocket company’s suborbital space flight just weeks after handing over control suggests Bezos won’t constantly be second-guessing Jassy, a deputy he’s long trusted to manage his own shop.
It falls to Jassy to continue Amazon’s track record of invention, which extends from cloud-computing and smart speakers to the heavily automated warehouses that enable one-day shipping. He will dictate Amazon’s response to regulators around the world who are probing whether big U.S. tech companies have become too powerful.
And he’ll have the task of seeing through Bezos’s recent pledge that the company will do better by employees, a declaration that follows a year of unrest in the company’s warehouses and, occasionally, at its Seattle headquarters. Days before Jassy’s ascension, the company updated its leadership principles, urging managers to lead with empathy and consider employee and societal welfare when making decisions.
It’s not clear what Jassy might do differently in the CEO’s chair and, aside from endorsing Amazon’s preference for invention and big bets, he’s been publicly quiet about his priorities. The company declined to make him available for this profile.
Interviews with current and former colleagues, partners and competitors suggest he’ll be as hard-charging as Bezos when pursuing new opportunities. “He will be just as ambitious and bold as Jeff has been, if not more so,” said Jennifer Cast, who hired Jassy at Amazon in 1997.