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Andy Jassy Weighs In On Failure, AWS Innovation And Hiring ‘Builders’

Mark Haranas

‘If you invent a lot, you will fail more often than you wish. Nobody likes this part, but it comes with the territory,’ says Andy Jassy, Amazon’s CEO and former AWS leader, in a letter to shareholders.

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Amazon CEO Andy Jassy took a deep dive into the strategy and strengths of his company in his first-ever annual shareholder letter as CEO, highlighting Amazon Web Services, hiring inventors and how to “brace yourself for failure.”

“If you invent a lot, you will fail more often than you wish. Nobody likes this part, but it comes with the territory,” said Jassy, who became president of CEO of Amazon in July. “When it’s clear that we’ve launched something that won’t work, we make sure we’ve learned from what didn’t go well, and secure great landing places for team members who delivered well—or your best people will hesitate to work on new initiatives.”

Jassy, the former CEO of AWS, highlighted major accomplishments in the letter to shareholders as well as his strategy and vision for Amazon and its AWS cloud business.

[Related: 8 Cloud Computing Trends In 2022: Overspending, Security And Workloads]

Jassy said AWS is playing a major role in “enabling business continuity” during the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue helping millions of customers when demand spikes or diminishes thanks to AWS’ elasticity capability to scale capacity up and down quickly.

“Many [companies] concluded that they didn’t want to continue managing their technology infrastructure themselves, and made the decision to accelerate their move to the cloud,” said Jassy. “This shift by so many companies (along with the economy recovering) helped re-accelerate AWS’s revenue growth to 37 percent year over year in 2021.”

‘A Lot More To Compute Than Just A Server’

In highlighting AWS’ cloud success, Amazon’s CEO added that there’s “a lot more to compute than just a server.”

Customers today are demanding various flavors of compute such server configurations optimized for storage, memory, high-performance compute, graphics rendering, machine learning. Additionally, businesses are seeking multiple form factors such as fixed instance sizes, portable containers, serverless functions, along with a slew of networking capabilities—all of which AWS can provide, he said.

Jassy said Amazon’s chip innovation with Graviton2, which provides up to 40 percent better price-performance than the comparable latest generation x86 processor, will continue to push foward in 2022.

“That’s a huge deal for customers. And, while Graviton2 has been a significant success thus far (48 of the top 50 AWS EC2 customers have already adopted it), the AWS Chips team was already learning from what customers said could be better, and announced Graviton3 this past December,” said Jassy. “The list of what we’ve invented and delivered for customers in EC2, and AWS in general, is pretty mind-boggling, and this iterative approach to innovation has not only given customers much more functionality in AWS than they can find anywhere else (which is a significant differentiator), but also allowed us to arrive at the much more game-changing offering that AWS is today.”

Ethan Simmons, managing partner at Pinnacle Technology Partners (PTP), a Norwood, Mass.-based AWS partner, said AWS’ innovation and growth in the IT industry is unparalleled.

“They’re always innovating with new services, it’s really crazy how much actually,” said Simmons. “Any partner who says they’re an expert in everything AWS does is kidding themselves, but its much better than the alternative of being behind.”

Simmons said he expects AWS innovation to continue with Jassy at the helm of Amazon and Adam Selipsky as the new CEO of AWS.

In fact, PTP is currently transforming and training its traditional networking experts into becoming AWS architects. “We’ve taken our team that was more network-focused or the team that was on the NOC—we’ve really trained and morphed all those people into AWS architects,” said Simmons. “We’re betting on AWS.”

‘We Disproportionately Index In Hiring Builders’

In his letter to Amazon shareholders, Jassy talked about the company’s hiring strategy. Specially, how Amazon and AWS target “builders” who like to invent things.

“We disproportionately index in hiring builders. We think of builders as people who like to invent, who look at customer experiences, dissect what doesn’t work well about them, and seek to reinvent them,” said Jassy. “We want people who keep asking why can’t it be done? We want people who like to experiment and tinker, and who realize launch is the starting line, not the finish line.”

Organizing these builders into teams that are as separable and autonomous as possible is a key strategy for Jassy, along with giving these teams the right tools and permission to move fast.

“Speed is not pre-ordained. It’s a leadership choice. It has trade-offs, but you can’t wake up one day and start moving fast. It requires having the right tools to experiment and build fast (a major part of why we started AWS), allowing teams to make two-way door decisions themselves, and setting an expectation that speed matters. And, it does,” said Jassy. “Speed is disproportionally important to every business at every stage of its evolution. Those that move slower than their competitive peers fall away over time.”

Jassy ended his shareholder letter by explaining that Amazon is a massive company with large businesses, but it’s still early days for the company.

“We will continue to be insurgent—inventing in businesses that we’re in, in new businesses that we’ve yet to launch, and in new ideas that we haven’t even imagined yet,” said Jassy.

Mark Haranas

Mark Haranas is an assistant news editor and longtime journalist now covering cloud, multicloud, software, SaaS and channel partners at CRN. He speaks with world-renown CEOs and IT experts as well as covering breaking news and live events while also managing several CRN reporters. He can be reached at mharanas@thechannelcompany.com.

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