Get to know Amazon’s new head of cloud computing, Adam Selipsky


Amazon’s main financier has a new boss.

Former Tableau Software CEO Adam Selipsky returned this month to his former playground at Amazon Web Services – this time at the helm.

Selipsky, 54, who worked for 11 years oversee marketing, sales, business development and customer support at Amazon’s cloud-computing division before moving to Tableau, takes over from Andy Jassy. The latter replaces Jeff Bezos as CEO of Amazon in July.

AWS has grown rapidly over the five years of Selipsky’s existence. The division’s annual turnover almost quadrupled from $ 12.2 billion in 2016 to $ 45 billion last year. AWS propels Amazon’s bottom line, accounting for 63% of the company’s operating profit last year.

Nonetheless, Selipsky faces a list of challenges in his new role. Big companies like Google and Microsoft are gnawing AWS market share and poaching AWS talent. Executives all over Amazon are facing a growing wave of employee activism around issues such as climate change, corporate diversity and oversight.

Amazon declined to make Selipsky available for an interview.

Former colleagues and associates say Selipsky is well prepared to pilot AWS for years to come, describing him as meticulous, broad-minded, and knowledgeable about customer relations. Within data visualization company Tableau, Selipsky led that company to switch from a paid license to a cloud-based subscription model – a radical overhaul of the Tableau product.

Tableau had a market cap of around $ 3 billion when Selipsky took over in 2016; three years later, Salesforce acquired the Fremont-based company for $ 15.7 billion in one of the largest acquisitions in the Pacific Northwest. In 2019, 84% of Tableau’s revenue came from subscriptions.

“Changing your entire business model is really risky, to put it lightly,” said François Ajenstat, Tableau’s product director, with a laugh. He attributed the success of the Tableau subscription rollout, in part, to Selipsky’s “customer empathy”.

“He listens carefully,” Ajenstat said. “Customers really trust him.”

Describing how Tableau responded to the dramatic upheaval of the pandemic at the Technology Alliance’s annual luncheon on Wednesday, Selipsky hinted that his priorities at AWS will similarly be customer-centric – no surprise, given that the one of Amazon’s 14 leadership principles is “customer obsession”.

“If you take a long-term view – which I always do and that’s one of the advantages of Amazon – how do we think we will be with these customers in three, five, 10 years?” Selipsky said. “What are we doing now to really deepen these partnership ties?”

Selipsky also oversaw a re-imagining of Tableau’s internal processes, pushing for changes that speed up hiring and lower operational costs, the Tableau former said. senior vice president of marketing Adriana Gil Miner. Additionally, Gil Miner said he instituted policies he learned at Amazon, such as requesting six-page memos and draft press releases outlining new proposals.

Selipsky’s experience at Tableau may well benefit him in another way, said Corey Quinn, cloud computing consultant, Duckbill Group. AWS could regain market share from its competitors by investing in products that, like Tableau, attract a customer base beyond the highly skilled software developers who currently use AWS, Quinn said.

“Amazon doesn’t have any high-end software that people are using to troubleshoot issues that are good,” Quinn said. “Everything is plumbing under the hood. These are the pipes. It’s not porcelain. At the same time, Tableau’s ease of use has earned the software a dedicated fan base among academics, business analysts, journalists and government agencies.

Selipsky is regarded by Tableau associates and acquaintances in the Seattle business community as equal and hardworking, and a bit more reserved than Jassy, ​​a gregarious leader who likes to jokingly give nicknames to his colleagues and who started the biggest hot wing eating contest in the world.

Both executives, however, are known for their business acumen.

“It seemed like no detail was too small for him to tackle,” said Gil Miner. “Most executives read the summary. Adam will actually read the whole document and mark it, ”including taking notes on grammar.

His personal life revolves around his family, said acquaintances: his wife, Laura, and two children, one of whom also works for AWS. (An Amazon spokesperson noted that Selipsky’s daughter started at AWS nine months before her father returned.) His main passions, water skiing and wine – on Twitter he describes himself as a ‘water skier, winemaker’ – have been inherited from his father, Herb, a former periodontist who boasts of being one of the oldest guys. of the lake that could have on a ski, said Gordon Stephenson, Selipsky’s childhood friend. Herb also has such an impressive wine cellar that he’s nicknamed “The Legend” by a wine tasting group of which Selipsky is a member, according to group founder Michael Dix, CEO of Seattle consulting firm Intentional Futures.

Selipsky’s grandparents fled anti-Semitism in Europe at the turn of the 20th century; the family ended up in South Africa, where Selipsky was born. His parents immigrated to the United States when Selipsky was a child and settled in Lake Forest Park, where they still live.

Adam selipsky

Title: CEO of Amazon Web Services

Born: September 1966, in Johannesburg

Alma maters: Lakeside School (1984), Harvard College (1988), Harvard Business School (1993)

Spouse: Laura, 53, a former news anchor who now sits on the boards of the Seattle Art Museum and the University of Washington Foundation

Children: daughter, 23, policy analyst at AWS; and her son, 21, a psychology student at Georgetown University

Hobby: water skiing, wine, tennis

Selipsky cited his family story when he denounced, in 2017, a US ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries imposed by former President Donald Trump.

“If my grandparents hadn’t been allowed to flee Eastern Europe between WWI and WWII, I might not be here today,” Selipsky wrote in an e- mail to Tableau employees. “We are stronger when we embrace and embody our national values ​​of tolerance, collaboration, inclusion and respect.”

Selipsky attended Lakeside Private School in Seattle. (The Selipsky kids also attended Lakeside, where they were classmates with Bezos’ kids, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and Zillow CEO Rich Barton.) He then studied government at Harvard, then attended the Harvard Business School, graduating in 1993, four years earlier. Jassy.

Selipsky approaches his private passions with a similar diligence that he gives to his work, friends say. During boating season, he gets up at dawn several days a week, exiting the boat docked at his home in Laurelhurst to ski on Lake Washington before heading to the office, cutting at angles so steep his shoulder touches almost water. His tennis game has seen a drastic improvement in recent years, say the partners, the result of methodical and disciplined practice.

When it comes to wine, Selipsky “has a broad palate” but tends to favor French wines, especially from the Bordeaux region, said fellow oenophile Dix, CEO of the Seattle consulting firm. (An Amazon spokesperson said Selipsky “loves other wines around the world as well.”) Selipsky has a “strange ability” to identify and describe wines, even though he hasn’t seen the label on the bottle, Dix said.

Selipsky’s business interests outside of Amazon mirror his hobbies. He is a minor investor in electric boat start-up Pure Watercraft, where his son worked for almost a year, according to LinkedIn. (An Amazon spokesperson said his son worked for minimum wage during his freshman year in college.) And he previously served on the board of directors of Silver Lake Winery in Woodinville, which is partly owned by his father.

In his personal life, as in his business dealings, Selipsky is “a real direct shooter,” driven by curiosity, said Barton, who got to know Selipsky on the sidelines of their children’s football games, where he said that Selipsky “was not a howler. (Zillow is a customer of both Tableau and AWS.)

“There isn’t a lot of screaming and waving. It’s an important part of leadership – lowering the temperatures, not raising the temperatures, ”Barton said.

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