Since the late '90s, a series of lucky executives at Amazon have gotten an unbelievable opportunity to advance their careers. One person at Amazon always has a coveted job with nearly unlimited access to CEO Jeff Bezos, according to Bloomberg Businessweek's Brad Stone.
The job is officially called the technical assistant or advisor, and is unofficially known as Bezos' "shadow." They follow, travel, and go to meetings with Bezos, and frequently meet at the end of workdays.
The role means Bezos gets to know high-potential executives better than he otherwise might and gets a much-needed source of support and a second opinion. The shadows get an extraordinary mentor. Since 2003, when the position became more formalized, a series of Amazon executives have served one- to two-year terms.
The idea came to Bezos from venture capitalist John Doerr, according to Stone, after Doerr saw it at Intel. One of legendary Intel CEO Andy Grove's technical assistants was Paul Otellini, who went on to become CEO himself.
It would be valuable for any employee of a major company to get such unfettered access to their CEO. But Bezos is unique in his way of thinking, approach to leadership, and role at his company. In terms of a business education, a two-year term at this job seriously beats an MBA.
But for all of the advantages, the experience has to be intense. Bezos is able to send employees into a frenzy simply by sending a one character email. He's known for the occasional sarcastic, biting explosion when he hears something he doesn't like. Shadowing him means being a witness to all of that and the frequent subject of Bezos' incredibly high expectations.
Still, those who have held the job have come out better for it.
“It was honest to God one of the most extraordinary things a young person can do,” former shadow Stig Leschly told Stone.
After finishing his time as Bezos' shadow, Andy Jassy was put in charge of Amazon Web Services, the company's cloud division. He grew it into a hugely profitable juggernaut.
Given that promotions at Amazon require the consent and advocacy of your boss, having the CEO make your case probably doesn't hurt.
Bezos isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but keep an eye on this list of former and current shadows, assembled by Stone:
Shadow years: 2003-2004
Current role: SVP, Amazon Web Services
Shadow years: 2004-2005
Current role: retired from Amazon
Shadow years: 2005-2006
Current role: VP, Kindle
Shadow years: 2006-2007
Current role: VP, Automotive and Home Improvement
Shadow years: 2007-2009
Current role: VP, International Expansion
Shadow years: 2009-2011
Current role: VP, Kindle
Shadow years: 2011-2013
Current role: unknown
Shadow years: 2013-present
Previous role: VP, Kindle
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