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10 Things You Didn't Know about Adam Selipsky

On March 23rd, it was announced that Adam Selipsky would be stepping into the shoes of outgoing Amazon Web Services (AWS) chief, Andy Jassy, to take the reins as the division's new CEO. It's a return to old territory for Selipsky, who previously served as the AWS Vice President of Marketing, Sales, and Support from 2005 to 2016. To find out more, read on for ten things you didn't know about Adam Selipsky.

1. He studied at Harvard

You don't need a degree from an Ivy League school to rise to the top of the career food chain. In fact, and as everyone from Bill Gates to Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg to Michael Dell, have been proving for years, it sometimes seems to help not to have any kind of degree at all. In Selipsky's case, however, not only does he have a degree, he has one from one of the most prestigious schools in the country - an AB in Government from Harvard University. If that wasn't enough, he also has an MBA from Harvard Business School.

2. His first senior position was at Mercer Management Consulting

In 1993, Selipsky began working at Mercer Management Consulting. He ended up staying with the company for 6 years. By the time he left, he'd worked up to the position of Principal. According to his Linkedin profile, his duties extended to leading client engagement, marketing strategy, cost benchmarking, strategic growth initiatives, merger analysis, financial planning, and process reengineering.

3. He was vice president for RealNetworks

After leaving Mercer Management Consulting in 1999, Selipsky moved into the position of General Manager for Media Systems Marketing at RealNetworks, where he was responsible for leading all marketing activities. From there, he served as Vice President of Consumer Marketing before moving into the position of Vice President for RealPlayer, the video subscription business responsible for generating over one-third of company revenue.

4. He spent 11 years at Amazon

In 2005, Selipsky was offered the position of Vice President of Marketing at Amazon. He ended up serving with the company for eleven years, reporting directly to the CEO and taking responsibility for numerous aspects of the business, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) marketing, sales, partner and product management, and business development. During his time with the company, he developed AWS from a pre-revenue team of ten to a $13 billion revenue division with thousands of employees. By the time he left Amazon in 2016, AWS was providing infrastructure services to over a million customers spread over more than 190 countries.

5. He's not above criticism

No one can doubt that during his previous tenure with Amazon, Selipsky helped turn AWS into a pioneer in cloud computing. What some do question, however, is the ethics of some of the division's business practices, specifically in relation to its Mechanical Turk website. Described as a "marketplace for human intelligence," the website offers businesses the chance to advertise micro-tasks such as classifying images and searching websites to freelancers. The problem, as The Guardian writes, is that each task is paid at just a few cents each, with the result that pay levels tend to be around $2 an hour, before tax. The site has frequently been accused of exploitation, something Selipsky hotly denies. "Our experience is that if the pay is not adequate then the work does not get done. Some groups of workers are doing this as they do other things, they might be watching TV or whatever else they're doing in their lives. A lot of workers find work they think is fun and do it for fun," he's said. Fun or not, a lot of people have taken issue with a company with a $160bn cloud computing business that's happy to run a marketplace in which workers are paid in cents.

6. He achieved enormous success at Tableau

After 11 years at Amazon, Selipsky departed the business in 2016 to take on the position of CEO at the analytics software company, Tableau. His time with the business was nothing if not profitable.... both for Tableau and (as we'll see shortly) for Selipsky. As per, Tableau's revenue growth accelerated astronomically when Selipsky changed the focus from selling one-time software licenses to subscriptions. In 2019, he helped orchestrate Tableau's acquisition by Salesforce for $15.7 billion.

7. He's a multimillionaire

Within the first year of joining Tableau, Selipsky was netting almost $16.5 million in total compensation. The package included $13.4 million in stock awards and a $1.1 million bonus. As of today, he's rumored to be worth in the region of $36 million.

8. He's making his return to Amazon

After 5 years away, Selipsky will shortly be making his return to Amazon as AWS chief. He'll be stepping into the shoes of Andy Jassy, with whom Selipsky worked closely during his previous tenure with the business. Jassy, meanwhile, will be taking the CEO reins when Jeff Bezos steps down from the position later this year.

9. He was the obvious choice

Amazon may have passed over several very strong internal candidates for the position of new AWS CEO, but according to industry insiders, Selipsky was the most logical choice. As TechCrunch outlines, Selipsky spent 11 years helping build the division and is someone that outgoing AWS CEO Jassy has worked closely alongside and knows can be trusted to build and develop the division. Speaking about the appointment, Jassy says "Adam brings strong judgment, customer obsession, team building, demand generation, and CEO experience to an already very strong AWS leadership team. And, having been in such a senior role at AWS for 11 years, he knows our culture and business well."

10. He's got his work cut out for him

Given his history at AWS, you might think that returning to the division would be like slipping on a pair of comfortable old slippers for Selipsky. But times have changed since his departure. If he wants to replicate his previous success, he'll have a long, challenging road in front of him. Not only will he be expected to step up Amazon's presence in China and Europe, two markets where AWS has yet to achieve a stranglehold, but he'll also face off against the increasing dominance of Microsoft, a company that's staged a major resurgence in recent years after learning to use Amazon's tactics against it.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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