Einstein, fastballs, and doing the right thing
Meet Jeff Wilke, CEO Amazon worldwide consumer, an Amazonian since 1999. In this interview, Jeff talks about the person he admires the most, his first day at Amazon, and a moment in time when he was happiest.
Which living person do you most admire?
Lee Hood, who's a visionary scientist with enormous humanity.
What is your greatest fear?
That I'll waste too much time.
What is the single greatest innovation in history?
Well, there are a ton of them -- Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity.
What was your first day like at Amazon?
It was pretty chaotic. I started in Operations. The whole Operations team fit on to half of a floor in a building so I started by walking around and meeting everybody. By the end of the day people were coming to me to tell me about all the things that had to get done in the next three months for the holiday because I started in September.
What is one thing you do every week to stay focused on customer needs?
I try to shop our store. I shop on desktop, I shop on mobile, and I'm looking for things that customers might notice that aren't right.
What do you appreciate most in your friends?
What publications do you read to stay current with external trends?
I read the Economist, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Technology Review, and I follow Twitter.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Probably, "At Amazon we ..." fill in the blank.
Who or what is the greatest love of your life?
That would be my wife, Liesl.
When and where were you happiest?
My wife and I were hiking in Glacier National Park, we got to the end of the hike it was a long hike, and there was a beautiful lake fed by a glacier, goats up on the horizon, with a rocky beach. We laid down on the beach, the sun was shining on our faces, and for a few wonderful moments I was completely in the moment.
When was the last time you were wrong about something?
Well, I'm wrong about lots of things every day. Hopefully most of them are small things, sometimes they're a little bigger. There was a meeting yesterday that comes to mind, where a team had presented a working backwards document. We all read it. One of the things I like to do as a leader is not be the first one to talk, and to let other people in the room speak first. I was so passionate about this one that I made the mistake of jumping in and offering my opinion. I kind of took the room in a different direction and I regretted it afterward.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be able to throw a baseball a hundred miles an hour.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would need no sleep. I love to be awake and alive.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
I wouldn't mind coming back as me again. But I think it would be fun to come back a hundred years in the future so I can see how things turned out.
What is an example of a piece of advice you have received?
Do the right thing.
What’s a piece of advice you have given to others?
A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to go back to my high school and talk to some kids who are thinking about computer science as a field of study. I implored them to follow their passion.
What was the last thing you purchased on Amazon?
Probably a vitamin supplement. I take a lot of them.