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The day I met Jeff Bezos (7133 hits)

Three months into my first job, I presented to Jeff Bezos and learned a life lesson that I will never forget.

I joined Amazon immediately after graduating from school. A few months later Amazonís CEO, Jeff Bezos, tasked my team of designers and engineers with a top secret new product deliverable.

I knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime since amazing products such as the Kindle and Amazon Web Services had come out of similar Bezos-initiated projects. But I was also anxious. My more experienced colleagues warned me about presenting to Jeff and said to expect anything.

I walked to the Day One North office on Amazonís campus and took an elevator to the fifth floor. When I entered the board room Bezos stood up and introduced himself. ďIím Jeff,Ē he said politely. After this brief introduction we got straight to the presentations. I quickly learned that thereís no room for small talk in Bezosí world.

When it came time, I stood up, presented my prototype and awaited his response.

After a long pause he let out one of his famous laughs. But it wasnít the type of laugh you want to hear after a presentation. I hadnít told a joke and no one else in the room was smiling. Instead their eyes were fixed on Bezos, awaiting what he would say next. He paused another moment and then said, ďI know thatís not your plan because it canít be done. What is your real plan?Ē

He told us he wanted to see a new version the very next day. The request didnít seem to make much sense. In fact, to this day Iím not sure what the product will be used foróbut we dropped everything else we were working on and scrambled to get the demo done in time.

The next day we returned and presented the feature to Bezos. I knew instantly that he wasnít satisfied. For two minutes we stood in silence as Bezos picked our feature apart. He spoke as if he had already built the product himself.

I presented prototypes to Bezos a couple more times during my tenure at Amazon. After each presentation, he would meticulously pick the prototype apart ó always looking at the problem from a customerís perspective.

Once I had a few presentations under my belt I finally realized what was going through Bezosí head in those meetings. He wasnít thinking about the feature; he was thinking about the customer experience. He thought through how a given feature would affect everything from the customerís initial visit to the post-checkout experience. And if any part of that experience was slightly below his standards he would demand someone fix it.

At times, Bezosí meticulous attention to detail and ruthless focus on the customer experience were frustrating. But these two traits are what have led to Amazonís success.

Iíve always seen engineering as a way to build awesome things. But working on projects at Amazon altered my way of thinking. Today, a strict focus on the customer experience is ingrained in my DNA. And while customer focused product development isnít always the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B, I can say with confidence that it is the most satisfying.

If you liked this post, check out our interview with Highfive founding engineer Sayli Benadikar on her move from Apple to Highfive

Posted By: Elynor Moss
Tuesday, February 19th 2019 at 10:46PM
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