Brandon Walker

Data Scientist

Opinion: How long until we see Amazon University?

2 minutes
June 1, 2019

I’ve heard that Jeff Bezos has three main questions he asks his employees considers when hiring someone.

  1. Will you admire this person?
  2. Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?
  3. Along what dimension might this person be a superstar?

The earliest reference I can find to this is from his 1998 Letter to Share Holders.

The second question, “Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering?” is the most interesting to me. In Amazon’s early days, with few employees it was probably easier to find someone that was either better than the average person currently at Amazon or had a useful and orthogonal skill set to the people currently at Amazon. If someone meets one of those standards then they meet Bezos’s requirement of raising the average level of effectiveness. As the company becomes larger and acquires more and more people it’s going to be harder to find people that meet this standard. That is why I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an Amazon University before too long.

With a high cost of college, and universities struggling to keep their curriculum up to date, Amazon may not be in the interest of finding great employees, but in making great employees. Considering all the things Jeff Bezos has his hand in, and that a similar sort of school already exists (the Make School), this may be something we see in the next few years.