Jeff Wilke, the former CEO of Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer Business, shows off the company’s delivery drone at an Amazon conference in Las Vegas in June 2019. (Amazon Photo / Jordan Stead)
When Jeff Wilke, the former CEO of Amazon Consumer Worldwide, made the surprise announcement in August that he was leaving, he said he felt it was time to do something else.
“Time for me to take time to explore personal interests that have taken a back seat for over two decades,” Wilke wrote in a heartfelt letter to Amazon’s employees.
Wilke has been vague about what those interests are — until he recently sat down for an extended conversation with dot.LA. (He also shared his views on Amazon, which you can read here.)
While Jeff Bezos, who announced his own retirement as CEO in February, is focused on space exploration, Wilke’s interests are decidedly less celestial – investing in underrepresented founders and restoring American manufacturing.
It is full circle for Wilke, who grew up in Pittsburgh, where he saw once-prosperous factories shutter their doors.
“I watched the decline of industry and the effect that it had on the people of Pittsburgh and it really left a mark on my life,” he said.
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Initially, Wilke went about as far from the rust belt as one can get. After graduating from Princeton with a degree in chemical engineering, he went to work at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) writing software. The job paid well but Wilke found it unsatisfying.
“I got to a point where I decided I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing,” he said. “I needed to make a career change.”
He …read more