Last week, Google engineer Steve Yegge accidentally posted a fascinating 4,771 word rant in which he attacked his employer and ripped his former boss, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, as a tight-fisted micromanager.
“Bezos is super smart; don’t get me wrong,” Yegge wrote at the time. “He just makes ordinary control freaks look like stoned hippies.”
Now, Yegge is back. In a post today, the former Amazon engineer apologized for the unflattering portrayal, writing that he’s never before aired his critical comments of the company in public.
“I’ve always skirted any perceived shortcomings and focused on what they do well,” wrote Yegge, adding that the company “is chock-full of people I admire and respect.”
Yegge doesn’t retract any of his comments about Amazon or Bezos, but he said he wanted to offer a more balanced view of the entrepreneur and the company.
As part of that, Yegge offers an in-depth story of his experience presenting to Bezos. He writes:
Bezos is so goddamned smart that you have to turn it into a game for him or he’ll be bored and annoyed with you. That was my first realization about him. Who knows how smart he was before he became a billionaire — let’s just assume it was “really frigging smart”, since he did build Amazon from scratch. But for years he’s had armies of people taking care of everything for him. He doesn’t have to do anything at all except dress himself in the morning and read presentations all day long. So he’s really, REALLY good at reading presentations. He’s like the Franz Liszt of sight-reading presentations.
Full post here.
And while we’re on the topic of Bezos, The Wall Street Journal just ran an excerpt from Richard L. Brandt’s new book: “One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com.”
The excerpt offers an inside look at the makings of Bezos. Brandt writes:
Over time, Mr. Bezos’s unusual management style began to develop. He’s not always a “nice” CEO. He can inspire and cajole but also irritate and berate. He can see the big picture—and micromanage to distraction. He’s quirky, brilliant and demanding.
One former executive recalled that, at an offsite retreat where some managers suggested that employees should start communicating more with each other, Mr. Bezos stood up and declared, “No, communication is terrible!”
He wanted a decentralized, even disorganized company where independent ideas would prevail over groupthink. He instituted, as a company-wide rule, the concept of the “two-pizza team”—that is, any team should be small enough that it could be fed with two pizzas.
Bezos has always been somewhat of a mysterious figure on Seattle tech scene, a disengaged visionary.
Portrayals such as these by those who know the man are a welcome addition to the tech history of our region. And, if you’re looking for more, we’d recommend this GeekWire story from June: “Meet Amazon.com’s first employee: Shel Kaphan.”