Amazon CFO named Outstanding Engineering Alumnus

March 18, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Brian T. Olsavsky, senior vice president and chief financial officer (CFO) at Amazon.com, has been named one of 12 recipients of the 2019 Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award by the Penn State College of Engineering.

“I am honored and thankful to be given this award,” he said. “The College of Engineering has produced hundreds of thousands of talented and productive engineers, and I accept this award on behalf of all of them.”

Olsavsky grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and as a result, was well aware of Penn State’s reputation. Receiving his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State in 1985, he hails from a family of proud Penn State alumni.

Including his wife, Susan, and many brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, he added, “We have been a large Penn State family for the past 40 years.”

While he’s not actively tackling engineering-specific problems at Amazon, when assuming the position of CFO in 2015, Olsavsky used his engineering mindset to fuel his leadership at the revolutionary tech company.

“Engineering, and in particular mechanical engineering, seemed to be a great, practical application of skills to solve real world problems,” he said.

He also uses these skills to enhance Amazon’s culture of “customer obsession” and to lead a large team. He said, “Engineers are good at not only visualizing an innovation, but also knowing how to achieve or build that innovation for customers.”

Before joining Amazon, Olsavsky earned his MBA at Carnegie Mellon University. “At the time, I felt it was important to add additional business skills to complement my engineering degree and work experience,” he said.

Prior to becoming senior vice president and CFO in June 2015, he rose through the ranks at Amazon, first leading the finance department for the company’s Worldwide Operations from 2002 to 2007 and went on to become the vice president of finance for Amazon’s North America and International retail businesses.

In a previous role, Olsavsky had oversight and responsibility for the finance team supporting Amazon.com websites, merchant services, and fulfillment operations and subsidiaries as the vice president of finance and CFO for the Global Consumer Business.

He also spent seven years at Fisher Scientific, where he held a variety of financial and business management roles, and a total of eight years at BF Goodrich and Union Carbide.

Reflecting on his advice for Penn State engineering students, Olsavsky believes that no matter which trajectory your career takes, it is crucial to be an agile, lifelong learner. He said, “What you are really here to learn at Penn State is how to learn continuously for the rest of your life. Read, test yourself in new roles, and add additional skills as technology advances.”

He added, “Cell phones, electric cars, laptop computers, digital books and music, machine learning, artificial intelligence – all of these were not around or highly experimental when I was a student in 1985. You will see even more accelerated change in your lives.”

Olsavsky will be honored on April 8 at the College of Engineering’s annual Outstanding Engineering Alumni Awards ceremony at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus, accompanied by his wife, Susan Hitechew Olsavsky, and their three children.

 

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MEDIA CONTACT:

 

Erin Cassidy Hendrick, emc5045@psu.edu

“Cell phones, electric cars, laptop computers, digital books and music, machine learning, artificial intelligence – all of these were not around or highly experimental when I was a student in 1985. You will see even more accelerated change in your lives.”

 
 

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With more than 60 faculty members, 330 graduate students, and 800 undergraduate students, the Penn State Department of Mechanical Engineering embraces a culture that welcomes individuals with a diversity of backgrounds and expertise. Our faculty and students are innovating today what will impact tomorrow’s solutions to meeting our energy needs, homeland security, biomedical devices, and transportation systems. We offer B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering as well as resident (M.S., Ph.D.) and online (M.S.) graduate degrees in mechanical engineering. See how we’re inspiring change and impacting tomorrow at me.psu.edu.

Department of Mechanical Engineering

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The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2519