Remembering Joy Covey: How Amazon’s First CFO Managed Tremendous Growth

Image via Flickr by jonobacon

A bicyclist killed in a tragic collision with a van on Skyline Boulevard on September 18 was recently revealed to be Joy Covey, the first Chief Financial Officer for Amazon. Though she was wearing a helmet, the collision with a Mazda minivan was too severe and Covey was declared dead on the scene.

The untimely death has caught many in the finance community off guard. Covey will be remembered as a “close friend and advisor” for many of her peers. Though not as well known as many CFOs today, Covey’s influence in Amazon was critical to the company’s growth and rise to the top as an online retailer. In fact, it could be argued that without Covey’s passion, intellect, and energetic drive, Amazon would not be where it is today. As a young professional in her 30s, Covey was an incredible asset to Amazon, architecting the company’s early expansion.

While many CFOs go to college, gain experience, and begin climbing the executive ladder, Covey had a unique background and upbringing that would come to define her career. When she was a sophomore in high school, Covey ran away from home in San Mateo and worked at a grocery store in Fresno. She graduated from California State by the time she was 19 and took the exam to become a CPA, when she earned the second highest recorded score in the nation – all without studying. This would pave the road to Harvard and eventually Silicon Valley.

Today, it’s more and more apparent that the role of the CFO goes beyond finance and is heavily intertwined with the inner happenings of a business. But in 1998, this was already a way of working for Joy Covey. During the formational years of the web, Covey was not only a pioneer for Amazon, but played critical roles in recruitment, strategy, and branding as Amazon established its name.

In fact, when Amazon was first founded, investors even referred to the company as “Amazon.bomb,” as many analysts believed the business model was flawed and would fail. Regardless, Covey’s energetic passion would raise over a half a billion dollars in financing for the company.

Regardless of industry, Joy Covey will remain an inspiration for Chief Financial Officers across the nation for years to come.