Foster the Product: Working backwards from the customer

In the December edition of the UW Foster School’s monthly “Foster the Product” series, Jennifer Cast, the former VP of Amazon Books, discussed how her team implemented the well-known “Working Backwards from the Customer” method in launching the famously online company’s first bricks-and-mortar book and device store.

Jennifer Cast

Cast has spent the majority of her career building and scaling businesses in the software, e-commerce and digital sectors. Her interest in building tech companies started at the beginning of her career, when she worked with emerging growth hardware companies at the investment bank Alex. Brown & Sons.

After business school, Cast joined Edmark, and educational software company, where she served as director of marketing and product management.

Her first chapter at Amazon began in 1996. She was the company’s 25th employee at a time when annual sales were less than $16 million.

During her first five years at Amazon, Cast was director of marketing, general manager of Music, and vice-president of Books, Music, Video and Digital. In 2014, after 13 years volunteering in the community, she returned to Amazon to build Amazon Books. After opening the 15th store in 2018, she moved to human resources to lead specialty recruiting, in which she led a global team of 400 responsible for talent acquisition of Amazon executives, principal and distinguished engineers, senior science and design leaders, and undergraduate and graduate students.

Foster the Product is presented by the UW Foster School of Business and hosted by Jeff Shulman, the Marion B. Ingersoll Professor of Marketing. The series is an opportunity to connect with people and ideas that can advance a product career. Sessions take place the first Thursday of every month.

The next Foster the Product event is January 7 at 4:30 p.m. PST. Nirankush Panchbhai, VP of product management at Salesforce, will speak on “Choosing what not to build: when and how to say no or stop.” After the talk and Q&A, attendees will have an opportunity for networking and guided discussion.

Register for the January session. And join the Foster the Product group on LinkedIn.