Jeff Bezos hasn't always had the golden touch: Here's what the Amazon founder was doing in his 20s

Amazon's first employee shares what he learned from Jeff Bezos

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced Tuesday that he will step down as CEO of the company later this year and transition to executive chairman of Amazon's board. Bezos is worth an estimated $196.2 billion and is currently the richest person in the world, according to Forbes.

But before the 57-year-old became a tech mogul, he didn't always have the Midas touch. In fact, Bezos spent most of his 20s the way many millennials now do: job-hopping. 

While in college at Princeton, the future billionaire realized that he couldn't keep up with other students in his honors physics classes, so he switched his major to computer science. He also committed himself to the idea of one day running his own business, according to a 1999 Wired profile on the billionaire.

After graduating from college, Bezos turned down positions at several established companies, including Intel, Bell Labs and Anderson Consulting. Instead, he accepted a job at Fitel, a telecommunications start-up.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 1997.
Paul Souders | Hulton Archive | Getty Images

Fitel's main goal was to create a global telecommunications network for trading firms, and Bezos started out debugging lines of code, Wired reports. He quickly rose through the ranks, eventually landing a role as the head of development and director of customer service.

He spent more than two years attempting to grow the business. But the start-up failed to get off the ground, so Bezos left and took a job as a product manager at Banker's Trust, which is now part of Deutsche Bank.

At Banker's Trust, Bezos again advanced and became vice president, Mic reports. But Bezos grew bored at Banker's Trust and after only two years there, at age 26, he began preparing to pivot into tech.

He took a job at the then two-year-old hedge fund D.E. Shaw and became one of the company's vice presidents in just four years. As a V.P., Bezos was tasked with researching new business opportunities on the rapidly growing Internet, which was held tremendous potential in the early 1990s.

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After making a list of 20 products he could sell online, Business Insider reports, Bezos decided that books were the most viable option. When he couldn't get D.E. Shaw on board with the idea, he decided to branch out on his own.

"I knew when I was eighty that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time," he says in "The Everything Store," a biography by Brad Stone. "That kind of thing just isn't something you worry about when you're eighty years old.

"At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way … it was incredibly easy to make the decision."

His bet on the Internet paid off. In 1994, Amazon was born — and the rest is history.

This story has been updated to reflect the news that Jeff Bezos announced plans to step down as Amazon's CEO and transition to executive chairman of Amazon's board.

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