Amazon’s vice president of Global Corporate Communications breezes across the lower mall of Seattle University looking very much at home. Having once ruled the halls of Campion and Bellarmine as a resident assistant, Drew Herdener, ’01, has returned to lend his professional credentials to his alma mater—a university that, he says, provides exactly the kind of education Seattle’s global economy needs.
A former journalism major, Herdener set out be a sports reporter but an introduction to Seattle U’s public relations officer changed his course. “I realized I preferred to be behind the scenes,” he says. He directed his passion for storytelling to public relations, which became his minor. He worked for both the university public relations and sports information offices throughout his time as a student.
As Herdener seems to feed on the fast pace of his industry, it’s no surprise he rocketed up the corporate communications ladder. After joining Amazon in 2003 as a PR manager, Herdener became a director of communications overseeing Amazon Web Services, devices and digital media. He launched the company’s first device—the Kindle—as well as the Amazon Web Services business.
With his wife Megan (Hopkins) Herdener, ’05 MSN, and their two young daughters, he recently spent two years in Luxembourg running communications for all of Amazon’s European business. For the past year, he has been back in Seattle building Amazon’s corporate communications team. He interfaces daily with the company’s most senior executives about the company’s reputation and leads a large, global team of communications professionals
“It’s my job and the job of my team to show the world what Amazon is all about—our principles, our culture, how we operate as a company and how we empower our customers, employees and small businesses around the world,” Herdener says.
Interestingly, Herdener nearly passed up the chance to work for what was then a little-known startup. Fresh out of college, he had what he thought was his “dream job,” doing public relations for the Seattle SuperSonics, when he got a call from the woman who had run the public relations firm where Herdener had interned every summer during college. She had moved to Amazon and wanted Herdener to join her. His family thought he was crazy but something clicked for Herdener during the interview at Amazon.
“I was so drawn to the culture of the company—the fast pace, the invention and the smart people I met—that I couldn’t say ‘no’ or I knew one day I would regret it,” he says. The next year, the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City.
For the past year, Herdener has been serving on Seattle U’s task force for the new Center for Science and Innovation (CSI) at the College of Science and Engineering. He is almost as energized talking about the CSI project as he is talking about Amazon. That’s because he has experienced firsthand the value of a Seattle U education in today’s global world.
Raised Catholic, Herdener grew up attending Catholic schools, including a Jesuit high school in Portland. At Seattle U, the university Honors program put him through his paces and equipped him with skills he draws on to this day.
“Seattle U and particularly the Honors program … taught me how to learn, how to be curious, how to pursue knowledge … and not to give up until I had the answers,” he says.
Herdener now sees an opportunity to bring his alma mater and Seattle’s global technology sector into closer alignment through the CSI project.
“Industry in Seattle, and frankly everywhere, can benefit immensely from Seattle U’s focus on educating the whole person and developing graduates who can think, write and speak effectively across a wide variety of disciplines,” Herdener says. “That’s why people should be excited about what Seattle U and CSI can offer the technology fields for the next century.”