I have been working at Amazon full-time (More than 3 years)
Amazon is doing lot's of cool stuff...but lots of boring stuff too. There are really well run teams...and very badly run teams. The experience for software managers and engineers is all over the board, from really run low operational load teams to teams where people burn out after a year.
- Amazon is built, quite deliberately, to be Darwinian. You can generally expect that anyone who's been here for more than 2 years is competent and motivated or they wouldn't have survived. You can count on them as long as your priorities are aligned. There aren't many slackers here, and they don't survive long.
- We work on so much stuff that there's always an opportunity to find amazing cool stuff to work on (note that it's an 'opportunity', one that you have to pursue)
- A chance to make a huge difference
- A place where you can learn a lot about all kinds of things, both technical and about yourself
- Amazon encourages high mobility - even your manager can't prevent you from moving to another team within 6 weeks (normally, more than a few months under unusual conditions).
- Your friends and family have actually heard of the place you work and have at least a vague notion of what Amazon does without you having to explain
- You're responsible for your own career progression and finding the places and teams that are doing the stuff you want to do. No one is going to take you by the hand and help you with that.
- Amazon is built, quite deliberately, to be Darwinian. The strong survive and the weak perish (metaphorically speaking) and the 'bar' is constantly increasing. The level of performance that would have been acceptable five years ago will get you canned today. It's a kind of crucible that'll help you develop a harder edge, if you can survive, that can serve you well in your career and in life, but it's often not a pleasant experience.
I wouldn't recommend it as a place to work for just anyone.
Advice to Management
Stack ranking is a horrible practice since it's rife with favoritism. It's also not Amazonian in that it's not data based (arbitrarily designating a certain percentage of employees that must be put on performance management isn't a data driven criterion) and it's not frugal (effectively forcing an individual out of the company in one division who would make the grade in another is either retaining someone who doesn't meet the bar or a waste of talent). The goal is to force managers to actually make the hard decisions about how their team members compare with each other (not everyone can be exceptional), but it has more defects than virtues. Replace it with a common comparison of each person against the bar for their position, based on data. The percentages that are assigned to each performance category will turn out how they turn out, but there will be an evaluation mechanism that's fair and frugal.
I have been working at Amazon full-time
Disclaimer: My opinions reflect that of an SDE in Amazon. Seems like some operational job functions are very tough.
I have read through some of the other Amazon reviews and it seems to me that everyone has a very different experience! This is so true. Within the same team, you can have both workaholics and slackers coexisting and coworking together. I think I am more of the balanced type as I try to stay sane. The Amazon experience is basically the entire spectrum and it is what you make it out to be.
Pros in Amazon certainly excludes great benefits, but compensation is competitive. Free food means average quality free coffee, once in a while free pizza for lunch where it is a working lunch, and free beer and finger food in special events. We get a free Orca card to take any bus in the Seattle area for free. $160 per month subsidy for office parking, which is better than nothing. Downtown monthly parking goes for about $200 per month. 401K contribution is 50% of what you put in, where you can put in max 4% of your salary. Not so great. Staff cafeteria food is average and not at all cheaper than outside food, or could be even more expensive. It is hard not to complain about the cafeteria. Vacation days are ok but note that there are no sick leaves. They count as part of your 5 personal days per year. Listing the benefits of Amazon is like listing the cons and not the pros.
Work life balance seems to be ok for the most part, and seems to be individually-driven. No one will tell you that you have to come in at what time and stay till what time. I have team mates working every night and weekend, and others getting in at 10am and leaving at 5pm, all in the same team. Managers will focus on your project deliveries instead of how much time you spend working. If you work 40-hour weeks productively, you can definitely outperform someone who works 60-hour weeks but don't deliver stuff. Working less than 40 hours per week is somewhat common, but I can't say how many people are working how long. The view on work life balance is a bit skewed. All it comes down to are the managers and what they think. Projects are always never-ending but I have found that deadlines are very realistic and reasonable, without counting your nights and weekends. Getting some slack time once in a while is probably a sign of a healthy work environment. Everyone needs a break.
On-call really really sucks. Basically all it comes down to is having SDEs double-duty as support operations engineers. Note that on-call does not improve the code quality of any team in any way. The on-call experience is particularly bad because you are using services from some other team, and their code is of low quality and fails for the wrong reasons. If the managers had given more time to up the quality, there would not be so many problems. Software is usually delivered with a tough deadline with code that meets the minimum quality bar and never gets improved for the next few years. The code review process does not seem to help improve the code but it really obstructs developers from making great changes as unconventional things will not pass code review in clumsy minds. Innovation and excellence are not the name of the game in Amazon. Searching through the Amazon code base is usually not going to turn up quality code that you can actually reuse.
Integration is the name of the game in Amazon. You will need to spend a lot of time to figure out how to integrate your code with another team's services. Whether these other people are cooperative is a hit-or-miss. I have found that most people are responsive and helpful, but there are also quite a number of jerks who are out to make trouble for everybody. It is not easy to work across teams but the experience is mostly positive.
Amazon is a huge behemoth and is hiring people like there is no tomorrow. This reflects well on a good growth momentum but also is worrying that the company is not turning much profit. If the company does not make money, where is our bonus going to come from? You can see new faces around the Amazon building almost everyday! Downside is that we are taking in a lot of average to above-average engineers and being an Amazonian SDE certainly does not share the same reputation as the top names. Amazon is a huge mixed bag of some very talented people and some very dumb people. I think the world is not turning up enough SDEs and the only way is for quality to go downhill.
As an SDE, expect to spend most of your time talking, writing emails and documents, and maybe around 20-30% of your time coding. In most of the teams, you can work on interesting projects, but probably not revolutionary ones. Note that Amazon is a very down-to-earth company and the work is very down-to-earth as well. You will work on real things that people have actually requested for, and that people will start using as soon as you are done. Work is challenging but not to expect highly technically complex stuff. Most of the work has to do with solving everyday problems. To me, this seems to make sense because I have ever tried working on experimental projects before elsewhere and I did not feel it was a good use of my time.
Internal mobility is a key strength of Amazon, and I am not sure which company has done better than Amazon in this aspect. Internal moves are easy. You only need to stay in your team for a year before moving to a different team. There is no easy way to tell which team is a good team to move to because they all have their different pros and cons and people and coming and leaving all the time!
Seattle is by much rumour an easier place to live than the Bay area.
Overall Amazon is a tough but yet sane place to work. The flexibility of this company is really its core strength. You have the freedom to excel as much as you want and also to slack as much as you want. Bummer. You shouldn't be slacking!
Beware of bad managers and horrible team mates. They are not specific to Amazon but they do exist in Amazon.
I have to admit that Monday is usually a blue day at Amazon and it is very tough to look forward to getting into office. I don't know anyone in Amazon who looks forward to getting in on Mondays.
Be realistic about SDE requirements. Coding skills are good to have but they are not the most important part of your job. I think we are hearing the same thing from every company.
Medical coverage is average or below average. Expect to pay about $60 per month for singles and about $240 per month for families. $240 per month for families gives you $3000 in medical fees before you have to pay (more) anything out-of-pocket.
SDE advancement is unreal difficult. They have about 6 levels total, SDE 1-4, then Senior Principal Engineer, and finally Distinguished Engineer. The number of SDE 1s and 2s are huge. Trying to get to SDE 3 seems to be all-of-a-sudden extremely difficult, but not impossible. So this essentially means that if you come to Amazon as a fresh grad SDE, expect to get about only one or two promotions in your entire career, which obviously is quite a lame expectation and reality. You will probably do much better in your career advancement anywhere else.
Employee retention is horrible. I am not sure why the philosophy seems to be trying to undercut existing employees and then hire from external sources. Management all say that they are trying to retain people, but actions don't seem to suggest anything better. Rumour has it that annual pay raises are horrible. This basically mean that either you are a superstar in the company before they will try to retain you, or if you are smart you should not stay in Amazon for too long.
Advice to Management
The thing about thinking long-term is getting more and more worrying as the company has not turned a tidy profit and is trying to conquer the world with its lofty expansion strategies. I don't know what kind of secret recipe management is cooking but seeing the company not making much money never feels comfortable.
I have been working at Amazon full-time (More than a year)
- super smart people, the best of the best from schools
- if you get hired here, you will be hirable anywhere, recruiting process is tough
- the pay is above average, probably 1.5 times elsewhere (but the expected results are 150% of elsewhere too)
- lots of opportunities to work on new, innovative projects
- cool SLU campus, lots of options for food and drinks after work
- frugality is taken to the extreme, only 2 weeks vacation, parking takes a year or more to get, zero perks (not even free Prime), no fitness allowance, poor 401k
- your peers will stab you in the back, your manager will blame you for their errors, you can't trust anyone
- people who throw others under the bus and take credit for other people's work get promoted
- expectations 60 -70 hours a week, some teams expect Sunday to be an "in the office day", headcount never gets filled, teams are always short a few people but the work keeps piling on.
Advice to Management
The culture and reputation of amazon will never change unless you want it to and set the tone from the top. Try using some customer obsession with employees- as management, employees are YOUR customers. Making great products or margins is fine, but if you have a reputation/brand for treating people awful, then are you really a success? Also, there is visible lack of women or minorities in any leadership role compared to pretty much every other large company in Seattle. Seems like you have to try really hard in a city as diverse as this to be so undiverse.
I worked at Amazon full-time (More than 5 years)
This company gets A list performance from C list employees. The culture is quick and hard charging. You are always working in relevant and meaningful projects.
Maybe because the company recruits C listers who have neither merit (intelligence, strategic vision) nor pedigree (academic or professional accomplishments), most of those who become successful do so in treacherous, low cunning ways.
Imagine the Lannisters in Game of Thrones attacking the Starks in Game of Thrones; or Rawls and Burrell attacking McNulty and Daniels in The Wire; or Barrow and O'Brien attacking Mr Bates in Downton Abbey. This is every day leadership behavior at Amazon. The culture at Amazon is so infested with these middling talent weasels who have juked the stats and schemed their way to positions of power that new employees coming in actually start thinking that this behavior is normal and expected if you want to "manage people."
The work itself was stimulating and fulfilling, but the sneering condescension of the d bags that cheated and skated their way through high school and party colleges, then just converted their winky nod nod good 'ol boy shenanigans into a "ask no questions, have no introspection" company culture have made manifest some of the worst criticisms of capitalism. Any left leaning political aspirant would look at this business organism and immediately have content to lash out against the corruption that can come in free enterprise where hard work is not rewarded, and the connected, incestuous, privileged class lounge their way to wealth while treating their employees and customers like some kind of filth their shoe picked up on the street.
Advice to Management
Bezos you bought the Washington Post and hired Jay Carney to be your PR head. There is nothing I can write here that you would deign listen to, because you are a hack. You must be mad that Expedia beat you to the punch and hired Chelsea Clinton to serve on their board of directors.
For those grasping Weasels that have squirmed and back stabbed your way to success, you know who you are. You won't care what is written here because "You got yours, Eff them."
For those truly diligent and hard working employees that don't want to believe the story from NY times that called Amazon a "Snake Pit" because you don't want to think you actually are involved in such a dystopian landscape of anti-business ethics: "Always yell with the crowd. It is the only means to be safe."
I worked at Amazon full-time (More than a year)
Great starting pay and the ability to get raises very quickly. Full training in all areas are offered and if your willing to work hard and sweat everyday for 10 hours a day, 4 days a week, then this is the job for you. The 4 day weeks go by quick, it can be exhausting so proper rest and a healthy lifestyle will help you stay strong within this company. Beat benefits as well once you are a hired on as a full time employee.
After 3 years of working with the company you "cap out" at $15.75, meaning you can no longer make any more money than that as a tier 1 associate. Your expected to want to move up in the company and that is the only way to make a better hourly wage, by advancing into management and operations management positions if there are any openings.
I have been working at Amazon full-time (Less than a year)
Friendly person very interactive respectful fast paced and very happy. I have a very nice personal ity
Dowsides the management isnt up to par. There are some problems with that but it can be fix.
I have been working at Amazon full-time (More than 10 years)
great benefits, great people, great reputation
when working long days it can be hard on your body to recuperate properly.
I have been working at Amazon as an intern (Less than a year)
A challenging, result oriented, no bs, forward looking company. Don't expect people to help you unless you've done you're homework.
Lot of duplicity of ideas, projects lead to unnecessary politics and competition. Products are scrappy and lightweight - lot of time wasted in data gathering
Advice to Management
Too big to advice.
I have been working at Amazon full-time (Less than a year)
Culture in AWS is nothing like the NY time article
Could use a real coffee machine
I worked at Amazon full-time (Less than a year)
Pay was pretty good and you get plenty of hours
No opportunity for advancement unless you move to night shift first.
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