Amazon Software Development Engineer Reviews | Glassdoor

Amazon Software Development Engineer Reviews

Updated December 15, 2017
1,426 reviews

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Software Development Engineer

4.0
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Amazon Chairman, President, and CEO Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos
958 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • Area Managers learn a lot in their first two years but it is fast paced (in 432 reviews)

  • It really depends on the individual employees to maintain the work-life balance (in 358 reviews)

Cons
  • Work life balance is not easy to maintain (in 2007 reviews)

  • There is nearly no work life balance (in 424 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (469)

    "A huge diverse high tech company with all sorts of stuff"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA

    I have been working at Amazon full-time

    Pros

    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!

    Cons

    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.


  2. "Hard working and Interesting problems"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Amazon full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    One of the best things about working at Amazon (especially AWS) is that the scale creates really interesting problems for software engineers, it's very motivating to see academic problems in daily basis. There are really smart people around and culture is very open and encouraging people to learn from each other. Every AWS product is an art of engineering, it's an excellent chance to get to know behind the scene. Teams are independent and can iterate really fast, every engineer partakes the decision of what to do next. There's almost zero bureaucracy. It's great to be responsible for operations of the software, being oncall adds another dimension to software engineers.

    Cons

    Sometimes work/life balance becomes all work/no life imbalance especially when time is getting closer to big events (like Black Friday or AWS Re-invent), but I don't think there's any tech company out there promising good work/life balance throughout the year. There are no shiny perks like free lunch etc. Internal developer tools are too centric, hard to use and hard to learn.

  3. "7+ years and more to go"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Senior Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Amazon full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    1) Smart people.

    2) Learning growth

    3) Flexibility in moving between teams/orgs.

    Cons

    One side effect of having really really smart people is the team is that the environment becomes really competitive.


  4. "Great place to learn and grow"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Amazon full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    - Very fast moving
    - Very talented co-workers
    - Great place to learn a lot of new skills

    Cons

    - Very few employee perks


  5. "Great company to work for."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer-II in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer-II in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Amazon full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Latest technologies and cutting edge projects
    Amazon really cares about security
    Great compensation
    Managers are often very flexible with time off
    Managers listen to senior engineers (and junior too for the most part)
    Everyone is super nice
    Switching teams is very easy and encouraged

    Cons

    On call sucks for the most part (but that depends on the team)
    Some periods are more stressful than others
    Some products are sub-par. But in that case you can just switch teams!
    People leave all the time (mostly moving internally)

    Advice to Management

    Work on retaining employees. A lot of good work has been done in the past years, but we're still not there yet.


  6. "It depends on the team"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Amazon full-time (Less than a year)

    Pros

    This is absolutely the best team I have ever been part of in my career. I love working with these people. And the projects are interesting too. :)

    BUT it really depends on the team at Amazon, I hear horror stories from other people, and it is kind of hard to believe I work at the same company sometimes. :)

    That being said I do feel very appreciated working here. The regular events are pretty amazing. Bring your parent to work day was probably my favorite so far. :)

    - good pay
    - decent benefits
    - nice work environment
    - flexible work hours and WFH arrangement
    - work life balance
    - my colleagues
    - great managers
    - adjustable standing desks
    - nice portable laptops (even if I'm not a mac fan. :D)
    - good tools and build system that are constantly being improved
    - leadership principles
    - customer obession
    - clear career and promotion process
    - mentoring program
    - learning talks

    Cons

    - health benefits could be a bit better, but I'm just used to better health care in my home country. ;)
    - sometimes people in Seattle are a bit angry at Amazon...
    - I've had slightly better 401k matching at other companies before.
    - time off can be a bit short at the start, but normal for the US.


  7. Helpful (1)

    "Good place to start your career but not for everyone"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer-II in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer-II in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Amazon full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    1. You meet a lot of super smart and hard-working people here. You'll become a competent coder, designer, and architect in no time. Engineers are usually nice and willing to help.
    2. The pay is great especially if it is your first full-time job.
    3. You can work from home if you do not have any meetings scheduled.
    4. Because the work you do is usually very challenging, you develop a genuine camaraderie with your teammates.
    5. Amazon is a great resume booster. You can go anywhere you'd like after working here.

    Cons

    1. Ridiculous amount of pressure. It's definitely not for everyone.
    2. Depending on your luck, you may have to work with a product manager that loves to micro-manage. They ask for target completion dates, and proceed to track your progress on a daily basis. It can get very suffocating from time to time.
    3. The downside of having a tight deadline is that you do not get that much opportunity to experiment with new technologies. Oftentimes you need to stick with the safer, less innovative approach.
    4. There are not enough dev resources to carry out the vision of the management team. As a result, everyone puts in insane numbers of hours each week. Don't be surprised if you find yourself working 60 to 80 hours a week. If your teammates do it, you'll have to do it. Otherwise, you'll be considered an underperformer.
    5. Perks are not as good as Facebook or Google. There's no free food or free drinks here.

    Advice to Management

    Amazon is growing at a tremendous pace no doubt. Perks like free food and drinks are now super common among tech giants. We don't mind working hard but if you'd like us to work hard and be happy, please also take care of your engineers. I've been with the company for 2 years and still do not understand why we have to track the deadline of each and every project down to the day.

  8. "Software Development Engineer Intern"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Intern - Software Development Engineer Intern in Seattle, WA
    Current Intern - Software Development Engineer Intern in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Amazon as an intern (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Team was very relaxed. Could take days off and leave early as needed and nobody would give you a hard time. YMMV of course.

    Cons

    Team is very focused on coding and push push pushing code, so much so that it felt to be at the detriment of promoting health within the team.

    Advice to Management

    Don't lose sight of the thing that makes Amazon great, but at the same time, don't push your employees to forego their health and personal connections with others for the sake of MORE CODE.


  9. Helpful (2)

    "Intense workplace with lots of difficult technical challenges"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Senior Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Amazon full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Amazon's set of technical challenges are unique to just a handful of companies. Thanks to the high hiring bar, you'll truly find yourself working with some of the smartest individuals you'll ever meet. You will be given opportunities to grow your skill set, and your career, and even if you choose to leave the company, you will find your experience in very high demand with other employers in the area.

    Teams generally run themselves independently - this includes defining projects, their priorities, and technical decisions. In that sense, it would be accurate to think of Amazon as a collection of loosely affiliated startups, which sometime overlap in scope, with a shared goal of doing right by our customers.

    Cons

    All the cons associated with working at Amazon ultimately tie back to our leadership principle of Frugality. The company simply doesn't care about the wellbeing of its employees, even if it results in hurting overall productivity and morale.

    Computer equipment is the first example: while the company has improved somewhat over the years in terms of giving engineers a choice between a Mac and a PC, as well as the right to having two monitors, employees still don't have any say in truly choosing the equipment that will make them successful (don't expect to receive a yearly hardware budget like what other tech companies offer). Need a standup desk? Not until you complete multiple ergonomic assessments with months-long waitlists before seeing a specialist. Many will counter that you have the option to get around company policies by expensing the equipment you need through your manager, but this unfortunately turns into a case-by-case situation, and a manager facing budget pressures may be less willing to accommodate employees in this way.

    Space is another example: while company policies claim that corporate employees are entitled to a cubicle or shared office, the reality is that almost every individual contributor works in a high-density environment where co-workers are seated incredibly close to one another. To compensate for the noise and distractions associated with this setup, the company provides a DISCOUNT on Bose headphones, which some employees take advantage of. Though we are told that the space issues are caused by Amazon's fast pace of hiring, the problem has been getting worse for the last several years, and most new buildings that come up in Seattle don't even bother installing a reasonable number of offices and cubicles, opting instead for completely open space seating with minimal numbers of low partitions between team areas. Amazon also fails to provide free parking to its employees, though it is possible to get on a year-long waiting list for paid monthly parking, which recently increased in price to $150/month.

    The last example is compensation. Base salaries at Amazon are incredibly low when compared to the rest of the tech industry. No one in the company makes more than $170K per year in base salary, with most engineers receiving from $100K to $150K. To be fair, the company does provide RSUs, which have a vesting period of 2 years. What has been frustrating about being paid mostly in RSUs is that the shares you take home one year are really the result of your performance review from 2 years prior, that they are not liquid due to the requirement that employees only trade these securities during short quarterly windows, and that their value is entirely dependent on investors' perceived worth of the company. Recently, Amazon shares have been skyrocketing in value, and as such, employees have been cashing in more income than the company previously predicted. Instead of being happy about this, Amazon has been shrinking the number of RSUs being rewarded to high performing employees during their annual reviews, to the point where the dollar amount (not just # of shares) associated with grants is lower every year after the next, even when employees get promoted. Managers have been very well trained to explain that the company is predicting a higher rate of growth than in previous years and that overall compensation is still expected to rise. Though I have certainly benefited from RSUs vesting at higher target prices over the years, I also realize that this pattern is not sustainable; just like any other company, our stock price is not guaranteed to see double-digit growth every year for the rest of eternity, and something will need to be done to prevent an exodus if share prices begin to drop and employees find themselves with reduced compensation compared to previous years.

    Advice to Management

    Making an investment in working conditions and giving employees a small budget to choose the right equipment would go a long way towards improving morale and productivity. The space situation is especially frustrating with current policies being blatantly ignored across the management chains resulting in most employees working in very high density environments.

    Though Amazon's compensation scheme has worked well so far, the company needs to recognize the risk of an exodus when share prices drop (or even fail to increase to the predicted levels) - the bottom line is that employees will start to leave if their W2 wages drop from one year to the next - the company should be proactive about preventing such a situation from happening.


  10. "Great company to work for"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Current Employee - Software Development Engineer in Seattle, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Amazon full-time (More than a year)

    Pros

    Great career opportunities and work life balance (due to internal tools to ease Operations workload)
    Great compensation, benefits and perks
    Talented and hardworking peers.
    Multi phased wetting interview process to make sure people with right skills and commitment make it to the teams.
    Very customer focused and your decisions in day to day life impacts the customers directly.

    Cons

    You may have to move to Seattle.
    Cost of living and real-estate in Seattle is high.

    Advice to Management

    Do not sacrifice long term values for short term benefits