Amazon Software Engineer Reviews | Glassdoor

Amazon Software Engineer Reviews

Updated November 17, 2017
1,728 reviews

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Software Engineer

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Amazon Chairman, President, and CEO Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos
1,168 Ratings

Employee Reviews

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Pros
  • We get to learn a lot of things on the job (in 420 reviews)

  • It really depends on the individual employees to maintain the work-life balance (in 335 reviews)

Cons
  • Work life balance is not easy to maintain (in 1954 reviews)

  • There is nearly no work life balance (in 421 reviews)

More Pros and Cons

  1. Helpful (460)

    "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. "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

  3. Helpful (1)

    "Best three months ever."

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

    I worked at Amazon as an intern (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Amazing Experience. Great Work Environment.

    Cons

    Everything was great. I never had any complaints.

    Advice to Management

    Nothing


  4. "great company"

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

    I worked at Amazon (More than a year)

    Pros

    - lots of autonomy and freedom
    - you get to work with truly cutting edge tech
    - smart people

    Cons

    - its easy to overwork yourself
    - a single bad manager can ruin your experience
    - many teams are not exciting


  5. "SDE @ Amazon Review"

    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

    We work on problems that are dictated by our customers, which is really fun. We scale very quickly, it's not unusual to go from not making any revenue to millions in a year. Great working environment. Good comp.

    Cons

    Frugal. It's a basic corporate environment. There's free tea and coffee but that's generally it. Lots of reorganizations.


  6. "Software Engineer"

    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

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

    Pros

    Great environment for working and improving

    Cons

    No free meals
    Small working space

    Advice to Management

    N/A


  7. "Great Place to Learn"

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

    I worked at Amazon as an intern (Less than a year)

    Pros

    Flexi-hours, Cooperative colleagues, good pay

    Cons

    No food. Nothing free available. Some days could be stressful (particularly on deadlines)

    Advice to Management

    Great workplace.

  8. "Challenging but rewarding"

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

    I worked at Amazon full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    - Working with smart, motivated people who are willing to help you
    - Wide variety of teams and projects that you can work on
    - Massive problem scale that you may not get elsewhere

    Cons

    - Work hours can be long, especially with oncall expectations

    Advice to Management

    Ensure employees can achieve an OK work-life balance if they want to


  9. Helpful (4)

    "Mixed Bag."

    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
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

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

    Pros

    1. Great pay - I've only seen 2 companies (Google & FB) in Seattle offer more than my current total compensation, and while some in the Bay Area do, it's not more after adjusting for cost of living.
    2. Part of an exciting company
    3. Fast-paced
    4. Hands-on experience with massively scaled software.
    5. Very laid back about working from home (although this varies from team to team)
    6. Objective, merit-based analysis for promotions. Not much office politics or nepotism in my org (caveat: I've heard very different things from other orgs)
    7. Good hardware. This was not the case at all before 2015 or 2016. Now almost every dev. has a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro, at least 1 EC2 instance, and an ultrawide monitor (or 2 regular monitors).

    Cons

    1. If you are a new grad hire, they may place you on a team that has nothing to do with your interests or what org you were told you would work for when you accepted the offer. Even if you have 0 experience in that area. I've heard this from at least 10 people. It seems to be common.
    2. Extremely high operational load, especially in Retail.
    3. "Fail fast" approach and unrealistic deadlines have lead to shortcuts being taken, widespread tech debt, and a very serious retention problem. Even the engineers that stay at Amazon switch teams every 2-3 years.
    4. Hardly anything is documented (including widely-used services and tooling). Building almost anything requires constantly engaging other teams, who are often unresponsive or unhelpful. Tribal knowledge is lost when people leave the team (in my first year, 80% of the 20 engineers on my team left - and this is not uncommon). Imagine that you have to write an app using a web framework (AngularJS, as an example) that you aren't familiar with and you must call 5 services with undocumented APIs. You aren't allowed to use any documentation at all, or refer to any books on AngularJS. You do have an IDE, and can contact the creators of the services you need to use. This is exactly what it is like developing at Amazon. It takes the fun out of it entirely, and makes building anything much harder than it should be (compared to using off-the-shelf tools/libraries and documented APIs). Amazon has been lauded for adopting a Service-oriented architecture; what isn't mentioned is that none of the services are documented, even though they have (usually multiple) clients.
    5. Culture is very cult-like.
    6. The company highly values fresh-out-of-college hires. They believe that potential is everything. In software engineering, though, experience can be incredibly important, too. I suspect they prefer college hires because it is much easier to get them to overwork, and they are less likely to have families. College teaches data structures & algorithms, but not software best practices. Code quality is often very poor.
    7. The work is challenging only due to the complexity of figuring out what is undocumented, interfacing with other teams, etc., not the actual coding part.
    8. Very difficult to change any entrenched practice, even if it can be demonstrated to be ineffective and better alternatives are available.
    9. Management is typically very short-sighted. Schedules are determined by when higher-level mgmt wants a project to be completed, and all projects must be completed by the end of the current calendar year. Usually there is little to no input from the actual engineers. All that matters is if the code meets the goal or not, with little if any consideration on whether it is a ticking time-bomb that will be unreliable and require frequent maintenance. Most code at Amazon is not robust, and requires 24/7 oncall coverage for frequent breakages.

    Advice to Management

    Change engineering culture to value high-quality software. Hire more people rather than expecting to get so much out of so few. Coding is fun - people do it for free, they do it after work in their free time, etc. Just remove all the things that take the fun out of it. Reduce operational load by hiring dedicated Site Reliability/Support Engineers and give developers the time to create quality solutions and document their services. I am 100% certain that the current approach is at least 2-3 times more costly in the long-term (>= 1.5 years) than if more time was given during the development and testing phase.


  10. "Software Development Engineer - NYC"

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

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

    Pros

    Lots of diversity
    interesting work
    great culture
    nice / helpful employees

    Cons

    Doesnt really have any employee perks
    Lots of the events happen in Seattle