Amazon - Can be amazing for some people, horrible for others | Glassdoor

Employee Review

Employee Review

Helpful (1190)

"Can be amazing for some people, horrible for others"

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

- 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.

Other Employee Reviews

Other Employee Reviews

  1. Helpful (1157)

    "Exciting Work, Abusive Culture"

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

    I have been working at Amazon full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    Jeff Bezos and his "S-Team" are brilliant and continue to make great decisions for long-term growth.

    You work with smart people, you work on exciting projects, you are pushed to your limits...which can be rewarding when you accomplish great things. The diversity of the potential work and innovation can be very alluring. I've often called Amazon my "Sexy Mistress...she's emotionally abusive, but she's so sexy that I go back for more punishment."

    Cons

    The management process is abusive, and I'm currently a manager. I've seen too much "behind the wall" and hate how our individual performers can be treated. You are forced to ride people and stack rank employees...I've been forced to give good employees bad overall ratings because of politics and stack ranking.

    Advice to Management

    Don't pretend that the recent NY Times article was all about "isolated incidents". The culture IS abusive and it WILL backfire once stock value starts to drop. I'm an 8 year veteran and I no longer recommend former peers to interview with Amazon.


  2. Helpful (154)

    "An Amazing Place to Work"

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

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

    Pros

    I've been at Amazon for a month now, and I've seen none of the horror stories being communicated to the public, although Amazon is a large enough company that I'm sure there are good pockets and bad pockets. Everyone here is really smart, and wants to succeed both personally, and as a company. People collaborate and help each other, focus on data, and truly focus on the customer. Every company I've ever worked for talks about how important the customer is, but on day 2, they're forgotten. Amazon seems to genuinely focus on what's best for the customer, and it's awesome to be in meetings where people actually bring that up, and make decisions focused on long-term customer satisfaction.

    The opportunities to learn here are literally unlimited, and the opportunity to take on new responsibility is as well. I honestly believe you can be as awesome as you want here.

    Cons

    No cons, so far - seriously. Like I said, I'm sure Amazon has some bad pockets in it here and there, but this is an amazing job, an amazing opportunity, and the biggest thing I have to complain about is that it's a little chilly in our building. I can live with that.

    Does Amazon demand high quality, measurable results? Yes! Is it hard work? Yes! Is it rewarding? Yes! So I'm not calling that a 'con'. Work/life balance seems comparable to other places I've worked - not worse.

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