Culture @Amazon

GoFundMe Mqof84
Aug 5, 2017 32 Comments

Has the culture @amazon improved over the last few years? Or, perhaps, is it's reputation overblown?

- Specifically Eng in Seattle

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TOP 32 Comments
  • Amazon / Eng eelj01
    I’ve been at Amazon for almost three years. I haven’t noticed any significant changes beyond the revised performance review (it’s all bunnies and rainbows now--and frankly a lot less useful, because the real reviews still happen behind closed doors in OLR each year) and promotion processes, but I’ve been on the same really great team in a pretty decent org the entire time I’ve been here. I’ve seen a lot of the things people have described, but haven’t directly experienced much of it myself.

    A couple observations I’ve made along the way:

    The more valuable you are, the better you’re treated (and paid). FC associates are treated as completely disposable. High performing developers are treated pretty well. Everybody else falls somewhere in between.

    Amazon is irritatingly cultish about the leadership principles, and two of the most important ones are “have backbone” and “bias for action.” You can be successful here without throwing people under the bus or being an asshole, but that means you really have to stand up for yourself. You can’t be afraid to tell somebody to fuck off (in professional terms, of course) or live in fear of losing your job. That attitude will earn you a lot of respect as long as you’re also “right, a lot.” Amazon’s culture is unusually receptive to self-promotion...which is fine if you’re legitimately good, but also leads me to my next point:

    The hiring bar is a mess. Amazon has some of the best talent in the world mixed in with scores of people that a lot of their supposed peers would never even talk to. Due to a combination of insane growth and relatively high turnover, Amazon has adopted a startup-like “hire fast, fire fast” mentality, which has led to an influx of fairly low performers that are ultimately either run out because they just can’t cut it (in healthy orgs with competent management), or successfully adopt the sycophantic mindset of kissing ass and backstabbing their peers (which works well enough in dysfunctional orgs with an equally inept reporting chain). It’s particularly bad when they find their way into the management ranks, and a lot of these people are the sort who will toss blame on others when things don’t go their way, which naturally includes situations where they get PIP’d or managed out.

    Naturally, Amazon picks up a lot of Microsoft’s dregs (and vice versa). Microsoft had the same stack ranking/backstabbing culture for decades--which almost certainly still persists in various corners--and a lot of managers and PMs who came out of that are naturally finding their way into Amazon and continuing on as always.

    Compared to the worlds of management consulting (where I spent some time), high finance, or law, Amazon is still a cakewalk. I’d chalk up at least some of the whining to people who just don’t have much perspective.

    All of that said: IF you’re legitimately good, and IF you’re savvy enough to pick out the right team and org, you can have a great time here. I have no regrets (and yes, I was aware of Amazon’s rep before I came in).
    Aug 6, 2017 1
    • Amazon / Product
      wAFQ42

      Amazon Product

      PRE
      Microsoft
      wAFQ42more
      that was pretty insightful
      Aug 7, 2017
  • Amazon / Eng t886p
    It's interesting that this still comes up after almost two years. My response to all the sde candidates I interview is go see for yourself: go walk around the Amazon campus, stick around until 5 or so. Read the look on people's face. Watch how many people leave. Watch if they talk to each other and what the topics are.

    What you will probably observe is the west coast culture of 9-5, or people talking about ideas and architecture and projects.
    Aug 5, 2017 6
    • Google KKYK57
      Perhaps, but that's only because the people outside Amazon at 5 are unemployed, and not Amazon employees.
      Aug 5, 2017
    • Amazon / Eng t886p
      How do I explain employees badging in and out to a Google engineer?
      Aug 5, 2017
    • Google KKYK57
      I worked there for years.
      Aug 5, 2017
    • Google KKYK57
      Happy to log in from my blind @amazon account if you'd like :)
      Aug 5, 2017
    • Boss: are you coming to work today? Me: Nah gonna stalk some people at the Amazon office
      Aug 5, 2017
    • Amazon / Product
      HRHCAT

      Amazon Product

      BIO
      Hanging around down the street.
      HRHCATmore
      "Perhaps, but that's only because the people outside Amazon at 5 are unemployed, and not Amazon employees"

      😂😂😂😂😂

      This varies by team IMO. I have also been here for "years". It really depends.
      Aug 6, 2017
  • Amazon / Other makeme
    Some improvements, but it's been forced on the tenured who tend to be the perpetrators. Tons of resentment and passive aggressive undermining like I've never experienced in my 20+ yr career. If you don't have support in the senior ranks, you have a big nasty hill to climb.
    Aug 5, 2017 1
    • Amazon / Product
      frup1d

      Amazon Product

      PRE
      Microsoft
      frup1dmore
      agreed, vastly different between teams and manager to manager. I will say the "culture" tends to be rammed down your throat a bit more than at other companies no matter which team.
      Aug 5, 2017
  • Google KKYK57
    Same as always. Worse.
    Aug 5, 2017 1
    • Google KKYK57
      Left 6 weeks ago from Aws to google.
      Aug 5, 2017
  • Amazon / Other livewire
    White knuckling it to the end of year 4 then I'm out. Hostile place to women over 40.
    Aug 7, 2017 2
    • BlackBerry TronaldDum
      That's right. Get those RSUs and dump the anti femme workplace
      Aug 10, 2017
    • Amazon qmiT07
      Hostile for women tech managers no matter what age bracket
      Mar 24, 2018
  • Amazon / Other makeme
    Still comes up because it's luck of the draw if you end up on a great team with a supportive manager who isn't more concerned with their progression than yours. While that makes a good confident talking point, you'll learn very little (about a team) by walking around and observing body language and random conversations.
    Aug 5, 2017 1
    • Amazon / Eng t886p
      Agreed
      Aug 5, 2017
  • LinkedIn
    gaijin1

    LinkedIn

    PRE
    Amazon, Microsoft
    gaijin1more
    It does teach you how to survive and grow in a company once you leave. If you have to stick around in Amzn, you better become the nastiest version of yourself.
    Aug 6, 2017 0
  • BlackBerry c3por2d2
    They have made a number of PR moves since the New York Times article of August 2015 however if I recall the CEO was oblivious to that side of Amazon. As long as Bezos is there the nastiness in the culture won't go away
    Aug 5, 2017 2
    • GoFundMe Mqof84
      OP
      This is an interesting comment.

      I am a big fan of Amazon as a consumer. And so was interested to read those articles a few years back.

      But I did wonder if it was really a requirement of success or just a mix of the right/wrong people.

      I.e I love eating baked goods, but I'm not a fan of getting to work at 3am. But starting that early is a requirement for those businesses to succeed
      Aug 5, 2017
    • BlackBerry TronaldDum
      @Mqof84: They are wonderful to customers because they give Amazon money. However when Amazon has to give money to people (employees, sellers, contractors) they are pretty tough.

      I don't think being a dick is a requirement for success. The ability to execute is what counts.
      Aug 10, 2017
  • SK hynix qOPL45
    As long as the tail heavy vesting and stack ranking (it just went informal, still here) exists, desperate management will do desperate things to improve their short term performance to stay till all the shares vest on the 4th year.
    Aug 5, 2017 1
    • BlackBerry c3por2d2
      Yeah, it's a dog eats dog world
      Aug 5, 2017
  • Amazon GyjX25
    amazon has issues prioritizing early delivery over proper design and testing. that can cause extra operations. but its a real life tactic that has real value... you get data in which direction to go in faster and you allow newbies to get design xp by giving them a chance to make mistakes and grow.

    i think people like to bucket something as good or bad. sometimes each option is a mixed bag and the good comes with the bad.

    their payment structure is wonky. people complain about few perks.

    mandates from above can happen and theyre intrusive.
    Aug 7, 2017 1
    • Microsoft wtf007
      That is not true. In 2007 I forced my manager to change project plans for a high visibility project to make room for testing. The key is to show that without proper testing you have a high probability of prod issues.
      Jun 29, 2018
  • Amazon xTAR84
    5 years at Amazon and seen massive hiring. can't hire enough good people so the answer is to have ridiculously heavy process and let the 10,000 monkeys plow through getting things done. It's hard not to spend a day with out rolling ones eyes conatantly.
    Aug 10, 2017 0
  • WRKSHP / Eng 999
    I have friends who have worked at many teams within Amazon and it seems that hq in Seattle is hardcore and tough but their acquisitions elsewhere (e.g. A9 in the bay or their game studio in socal) are a lot better culture-wise.
    Aug 6, 2017 0
  • Amazon / Other makeme
    Jeffb never had a boss. I don't think he's intentionally driving a "bruising" culture. It's impossible to relate to the plight of the common worker unless you've been one. He relies on the S team for this type of guidance, or enlightenment, so if there's blame to be had it should start there.
    Aug 5, 2017 2
    • Amazon eeffoc
      Dude, Jeff B worked on wall St for years and he did have a boss.
      Aug 5, 2017
    • Amazon / Other makeme
      Dude, I stand corrected but that actually makes even more sense. Can anything be more cutthroat than Wall street?
      Aug 5, 2017
  • GoFundMe Mqof84
    OP
    Thanks all for the perspective
    Aug 5, 2017 0

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