Has the culture @amazon improved over the last few years? Or, perhaps, is it's reputation overblown?
- Specifically Eng in Seattle
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).