In this post I’ll let you have a glimpse into my first weeks as an Amazon SDE. I’ll let you know my first impressions, as well as some interesting lessons I’ve learnt right away from one of the greatest companies in the world. Note: All the views expressed in this post are mine, and in no way I’m representing Amazon.
But First…some Background
When I first got the offer I couldn’t process it. I hadn’t even graduated from college and I was just being offered to work at this giant company that was already part of my day to day life. To make it clear, I’m a Prime member, Alexa’s #1 fan, and I’m continuously trying to convince people around me to get a Kindle (check out this post if you wanna know why).
It took me a moment to realize how great of an opportunity this was, not only on a professional level (which is obvious), but in terms of the kind of impact that I could have. Was I going to contribute on improving the lives of millions of people? People like myself, my family or friends? I couldn’t even envision what was ahead.
I ended up joining the Amazon Fashion team as a front-end engineer in Madrid.
The on-boarding process
As I’m writing this post it’s actually my fourth week working at Amazon. I’m going to describe my own on-boarding experience, it can differ from one individual to another, but the steps are mostly the same.
First day. Early in the morning, I had the “opening meeting” with my manager, where he introduced me to the platform I would be using for the upcoming weeks. It’s a guidance platform for the on-boarding process, that contains content specifically tailored to you and your work position. For example, in my case, there’s a learning path to follow day by day, in which I can find internal educational videos, blog posts, talks, step-by-guides and quizzes to ensure I’ve absorbed the important knowledge. I’m regularly learning more about the internal philosophy at Amazon, and how to use some of the tools I’ll be working with in my team. This is not to say the only thing you do for the first weeks is just completing the course, not at all, you’re actually expected to gradually start working on small tasks and combine them with the training. In my case, I was given my first task on Monday second week.
Second day. I started attending the daily stand-ups which helped me understand the project management dynamics.
Third day. I had the chance to meet the person that would be my on-boarding buddy. The on-boarding buddy helps solving any technical doubts that may arise during the training, as well as questions around the job, tools, and practically anything that comes to your head. In my case, it’s a senior engineer that kindly introduced me to how the internals work at amazon, and currently solves many of my newbie doubts.
During the whole first week I devoted the majority of my time to learning at the on-boarding platform. I spent the majority of my learning time trying to understand how code changes and deployment process work, alongside different internal technologies.
I did find that it could be a bit messy to learn that many technologies one after the other. It’s not necessarily a bad methodology, but I’m a very visual person, and so I really prefer to first have a broader picture and see the links between the concepts before diving in. So I made my own schema, which my manager encouraged to turn into digital form in order to share it internally. I like that they support us to share knowledge and seek to improve things.
During the second week I was already given some small tasks, with the support of senior engineers.
On the third week I was sending code for review and deployment.
And by this week (fourth week) I already have some of my code in production. (yay🎉)
The on-boarding continues. Even if it’s been a month working at Amazon, it really doesn’t feel like it. I’m still learning on the on-boarding platform and on my own. It’s always Day 1.
First impressions & Lessons
I didn’t quite know what to expect from a company like Amazon. As a recent graduate I felt my opinion wouldn’t be taken into account in such a big company as people would just assume I have no experience. I ended up seeing the complete opposite, whenever me or my fellow on-boarding mate suggest ideas they’re always listened attentively, I never feel treated as a newbie and I’m often encouraged to work on my proposals.
Each week every team member has a 30 min informal meeting with the manager. This weekly time is specifically dedicated to talk about anything, except for your current tasks. You get the chance to explain more personal concerns to your manager, career prospects, topics that interest you, or seek advice.
Something that strikes me on a very positive way is the great support given by the manager to achieve whatever you want, even if that means leaving the team. The manager’s goal is to make you feel as happy as possible and help you reach your goals. Including a complete change of path, country, or team.
Once you’ve discussed your interests with the manager, he’ll try to assign to you those tasks that are related to the topics that you most enjoy, or that will be more helpful in order to achieve your goals. He also gives freedom to propose projects related to you preferences that can benefit the team, even if it’s not inside the most immediate concerns of the team.
This can seem counter-intuitive, as it rarely happens in more conventional corporate companies, however, makes total sense. The happier you are at a company the greater is the chance to continue working there, and continue providing the knowledge and experience to other teams. This also increases the performance of employees and their motivation to work.
It can get overwhelming, sure. Amazon is such a big company it’s easy to get lost on the details and feel you know nothing. But the truth is, no one knows it all. The key is to focus on communicating, you’re not expected to know how things work right away. On my part, these few weeks I’ve been asking a lot of questions, no one seems bothered by it, on the contrary, my team-mates seem happy to answer my doubts and contribute to my learning process.
The manager also checks quite frequently how we’re feeling with the workload, and puts emphasis on making us communicate if we ever enter the panic zone. This helps avoiding burnout and keeping the team healthy.
We all feel impostors
After speaking to some of the senior members of the team, I came to realize that we all feel a bit impostors and kind of spend most of the time not knowing much of what is going on. This is completely normal, Amazon is huge, and it’s impossible to know it all. I’ve been told that Amazon does not really care much about hiring experts on one topic, it tries to hire adventurers, people who are willing to try, dive deep and persist on the face of the unknown. In the end, many of us, despite not feeling completely qualified for the job, ended up applying anyways.
Wrapping it up
Overall, my on-boarding is proceeding smoothly. I’m glad to be working in such a friendly and caring environment. There’s still a long way to go, and I’ll make sure to continue writing about it.
If you’re reading this, thank you for your time and I really hope you got some value from this post. See you in the next one!
I’ve linked some resources in case you want to dive deeper in what Amazon culture looks like.