Reflections on my Amazon Career
After four years at Amazon, today is my last day. I’d like to look back and share my take-aways.
When I joined Amazon, I wanted to learn what made Amazon successful across so many industries. After four years, I can say Amazon’s engineering culture and infusion of Leadership Principles (LPs) makes it successful. Here’s what I’m taking from my time, in LP language:
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.
To be successful at Amazon, there’s a simple formula (though challenging in practice!):
- Determine what customers need most.
- Build it.
It took me ages to internalize this! Even years into my tenure at Amazon, I presented designs that received as their first questions: “What customer problem are we solving? What use cases do we need to address?”. This feedback helped me focus on how to best serve the customer.
At Amazon, there’s more things to do and problems to solve than time available. Prioritizing what to build boils down to finding the most impactful customer challenges.
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”
At Amazon, engineering owns end-to-end development, including:
- Pitching an idea
- Design and alignment with other teams
- Implemention and testing
- Project launch and maintenance
I’ve learned so much from leading projects through the end-to-end software development lifecycle. And I’ve never heard “that’s not my job” from successful folks at Amazon.
For Amp, I led call-in, which is a feature that allows listeners to become a participant on a live Amp show. We handed off the project at launch to new owners, who have been wonderful. I’ve participated in follow-up discussions about how we can keep making call-in better for our customers, even though I no longer own or lead it. I’m looking forward to see how Amp and call-in continues to improve over time!
Learn and Be Curious
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
I’ve had moments at Amazon where I needed to immediately understand an unfamiliar domain. For example, on call-in, we needed to write the front end iOS app components in Swift. I had no professional experience working in the language at the start. We learned and taught ourselves the language and idioms through online resources as we came across the problems. To Amazon’s credit, they encourage learning and growth and I’m hoping to bring that with me too.
Strive to be Earth’s Best Employer
Leaders work every day to create a safer, more productive, higher performing, more diverse, and more just work environment. They lead with empathy, have fun at work, and make it easy for others to have fun. Leaders ask themselves: Are my fellow employees growing? Are they empowered? Are they ready for what’s next? Leaders have a vision for and commitment to their employees’ personal success, whether that be at Amazon or elsewhere.
One final lesson I take away is how much your team and manager impacts your happiness. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with fantastic teams and managers in my time at Amazon. Watching teams grow, build relationships, and lead with empathy has been gratifying. I’ll miss working with these Amazonians.
I had a wonderful time at Amazon over the last four years. If you’re curious to hear more, or have questions, feel free to reach out. I’m happy to chat. I’m looking forward to starting my next adventure and sharing more soon!