When I worked at Amazon, I initially found the promotion process mysterious. How does the business decide who to promote? What criteria do they use? And why would they ever want to promote me, an engineer suffering from impostor syndrome?

My promotion journey took about 2 years from I first thought I was ready to pursue promotion. While I found it frustrating at times, I came to realize that Amazon took a cautious approach to promotions for a few reasons:

  1. Amazon wants to promote engineers who consistently demonstrate they’re at the next level. This helps to de-risk promoting someone before they are ready.
  2. Amazon’s public job levels come with different expectations, so delaying promotion until meets the level protects them from being judged too soon.

During my journey towards promotion, I spent about a year preparing. I created work summaries that detailed my contributions and how I was operating at the next level. When I reviewed these documents with a higher-level engineer, they pointed out areas where I could expand my impact. For example, they asked me how I had helped other teams avoid the mistakes I had encountered.

I took this feedback to heart when I worked on a larger project that spanned teams and required coordination with about 10 engineers. I had many moments where I thought to myself, “This is what it feels like to operate as a senior engineer.” Promotions at Amazon happen when you consistently operate at the next level. So, any time I felt that way, it meant I had an opportunity to improve.

After we shipped the project, I revised my promotion document to demonstrate that I met the next level criteria. I received feedback that the promotion be denied, and I decided to go through with it anyway. I wanted to find out my areas for improvement and submitting and trying again later was the best way to do that. As expected, the reviewers rejected the promotion. I learned from the experience, and addressed the gaps, and resubmitted it. The promotion went through!

The promotion process can be a long and sometimes frustrating journey. With a better understanding of the company’s perspective and a willingness to learn and improve, you can increase your chances of success. I hope you’ll get recognized for your efforts!