When I started at Amazon, the promotion process felt like a mystery. How does the company choose who to promote? What criteria do they use? And why would they ever want to promote me, especially when I grappled with impostor syndrome?

My promotion journey took about 2 years from the moment I first felt ready. While it was often frustrating, I learned that Amazon’s cautious approach to promotions serves a few purposes:

  1. Consistency at the Next Level: Amazon promotes engineers who consistently demonstrate they are performing at the next job level, reducing the risk of premature promotions.

  2. Minimizing Job Level Shock: Amazon employees can see each other’s job level. As soon as someone sees your job level, they set expectations of what individuals at that job level can do, so delaying this can protect the individual from being judged too early. This can particularly matter for performance evaluations where everyone is measured against their peers.

During this period, I spent about a year preparing for my promotion. I created detailed work summaries highlighting my contributions and how I was already operating at the next level. Feedback from a trusted higher-level engineer guided me to broaden my impact, such as helping other teams avoid mistakes I had encountered.

I applied this feedback to a large project involving coordination with about ten engineers across several teams. These moments of increased responsibility made me feel like I was truly functioning as a senior engineer.

After completing the project, I revised my promotion document to align with the next level’s criteria. Despite receiving feedback that my promotion may be denied, I chose to submit it anyway to learn from the experience.

As expected, the promotion was initially rejected. However, I took the reviewers’ feedback seriously, addressed the gaps, and resubmitted. This time, the promotion was approved!

The promotion process can be long and sometimes frustrating. However, by understanding the company’s perspective and remaining open to feedback and improvement, you can increase your chances of success. I hope this insight helps you get recognized for your efforts!