Inside Amazon's Engineering Culture
A broad and deep dive into how Amazon works, from the perspective of SDEs and SDMs.
This article was last updated in May 2022, following a review with more Amazon managers and engineers.
Online retail giant Amazon employs more than 70,000 people in tech roles and over 35,000 software engineers among its workforce of over 1 million employees. It’s the fifth most valuable company in the world as of the writing of this article with a $1.6T market cap.
But what is it really like to work at Amazon, as a software engineer or engineering manager? Or as Amazon calls these roles, as a Software Development Engineer (SDE) or a Software Development Manager (SDM)? I talked with well over a dozen current and former tech employees to find out.
This article is a “things I wish I’d known before joining Amazon as an SDE / SDM.” It’s useful for anyone who might like to work at Amazon. It’s equally useful if you want to learn, understand, and copy approaches that work for one of the world’s most successful tech companies.
This newsletter contains more information about Amazon’s engineering culture than any one publication has attempted before. In writing the article, I talked with more than 20 current or former Amazon senior directors, directors, managers (SDMs), and software engineers (SDEs) - including a Distinguished Engineer.
Still, it’s impossible to capture every detail about an organization with tens of thousands of engineers, where teams and organizations can differ in how they work. At Amazon, teams have autonomy to decide how they work, and all subdivisions within the company are distinct and operate differently. While I cannot cover all this variety, I’ve tried to give an overview that is helpful.
In this issue, we’ll cover:
Amazon’s Leadership Principles
Standout differences between Amazon and other, similar companies
Alumni and boomerangs
Engineering and product roles
Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs)
4. Engineering processes
How teams and projects operate
Oncall and incidents
Company-wide processes relevant for SDEs
Notable internal systems
Amazon Web Services (AWS) vs Retail
5. Advice and learning
Advice to succeed at Amazon as an SDE. The most important advice? PICK YOUR MANAGER AT AMAZON!
The “best” of working at Amazon