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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 over a dozen current and former SDEs and SDMs 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. 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:

1. Introduction

  • Amazon overview

  • Vocabulary

  • Amazon’s Leadership Principles

  • Standout differences between Amazon and other, similar companies

2. Hiring

  • Hiring processes

  • Compensation

  • Internal mobility

  • Perks

  • Alumni and boomerangs

3. Career

4. Engineering processes

  • Onboarding

  • 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

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