"Individuals don’t in fact enjoy being evaluated all the time, especially when the results are not always stellar: for most people, one piece of negative feedback outweighs five pieces of positive feedback. To the extent that measurement raises income inequality, perhaps it makes relations among the workers tenser and less friendly. Life under a meritocracy can be a little tough, unfriendly, and discouraging, especially for those whose morale is easily damaged. Privacy in this world will be harder to come by, and perhaps “second chances” will be more difficult to find, given the permanence of electronic data. We may end up favoring “goody two-shoes” personality types who were on the straight and narrow from their earliest years and disfavor those who rebelled at young ages, even if those people might end up being more creative later on."
Pervasive employee monitoring and feedback isn't costless. Some people will improve, others will get fired/quit find a new job, but there will be some who cannot take it at all. If losing a job wasn't so punishing economically and status-wise, it would take a lot of, but certainly not all, of the sting away.
We'll keep on doing what we've been doing since the dawn of time: reward Machiavellian behavior.
The guy that creates a controlled fire and puts it out will be praised.
The guy that cleans the dead foliage to prevent future fires will be punished for being unproductive and a dead weight.
Nothing will change.
Any attempt at anything short of wildly positive feedback will be met with extremely aggressive reactions, because of the reaction from the organisation that will follow.
Plenty of managers do that today of course.
Apart from that I forgot many more.
Yes. The cult of optimism and positive thinking, because like someone else on this post implied, the way you think about things changes physical reality.
At best it changes your perception which can be in your best interest or not.
Hence the inability of lone professors or colleges to fight grade inflation; if your students are competing with inflated GPAs from another school (or an expectation that all GPAs are inflated), the incentive is entirely against you.
I suppose this would be the upside of stack-rank if you did it right; a purely relative ranking system can't get poorly translated between groups. But of course, that also means it can't be used to properly distribute benefits between them.
It's a strawman because nobody is suggesting that feedback should only be "wildly positive". Positive reinforcement is very different from being wildly positive.
It's also a slippery slope fallacy because there is no evidence that there will be extremely aggressive reaction to constructive criticism.
If you could provide evidence that managers who use positive reinforcement have underperforming teams this would be an interesting comment. I suspect that would be hard to find.
No, but you can use it to your advantage if you're so inclined. Being in control most of the time but allowing a minor crisis to develop from time to time that you resolve heroically can work.
You can look at it as being underhand or you can look at it as occasionally checking that Pavlov doesn't just work for dogs. Your choice really.
That's the sort of thing you really don't want to encourage. If nothing else, doing thorough post-mortems can help create a company where allowing fires to grow isn't rewarded.
Amazon is not as meritocratic as people imagine. People are often praised for building a shiny thing or stopping a fire. Rarely for preventing a fire, or a security issue, or doing the hard work it takes to keep an old system running. A lot can depend on being in the right team at the right time.
On top of that, expectations can be arbitrarily high and are increased based on previous successful reviews.
Essentially you end up competing against your previous self and your colleagues, but this is not discussed openly by management.
If you're not careful with what data you collect, you get exactly this - perverse incentives discouraging risk-taking and incident prevention in favor of success at limited, unnecessary tasks.
Seems like most organizations I've worked at.
That and organizational volunteer work get you awards.
The problem often grows worse, not better, when you introduce concepts like top-down goal alignments and stack ranking. These can easily backfire by forcing savvy employees to scramble for maximum-impact projects and deprioritize all others. You end up with a handful of hero projects and a whole bunch of misfit toys that nobody wants to touch.
I'm not sure any company has ever truly solved this problem at scale. Obviously some company cultures are better at it than others. (I've never worked at Amazon, so I can't speak honestly or credibly to its culture.)
I've seen this happen with employees under the thumb of micromanaging PMs in particular. They start spreading rumors, then undermine PM. My solution is to eliminate micro managers asap.
I don't have a "boss" I have a "manager" or "team lead".
I don't work "under" or "for" my "manager", I work "with" them.
If you understand that connotations of words matter, you should use other words. When you start to use other words, you might start to act differently. When you start to act differently your manager might too.
Meanwhile, your manager sounds terrible. My condolences.
P.S. This TED talk is all about power dynamics, and its kinda cool, give it a watch. But seriously, stop using the words you do because every time you do, you subconsciously convince yourself they have more power than you do.
What "power" do you believe the boss has that an employee doesn't?
Furthermore, insofar as costs are unequal, that's merely a reflection of the principal/agent problem. Similarly, as a boss (but not an owner), I'm also motivated to overpay my workers; it keeps them happy and helps me get my work done (by hiring better people), and it's not my money that I'm spending.
 My colleagues all live in a country with a 30% savings rate and where American levels of financial recklessness are not socially acceptable.
What of that do you have in common with them?
My boss can increase/decrease my pay, and I can either accept or reject the new agreement. I can also demand higher pay or threaten to quit. They can tell me to work on certain projects or I'm fired, I can say I want to work on certain projects or I quit. They can terminate my employment whether I want to or not, I can quit whether they want me to or not.
Employment is a market; a situation characterized by cooperation and mutual agreement. You may choose to pretend you have no agency and are a mere victim to your boss, but I do not. My employees don't pretend this either, which is why I need to keep them happy.
"They can tell you what to do, and how to do it. And if you don't, they can fire you. And when you have no job, you have problems eating, a place to stay, and a much harder time getting jobs."
It is a small team slowly growing, and I have been there from when it was a team of just engineers to when non-technical, project managers and accounts managers were introduced. All credit to my boss and the project managers themselves for truly understanding how to integrate with rather than herd a team of engineers.
As you said, we all work with eachother. We can ask the PM to create a ticket for us and he can ask us to work on a ticket, but our schedule and priorities are set for the individuals in the team separately through a resourcing meeting. So when a PM comes to me with a ticket he needs done, he will ask "Do you have time this week to work on this task?" and I can reply with "Absolutely, I've been allocated 20% for that project this week and can complete that task in that time.
They do their best to manage the client requirements, the project timeline and time allocation but ultimately it never feels like I work for anyone other than my boss, and even he leads through example and morale rather than orders and processes.
It has been very interesting to see how this all comes together as the team grows and I am super thankful to have been able to experience the transition.
We had one manager come on board, who did not much other than ask us to complete a task, and then ask repeatedly if it were done yet throughout the day, then applying time pressures that didn't exist. To be able to see the different management side by side in the same environment was truly eye opening. The difference in my morale working with the bad manager vs the rest of the team was night and day.
When people do come to me with a new task, I ask them for rationale. If they convince me its worth doing, I do it. If they cannot, I convince them its not worth doing. Sometimes, its not worth doing but needs to be done anyways, and in situations like that, I gently persuade them to talk to anyone else. Its generally someone with less conviction than me.
Have I lost jobs before? Yes. Did I find a new job? Yes.
Words don't change reality. That's delusional.
Managers actually manage. Boss's react (knee jerk). Managers will actively remove barriers in the way of employees. Boss's systematically manipulate their employees due to low self-image.
Just to be sure I understand your point.
Is the low self-image the boss's or the employee's?
However, thanks for pointing out that generally managers who attempt to act as an authority do so because they have a poor self-image as well.
 In contrast to acting as a leader.
Stir up waters to catch fish
Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive. You must always stay calm and objective. But if you can make your enemies angry while staying calm yourself, you gain a decided advantage. Put your enemies off-balance, find the chink in their vanity through which you can rattle them and you hold the strings.
I am color blind to a vast range of interpersonal interactions, the fact that people have a vocabulary/taxonomy of interactions which includes or can generate - "micro sabotage"... hints at a world too exhausting to imagine
You probably won't thank me if you do read it - it changes the way you evaluate people...
At the best places, I assume this happens a bit, but it's pretty easy to ignore it completely and still do well by being a good employee.
At the worst places, it's apparent even to someone unaware that something is up, because people will make comments that are totally nonsensical unless you're neck-deep in the politicking. It also shows when smart people make obviously awful decisions - they're probably getting something out of it other than the good of the company.
Micromanagers and other really nasty people to work for are usually compensating for their own lack of power or security by making your life as miserable as possible.
The existence of people like this is a red flag for the organization because it always leads to negative outcomes.
It does it by getting the micromanaged fired.
Really this is just neo-taylorism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_management#Criticis...
The only problem is life is pretty much an accumulation of incremental experiences.
Most people just can't wake up one day perform like a superstar at work for the same reason why a person can't just wake up and run a marathon without any practice. Like physical stamina, mental stamina too comes from a lot of practice done over years and "from their earliest years" performance matters.
Plus rewards come to a lot of long time sloggers, because they've been around long and have been putting their heads down and doing a lot of work.
However my nephew didn't have such a fun time. He was working for one of their warehouses in Kentucky and they were ruthless to the workers like him. They had a snow storm, he got stuck in the snow and instead of being understanding they reprimanded him for it. He liked the pay but couldn't take the humiliating treatment, so he quit.
Punishing an employee for risking their life to try to come in to a job they already hate? That's textbook sadism, ruthless is too weak a word. In inclement weather our critical staff can depend on officers in 4x4 vehicles to bring them in, with no reprimand for being late due to the weather. Non-essential staff are encouraged to stay home and avoid injury and possible death trying to make it to work.
Incidentally, one of my coworkers actually suggested our manager pick him up in a 4x4 during a particularly brutal blizzard. The request was laughed off; there was no way it was worth the fuel and time to go pick up the worker to come to work. It makes sense; a sub- $20-per-hour worker is too cheap for it to work out in most cases. The humane thing to do is just to leave the store or bar closed if staff have to come in. But that extra $1000 of net revenue sounds tempting...
Amazon warehouses are notorious for being shitty to work in even considering the type of job, considering logistics jobs like this are sucky in general, that's tough to do.
I ask only because Cargill just lost a very similar suit over failing to pay employees for suit-up/down time before and after their shifts, which I thought would apply here.
As long as there are more than enough people to hire for a position, managers and policy will tend toward lazy and controlling, it's easier than cultivating people.
I may have had a weird experience, but the entire pipeline process was a hostile and miserable one.
LPs are just guidelines for what the company "wants" out of its employees. They're used heavily in hiring to weed out small thinkers and bad culture fits, and a bit in performance reviews. Outside of that, nobody really cares about them. You get upper management worship anywhere. It's the same thing as obsessing over celebrities.
Judging corporate based on fulfillment center working conditions isn't fair. One is a $15k job, and the other is a $115k job.
Ok let's see, we'll need a bullet point list for it:
* Agreed on a time for the phone interview. They didn't call. Sat around waiting for an hour like an idiot without anyone even sending an email / text / or calling to apologize. Ok, that's fine stuff happens, understand. No bid deal...
* Scheduled on-site interview. Show up. Manager, the main person who was supposed to interview me, wasn't there. I thought ok, this is getting ridiculous. But fine, big company, yadda yadda.
* People who interviewed me didn't seem at all interested in my previous projects or my experience. I suspect they never actually read my resume before the interview. Asking ridiculous questions like "tell me about your biggest failure..."
* Lunchtime comes. I thought, well at least I'll get to meet some of the team members maybe others are a bit more friendly. So I sit there and wait,... and... nothing. They apparently forgot. After about 30 minutes I started wondering around the hallways hoping someone would stop me and wonder if I was lost. Maybe I would have asked them how they liked working there and such. Nobody even apologized for it either.
* Recruiter before the interview swore they'd get back to me in 3 days, as I already had a few offers on hand. It took them 3 weeks! I decided not to remind them just to see how long they'll take.
I don't know if I'd call that just a "busy day". Seems like a systemic problem to me...
> Judging corporate based on fulfillment center working conditions isn't fair. One is a $15k job, and the other is a $115k job
Yes it is. How a company treats all of its employees tells something about the company. How it treats manager, and top brass, CEOs, developers, down to janitors. All of that says a lot about a company.
At first I thought it was to teach me a lesson about hard work, which seemed foolish, as hard work was already my life, or humility, of which I probably did need a dose.
A few years later, he told me his true reason. He said,
"If you want to know who a person truly is, don't watch how he treats his friends or his boss.
Watch how he treats his janitors, his handymen, his surveyors, his receptionists, or his waitresses.
The measure of a man is not how he treats his supposed equals. It is how he treats the least fortunate among us."
Morality is not contingent upon income.
I charge at least $20 an hour for snitching.
This tells you much you need to know about the Amazon mentality
That's completely backwards. Even asshole managers will treat their high-value employees relatively well, unless they're stupid--you don't want to kill the golden goose. It's how they treat the low-skill, low-wage guys at the bottom that tells you what kind of people they really are.
Yes, yes, because you earn more, you'd better work as a slave... wait, do slaves get salary at all? Ah, no, okay, so everyone who earns money must work harder than a slave!!!
I have never been able to figure out exactly what this is supposed to mean. Best I can tell, it means "You're fully qualified for this position, but I don't like you for reasons I can't or won't articulate."
There is a not so small cohort who parrot them.
They're a seriously good bit of Amazon culture that's been perverted into something you can use to submarine any meeting. If treated honestly, they seem (to me, anyway), like a fantastic set of rules for governing a company's actions. Sadly, it's difficult to align incentives with actually honoring and encouraging those principles :(
Something needs to be done to help people financially who are looking for a way out from the abuse.
The most sensible option is to do the bare minimum acceptable work and use all the leftover energy to find some other place, as the clock is ticking. Depending on the company, you have until the next quarter or the next performance review. Or the next headcount reduction.
Satisfactory: fulfilling expectations or needs. But not in Corporate Nu-Speak.
Given the will you can find an excuse to put anyone on a PIP.
Of course it is. As I was telling coworkers this morning, any time I've had a direct on a PIP it's to do the hoop-jumping paperwork to satisfy HR. I've already decided I don't want that person on my team. And to be fair, that's because I've already tried "performance improvement" (regular 1:1s, goal setting, the like), and concluded that more of it isn't going to turn a bad fit into a good one.
So, yeah, if you find yourself on a PIP best start polishing that resume, because you're not long for that company no matter what HR tells you.
I see a company that, 5 years ago, was 80% outsourced and now is more like 20% outsourced and continuing to change. I see a company where the developers and technical experts are given a huge amount of power and influence in the direction of the company. As I type this at 8:15 in the morning, I look around the floor of my building and see only two other people in early; yesterday at 5:45 PM there were only 4 others and they were playing Foosball. Sure, when you're on-task you are expected to cooperate with your teammates and to be productive, but the attitude is not one of "deliver or die", more of "let's see what we can achieve!".
Please don't think I'm dismissing your experience: you are probably in a different part of the company and have a different experience. But your description didn't resemble my own experience, and I thought that was worth mentioning.
>deliver or die
Oddly enough, I was told this very recently. Deliver right away or bear the consequences.
PIPs are bullshit, and fundamentally degrading. Just tell people "Maybe it's your fault, maybe it's our fault - but either way, it's not working out", offer a (truly decent) severance, and move on.
(I know, I know, I know: "because laywers.")
HR might also create a policy like this to improve the average quality of employees. An employee who underperforms on team #1, is more likely to underperform on team X than a randomly chosen new hire.
He asked me for my honest opinion on whether I was performing at the level I could (I thought I could do better), and what things I thought were causing it. I named things about me, things about the team, and things about the company in general. He explained the PIP was a deal: for three months he would take care of the external factors, and I would take care of the personal ones. We came up with a project for that quarter, which would be the metric with which I'd be evaluated.
If nothing had been done (no PIP, no anything), I might have been fired during that year. But we all wanted me to perform better; me, my boss, and the company that designed the process. And so all sides were willing to change reasonable things to make it so. Because of that honest conversation, and that feeling of all of us being on the same side, I recovered and have been going strongly for years.
It wasn't my manager who "brought HR in", though. Performance evaluation at my company isn't just the manager's discretion, and low performance will eventually get you a PIP.
The third was a master at reading the PIP, pulling just above the written requirements, then six months later was back in the same stew. Was delighted when they finally accepted a job at our main competitor.
There are others, I just remember three in particular right now. You have to take the PIP seriously: of course it's designed to protect the company, but it should really be the message of last resort rather than a formality.
Also if you have to issue a PIP you need to go back to the manager to see what went wrong. Did you have a hiring mistake or a management mistake or what? Every time I have fired someone I have felt sorry for them (not that I tell them -- they don't want to hear that at that point!). We shouldn't have brought them on, perhaps causing them to quit their previous job or forego another offer, if in the end they didn't work out.
I know some companies assume that if you're on a PIP it's impossible for the emp to recover. If a company is like that I don't see how the PIP would protect them from a lawsuit. It's like H-1B: if you take it seriously it costs you a lot more to hire one than to hire a local. It's again, an action of last resort.
If the state has "at-will" employment, the employer doesn't actually need a reason to fire you. HR could come to you tomorrow and say, "All right. Pack your things and turn in your badge." The problem is, if they did that, they'd have to defend against lawsuits from people who say that they got fired because they were a woman, a minority, disabled, or some other protected class. What the PIP does is allow the organization to show in court that, out of all the reasons you could have been fired, you were not fired for being in a protected class. They don't have to positively show that you were a low performer. They just have to raise enough doubts about your performance that a judge or jury can have reasonable doubt about your assertion that you were fired for a discriminatory reason.
Then, because the PIP actually defined the job standards, and involved checking with people who actually could evaluate the employee's performance, it became patently obvious that the employee was meeting them (and actually doing a great job).
Of course, in both cases the process was so insulting that the employees began interviewing around immediately and quit within a few months. And, no surprise, it left such a bad taste in everybody's mouths that almost the entire team quit over the next few months as well.
But, I don't think this is common. :)
After being put on a PIP, the colleague focused on other projects within the same team and eventually succeeded.
When thinking about an employer, above a certain size threshold, never judge a company. Always judge a department. You don't work for a company. You work for a department. Above a certain (fairly small) size, the only thing you'll share with the employees in the other departments will be the domain name in your email. Everything else will be coincidental.
A good team at a bad company -- unlikely.
Can happen via acquisitions
- Equity vesting schedule is 5%, 15%, 40%, 40% over 4 years
- Relocation package is prorated for TWO years. If you leave after staying for a full year, you still need to return 50% of it.
- 401K matching only vests after working for 3 years. If you leave within 3 years, no matching for you whatsoever.
- No tuition reimbursement. Want to get a part-time masters in CS? Pay it yourself!
- No catered food. No free soda. No free snacks. If you are hungry, you can eat at one of the shltty cafes.
- Obnoxious oncall routines. You are woken up 3:30am waiting for the event to be over. Why not automate things? Because replacing people is cheaper than building great software!
This is Amazon's mindset TOPDOWN. The root of the problem is that the leadership does NOT care about employees or technology. This is a retailer and a powdered Walmart, what do you expect?!
SDE 1 and SDE 2 are simply the slaves working at a sweatshop. Some of my co-workers are hired without onsite interviews. They do some video chat and they are hired at Amazon. They don't even know how to write bash scripts. Our team used to have technical program managers who can't even write a Python script. With simple things like running a command line tool, he cuts a ticket and let the engineers do it.
The managers at Amazon pocket bonuses and don't give a damn. They don't carry pagers and when they do, they just page lower level employees. The only reason people take offers at Amazon is that they can't get better packages from Facebook/Google.
* I worked at AWS for 2 years.
What this means is that in four years, despite glowing reviews every year and a promotion, I never got a meaningful raise/bonus/stock grant, because the stock was doing so well. My W2 income went up, but it was completely unrelated to my performance -- I could have done just enough to not get fired and would have made essentially the same amount. People who performed worse than me were regularly given larger stock grants.
It was super demoralizing to figure that out. Big part of the reason I left.
Equity vesting was low for the first year, but they gave me a (cash) signing bonus that made up for it. Pretty much one-to-one based on the starting value of the equity, and it paid out monthly instead of waiting until the end of the year.
The cafes were awesome and the prices there were decent. I was paid more than enough to buy my own lunch. Catered food is a cute perk, but it's hardly critical.
I don't drink soda, but they had free coffee and tea. Tea is my drink of choice, so I was happy. Soda is bad for you anyway. ;)
They did have free "snacks" if you count breakfast cereal. Which many people would grab a cup full of as a snack (there were no bowls, oddly enough). There were a mountain of breakfast cereal boxes on every floor near the kitchen. But yes, they also had paid snack machines.
The oncall routines were terrible, though, I agree. Luckily I was in a strange situation and was able to avoid them.
Our team was far better, technically speaking, than what you describe. Everyone was a pretty awesome developer, including my manager, who was really awesome overall. Developers went home at night; no one was being driven as if in a sweatshop. We had game nights and played board games. Periodic team dinners (that were awesome!). It was a blast.
And I think the latter really makes the difference. There are 20,000 people working at Amazon, according to the article. When you scale that big, some corners of the org are going to suck, and some will be better.
I may someday return to Amazon, now that they have an office near me in Colorado. But I'm still working on the game that I put on hold while I worked at Amazon, and I need to finish it before I reattach the golden handcuffs.
I've been in many teams and I can agree there are many strong developers.
> Developers went home at night; no one was being driven as if in a sweatshop.
Maybe not like sweatshops, but I've met many tenths of people that left because of the constant pressure to deliver combined with the oncall duties. Once I witnessed a whole team disappearing in a short time.
> We had game nights and played board games. Periodic team dinners (that were awesome!). It was a blast.
We too, but phrased like this makes it sounds like Amazon is a relaxed and laid-back company. Far from it.
Amazon is strict about a lot of things, but as far as workload -- well, I'm quite a fast developer, and I almost always was way ahead of the curve in getting things done. Very low stress for me.
Big reason I quit is that I was bored, in fact. Despite asking for more work. Despite taking on random extra team projects to create tooling to improve source control processes. And writing tools that were used elsewhere in the company. Etc. etc.
I would think that Amazon of all places would automate anything they could.
I have repeatedly heard these stories about Amazon -- it is one of the known-bad places to work, unless you have found a truly special situation.
Keep in mind this is only compared to other tech employers. It's fine compared to games companies, non-tech companies that won't value your work, and most jobs if you're not privileged enough to be a software developer.
Being a software developer isn't a privilege, it's a choice.
* Access to educational opportunities as a child (the "easy" path to developing the right brain structures software engineers need)
* Lacking the first point, the extreme amount of time and the tolerance for the effort involved in "learning how to think" as an adult.
* The free time to learn to become a software engineer.
* Ideally the money to get a CS degree or equivalent.
* Raw aptitude. Some people are genuinely not cut out for it.
No doubt the path to career success is easier for those with parents who made an a collection of smart decisions, as well having made past smart choices.
If I must accept this definition of 'privilege', then we can simply call all outcomes in our life to be a direct result of the amount of 'privilege' we have.
Personally I reject this broad definition of privilege as it strips away peoples need to accept the fact that at the end of the day, they have the ability to make their own choices and develop their own self discipline.
There are world class developers who have arisen from 3rd world country level educations, there are elite athletes in third world countries who have self-coached their way to olympic level performance. Class mobility exists, and stripping away personal responsibility via the process of redefining language does not help anyone except for those who wish to just continue their life without critical introspection.
At the core, this is a political argument hidden under the shroud of being a linguistics argument.
You can accept this definition without reducing your entire life to a preordained path. There’s middle ground where you can accept that some portion of your life was your choice, but the rest of it was due to circumstances you were raised in or had no choice in. Nobody is suggesting you didn’t work hard to get where you are, but it’d also be crazy to pretend that the white child born to rich engineers has the same path as a poor person of color who had to help work at a young age to support their single mother and siblings.
It is all automated. To the point of paging you when an alarm goes off. But when the alarms go off, someone has to figure out how to fix the problem. Apparently some newer developers dug into the problem, they were able to fix it so that things were Much More Sane.
On our particular team, the server guys had just set too many alarms without really:
a) Documenting exactly why a particular alarm was potentially bad
b) Documenting what to do when a particular alarm went off
c) Really thinking about alarm thresholds -- frequently alarms were going off just because a client was using the product
The hell of oncall for our team was that we were the client team. We knew nothing about the server side. So if someone on our team was oncall and got paged, they'd basically have to call someone on the server team at 3am or whenever anyway because WTF is this stupid alarm?!
I had the Weirdest Commute Ever , though, and was as a side effect exempt.
 I live in Colorado. Amazon send me an offer to be an employee that allowed me to work from home ... but not in Colorado, because sales tax. So I rented a house on the edge of Kansas (3 hour drive), worked M-W, 12 hours/day, and drove home for the weekends. I couldn't do any work in Colorado or Amazon would risk having to pay sales tax on all purchases from Colorado. So QED I couldn't be oncall. Amazon has offices here now, so I could work for them without the weird commute. But as I mentioned elsewhere in this thread, I'm currently obsessing over finishing a game.
the conspirator in me thinks maybe he figured out its better to hire lots and fire lots churn/burn em out. amazon is always having those hire-events where you go like cattle to get filtered for a likely bad job b/c you won't appear all that selective to them.
Principal, maybe, but SDE3 is a position you can be easily hired into with enough experience. As a promo it's a bitch, though, and absolutely not worth it. Jump ships for something level equivalent at a company with better comp and get promoted there.
I say this having stuck it out at Amazon for SDE3 before jumping ship. My only regret is that I stayed too long.
When I say I should've left sooner it's because for all the effort put into it I ended up taking a substantial pay raise and a level drop when I finally did leave five months later (and went through a much lighter weight promo process shortly after joining my new gig that I would've been able to pursue regardless). It's possible the promo put me in a better negotiating position, but given that I didn't disclose my current compensation during negotiation I can't say that with any confidence.
> - Equity vesting schedule is 5%, 15%, 40%, 40% over 4 years
I haven no equity in my company or opportunity to get any.
> - Relocation package is prorated for TWO years. If you leave after staying for a full year, you still need to return 50% of it.
I don't think my company offers any relocation packages (I could be wrong on that) but even so this policy doesn't strike me as completely crazy.
> - 401K matching only vests after working for 3 years. If you leave within 3 years, no matching for you whatsoever.
My vesting schedule only vests after 6 years (with 20 percent vesting every year after the first). It's not great but on average it's not the worst AFAICT.
> - No tuition reimbursement. Want to get a part-time masters in CS? Pay it yourself
> - No catered food. No free soda. No free snacks. If you are hungry, you can eat at one of the shltty cafes.
Both of these... We have nothing like it at all, I'd kill for a "shitty cafe". We have coffee and that's about it. This comment comes of as extremely spoiled to me.
> - Obnoxious oncall routines. You are woken up 3:30am waiting for the event to be over. Why not automate things? Because replacing people is cheaper than building great software!
My job doesn't include being on call but I work with people who are, I don't fully understand what this bit is talking about. Are you woken up just to be told your "shift" is starting or is this just referencing being woken up because there is a problem? Cause that's kind of the definition of being on call....
Maybe I'm just naive and stupid to think my job is good (every job could be better of course) but from where I'm sitting 90% of your comment comes off as entitled and spoiled and it colors the rest of it.
To answer your question about being woke up in the middle of the night, there is no such thing as a "shift". Most of us are expected to work at the very least 60 hour work weeks (no additional pay, everyone is salaried), with many jobs beings 'always on', extending our work into nights and weekends with take home laptops. A typical (though not universal) day at Amazon is like follows:
- Wake up and open laptop to check emails and get some work in.
- Shower, eat, etc. before going into work.
- Work until around 7-8pm.
- Come home and eat, then open up laptop to work (maybe with the tv on in the background) up until going to bed.
Waking hours are pretty much consumed by work, and on weekends a lot of people will do a couple hours here and there and between other things, to stay current with issues.
If people in SV look like they're asking for a lot or getting upset over petty things, it's because of the sheer soul sucking amount of work that's being imposed on them. Small conveniences like a catered cafe makes the difference in helping them work through it.
When you say "check emails", can you describe the typical task that would be assigned to employee?
I ask because it all seems very vague as to what the employees actually do. Are they all software engineers? Customer service? Which ones are overworked?
You can work less than 60 hours, but it will show in your output, as deadlines are aggressive and set tops down.
Examples of the kind of thing someone is answering emails in the early morning for is bugs discovered in your code, a regression that's failing, or something found that's blocking another coworkers' progress (since they were working late into the night as well).
Without specifics it's much harder to get a grasp of the issue and nearly impossible for someone who already isn't a part of that culture/workforce.
> these types of statements have cost people their jobs in the past
I'm able to appreciate that, but this is why we're on the internet, and anonymity should be theirs and your personal responsibility and no one elses.
It's not so much the type of work, but other factors like volume, availability and perceived engagement. Even if you were capable of getting done in 20 hours what takes 60 hours for someone else you'd be expected to be available to help the team or respond to issues. Often times, in these types of environments you'll be expected to reply to issues quickly, respond to managers/leads if there's a question and these will arise at any moment within those 60 work hours, because even though you finished "your tasks" the team is still working to finish theirs and you're expected to be around "adding value".
As regards to the "checks emails", the task can literally be anything: a question regarding code, a response to an inquiry, a prompt for a decision on some topic, or a request for information that's needed ASAP. I've seen organizations that track the time taken to get a reply to these emails and they keep track in Excel sheets the average response time from individuals and their number of responses.
For example, I've also seen people get reported to management for taking a nap during their lunch break, even though they had finished their assigned task. The details of the tasks become irrelevant in those types of toxic environments.
Why be offended by an offer? It's just an offer. Counter or just say "no".
Being offended is a waste of time.
I am curious how they can retain people to manage all of their operations. Those terms sound terrible and not competitive. I would take those terms, but I am desperate. Why would others.
Interested to know if you(others) took terms out of naivete, need, broken promises/misrepresentation, career or skill boost, ect.
Tl;dr seems like a lot of good engineers work there, but many recount horrific exp.
They retain people because not every team is like what you read in the news. There are teams with completely normal on-calls who love their life and job and are far from upset with anything that has to do with work. Free food isn't a deal breaker when you make what companies like Amazon pay.
It's not a scientific study but I don't need scientific accuracy in order to get a pretty clear idea where I would or would not want to work.
If that was the sum of it, you'd expect to hear just as much bad stuff about Microsoft, Google, Apple, and so forth. That doesn't seem to be happening at the moment.
People also don't particularly want to read a story from a happy engineer at a big company either.
Additionally, the unhappy person who has an axe to grind is likely to go out of his way to publicize it, talk to reporters about it or write comments on the Internet about it. Happy employees are less likely to go out of their way to comment on the experience, and what they have to say is less notable on average.
Also, where do you get a 50% of engineers leave before 2y?
I'm on a team I like, work with people I get along with and have hours that are good (<=40) except around launches.
2 years after college, I make enough (~160k total comp, a bit over 100k salary) for money to not really be a motivating factor.
When I first got to amazon, I fully expected to jump ship within 6 months and move somewhere else. I stayed because I liked the people and the work was fine. If my team culture changes and I don't like it, I'll look external and internal then leave.
I've never personally seen any of the horrorshow stuff I hear about Amazon. I've worked with people who have, and mostly they just moved to other parts of the company. It's a big place.
I stay because I like it. I've turned down offers for more money in order to remain, because my job is satisfying, challenging, and balanced with my non-work life. I go home at 5 PM every day, get paged only occasionally, have a mandate to automate and stabilize my services that is at LEAST as high-priority as features or launches.
In short, the opposite of some of these complaints.
It's almost like there's nuance to be found here!
> You may find that you got extremely lucky in where you first landed.
I have 3 other teams with previous coworkers who are currently having good experiences that I can go to if this one goes south.
Yes there are a lot of teams that burn people out. I'm not blind. But there are also a number of us that have resisted the amazon way and try to actually be human.
This last sentence was such a stark contrast with the rest of your comments above, that it almost feels like a slip or a that meme with a guy blinking an S-O-S signal with his eyes.
The company is trying to change the culture and frankly, have done some mind blowing things. No one would have ever though paternity leave would be a thing 5 years ago. Or that part time work would ever be discussed. But there is a long, long way to go and a lot of senior peoples attitudes need to be changed before I'd call the culture here awesome.
But that's the thing though. Your team is not being discussed, but the entire company is. And if it feels to you that it's your team that's swimming against the current, then maybe there's a lot of truth to the general perception of the whole company.
That's sad that people work there. How many billions does Jeff have again? Oh yeah, $61.7 billion dollars.
I only know that for most of the devs, it is fine. It's not perfect, I'm not even sure I'd tell people that it's great. But for people that have a good team? It's fine and the quality of people makes up for it. If I didn't like my team I would have left a long time ago.
I decided to not go back, but in the end having Amazon on my resume (even as an internship, as I'm relatively young) was basically a free pass to interview anywhere else I wanted. I'd say it was a shitty experience while I was there, but net positive in the long run if only because of Amazon's klout.
How do you know? Based on what they sell through AWS? This is not super evident - they might have duct taped bunch of shitty stuff and rely on people on-call 24x7 to keep system running.
On the plus side, hiring people out of there after a year is usually pretty easy.
I think it depends on what part of Amazon you're working for.
From what I understand, Amazon.com is not run on AWS.
Is this weird? I only know of one or two coworkers who knows how to write bash scripts..
Despite almost knowing no bash, I was hired as an SDE1 at Amazon so your story adds up though!
I would be very surprised if an engineer working primarily in windows couldn't write a .bat/powershell script
Never had to write a script, whatever for?
If I need to automate something, I use a GNU Makefile, or Python. That way it works on Unix as well as on Windows...
Why is it weird? I've been working with UNIX systems for more than 20 years, somewhat of a Vim expert and I don't think I can write a bash script. Never needed to. Sure I can modify .bash_profile and I can read bash scripts but writing them to do something useful? Nope. I'd use something like Perl or awk instead. The only time I ever wrote any kind of shell script on my memory was a tcsh (csh?) one in the 90s because the box didn't have any scripting languages installed.
I work mostly in node.js these days, and will have others on windows or mac, and deploys to linux. A node script is usually safer for me, and I'm far more proficient... shell.js, mz and babel-cli makes it easier to do task scripts for automation. ymmv though.
It I had to write a bash script without the benefit of google, I'd totally fail.
This seems totally out of place to me. You have to pay for your own food, who cares? That's the way it is for pretty much everybody.
In any case, dragging relocation out over two years feels wrong to me given that relocation is binary. I suppose in effect they are using it as a way to attach strings to a signing bonus.
>>> they're just very much weighted to the employer's beliefs
That's no excuse. Hitting someone weaker than you is not "very much weighted to your beliefs".
They did not make me an offer, which is just as well as I would have declined. I doubt I did a great job of sounding interested past the 15 minute mark, which is really out of character for me.
Now to address some of your points, tech must be a different animal. I'll tell you about my benefits since I really like that HN is a place to really get some transparency, and probably by design, there isn't a lot of Fortune 500, non-tech firm representation here. So you can stop reading if you aren't curious, but for those that are, here goes.
I work in finance tech, but with a large, somewhat oldschool company, not a startup. I recently became a (junior) officer of this company. Comparatively, I don't think Amazon sounds all that bad in terms of the fringe items. For instance:
- I don't even get a free cup of coffee here - the cafeteria is pretty good, but not cheap
- Most people here don't get equity. We do have an employee stock purchase benefit that lets you buy at a discount with a reasonable holding period (90 days or 6 months, can't remember). For those that do have what I'd call retention incentives (either cash or stock), our vesting period starts at 3 years. This is separate from our bonus, which varies by level (and all levels get something), but vests when deposit hits your account
- Our 401k match is comparatively better. We match 1:1 up to 5%, and then I think we kick in roughly the same as a defined contribution, since we no longer offer a pension. So 10% in "free" retirement money each year. I believe matching begins on day 1 and vests immediately
- Tuition reimbursement is a funny thing. I haven't tried our benefit here since I'm done with school. However, I've been around my industry, which is heavily concentrated in the Fortune 500. Most companies offer 5-6k a year, and they all try their best never to pay it. At one company, who I won't name, I was told that my degree was not related to my job, so no benefit. Great, but the policy makes no mention of that, and the recruiter certainly doesn't undersell the benefit
- Oncall sucks. I've avoided it since I manage backend financial/data engineering processes, nothing customer-facing. I've covered myself as much as I've delegated, though, it's only fair
- Relocation was I think a year, and they covered everything - packing, moving, transporting our 3rd car, etc. Package is based on level and some other factors. As an employee now, though, I don't think there's ever any repayment period for internal relocation. They just cover it, and from what I hear, it's pretty comprehensive
I realize I'm not entry level, but the above applies to everyone here, except where noted. I used to think we don't pay Amazon salaries, but a peek at Glassdoor says that Amazon doesn't really pay that well, particularly for the cost of living around the HQ.
Having escaped from an abusive manager myself, I can imagine what this person went though. Managers that are skilled in the art are able to inflict pain without leaving much of a paper trail.
I did ask for (and got) professional help, including medication. There's only so much stress 24/7 that you are able to handle before you start to crack. Who knows what would have happened if I just tried to ride it out.
I'd have gone bananas if I had been placed in a PIP instead. This was one of the possibilities identified by my branch predictor, so I was collecting a mountain of evidence against said manager. Thankfully, it wasn't needed.
(I realize that nowhere in the article it says a manager was the issue, but corporate pattern-matching gets pretty good after a while)