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Ask HN: Amazon software engineers, how is the work culture now?
284 points by tinderliker on May 14, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 255 comments
Was there any change from the time New York Times article was published? And does the pay + stock compensate for the bad work culture (if there is?)

No change since the NYT article.

Amazon only changes things when it has to, and only in a lip-service kind of way. There was a flurry of discussion and proposals when the article was published, but it's all died down and we're back to where we were beforehand.

Compensation, culture, and perks are infinitely better at Google, Facebook, Lyft, Uber, etc. All of them start vesting your stock monthly after 1 year, whereas Amazon has a ridiculous vesting schedule (5% after year 1, 15% after year 2, 20% every 6 months thereafter). Not to mention the awful 401k matching, no free food/drinks, terrible drab offices, etc. All in the name of "frugality." Leadership claims that our competitors waste their money on these things, despite all of them being insanely profitable with higher employee happiness and retention.

I'm working on moving to one of the above competitors now. I recommend avoiding Amazon, even if the role you've been offered sounds cool.

Thanks, this made things clear. I was seriously considering joining until the responses in this thread. Its better to wait for another offer for few more months rather than suffering for the next 2-3 years.

I think it really depends on the team you're on at Amazon. (well, the vesting, free drinks etc doesn't).

I never found the NYT article to be even slightly representative of my time at Amazon, and the group I was in at the time made additional changes to help improve morale that really worked. I believe you can find a good, or bad, team to work on at Amazon, and I assume the same is true of other big companies too (I have worked at another big company and it was true there too).

If anyone here honestly believes free food and office decor stack up as benefits right alongside retirement benefits and vesting schedules, please take a step back and evaluate your life. I'd rather live on a software developer's salary with no 401k access and a 6 year vesting cliff than live on 2/3rd the salary with immediate vesting and a generous 401k match.

What's your math?

In year 0-6, I would think the latter case comes up better, assuming (which is definitely true at like, all large tech companies) that yearly stock + 401k match (not even touching tax benefits) is better than 1/3 of your salary?

I would think stock + 401k > 1/3 salary basically (this was true for me at Workday, anyway)

I'm curious as to what level you're at. I hear that there is a pretty hard line between Principal engineer and SDE, in that Principle engineer is a pretty good gig.

Principal engineers write more docs than code. It’s a good gig depending on what you want to spend time on.

I'm curious, does this apply to all of Amazon globally? I was considering Amazon Dublin and would be interested to hear what it's like there.

I interviewed for a C# dev job at their new Dublin offices in the old Irish Nationwide building. I had to attend a recruitment open day watching presentations about why Amazon is so great and then come back a few days later for a surprisingly easy technical and HR interview.

Despite being refurbished their work space looked very basic and clinical, but at least there were good views on the higher floors. No free food, just tea and coffee.

The package they offered me was pretty poor. Salary was above average for my skill level, but zero perks. No share options, no flexi-time, and a PRSA pension scheme instead of a real one.

I asked about perks only to be told they weren't offering such generous packages at that time. I found this odd as I didn't contact them, they found my details on LinkedIn and approached me. In those circumstances I would have expected some perks to sweeten the deal.

I declined the offer.

> their new Dublin offices in the old Irish Nationwide building

Amazon also have a new build office block on Burlington Road which they are currently moving into.

A colleague of mine moved to a senior position in Amazon Dublin about 3 years back. He quit in less than a year after being fed up with the ultra conservative attitudes of the people calling the shots there. He also mentioned they're pretty frugal when it comes to employee perks. Also you had to be on call two weekends a month. But it's a big company so maybe he just had a bad experience.

Apparently the same here in Germany. Everybody leaves sooner or later.

One minor but important correction: some of those companies you mentioned don’t even have a 1 year cliff anymore.

I know some amazon employees that work in a WeWork office. Free beer & food regularly

I heard FB starts vesting monthly right away these days, which imo is absolutely the way it should be. Google, take notice.

Google has done this for at least 6 years now, I don't know when they started doing this. Source: Spouse works at Google

No they haven't. There's always been an initial 1 year cliff. This changed in the past year. Source: I joined google less than 6 years ago and had a 1 year cliff.

Hmm, maybe different people have different contracts. In our case, the 1 yr cliff was about the signing bonus, not the vesting.

That's a very unusual deal. Most Google offers were (up until I think August/September 2017) structured as base + target % annual bonus + cash signing bonus with first/second paycheck (which you would need to pay back prorated if you left before a year, but this isn't a cliff) + equity with a 1 year cliff before vesting on a schedule that depended on the exact amount, but varied from annually to monthly.

This was true for new grad offers as well as for most experienced hires. I believe I've heard of different structures for cases where Google was doing essentially an equity buyout, but those were absolutely the exception, not the rule.

Are you sure you are remembering correctly?

Google is also doing this now, fwiw.

Didn’t know. Then, Microsoft, take notice. :-)

Microsoft starts vesting immediately at 20% every 6 months. Amazon, take note.

Are you sure? This means the whole grant vests in 2.5 years. Their vesting period used to be much longer than that.

checking myrewards, some are on the 20% schedule every 6 months (for 2.5 year for full vest) and some are on the 10% schedule (for 5 year for full vest), and some are on a 5% schedule every 3 months (for 5 year for full vest).

Perhaps it would be better to actually have knowledge about the topics on which you're commenting?

All of this is _very_ recent.

>no free food/drinks

It's sooooo important.

To each their own. I struggle with compulsive eating and free food at a workplace correlates with weight gain for me.

Of course, that's just me. I'm not saying you should be deprived. I like getting a free beer or two on Thirsty Thursdays but if I were a recovering alcoholic I would hate it.

I believe GP was being sarcastic... That said, while I don't mind free food and drinks, I also don't mind taking care of it on my own. The only difference is if there is a weekly event for all company with food + drink, sort of a gathering. That does wonders for morale.

Yeah, where I am now has after-work drinks on Thursdays and I really like it. We chat, play some video games (we make them so it makes sense), have a beer or two - it's good.

But I would not be shocked if at least some of the people who I know never come do so because there's a not small percentage of the population for whom being around alcohol is incredibly challenging. I'm like that with food - and truth be told, on those Thursdays I tend to eat too much. But eating too much doesn't have the same impact professionally as getting drunk (it's still not great, though).

I agree. Nice to have free coffee though.

Well, it's kind of a signal, see Steve Blank's essay:


Sometimes financial decisions that are seemingly rational on their face can precipitate mass exodus of your best engineers.

Exactly. Free food is worth ~$300/mo. for me - easily compensated for by ~$5K extra in base pay. But this is a signal to me that the company does not care about employee happiness / convenience.

I don't think Amazon ever had free food and drinks so that's a difference.

It's a cheap perk that makes employees happier. Employee happiness is important.

It also means you don't have to put energy into sorting out your lunch, which I see personally as a huge productivity boost.

It's also generally more cost effective for the company to buy food in bulk compared to passing the cash onto you in your salary for you to buy food on an individual basis.

Plus (and this is dependent on the company handles the providing free food business), food cooked or prepared on site is potentially healthier and tastier than whatever calorific sandwich and chocolate bar you picked up on the way to work. Healthier and happier employees are a win for both parties.

Depending on where your office is, it could be.

My last company was in an office park in the middle of no where and I don't drive. There were no stores within walking distance either. So if I felt like having a snack or something to drink that wasn't water I'd be SOL. So it was nice that we had snacks and drinks available and made working in such a remote spot much more tolerable.

I definitely stay at work, and stay on campus longer because of the free breakfasts and lunches.

I don't understand how this is an argument in favour of free food/drink. You're selling whatever additional time you give to your employer for a rock bottom price. It's not a good deal.

> It's not a good deal.

It is, though, for the employer. I think the GP was trying to say that free food/drinks are a bad place to start saving money.

Without knowing details of compensation you can't really say whether they've given their extra time at a rock bottom price or not.

For most employees, especially those commenting here, every hour above 40.0 is $0. It doesn't get much more rock bottom than that.

I don’t consider myself to be on an hourly wage. I’m on a salary. If I need to work more hours I work more hours, if that’s what it takes to get the job done.

I don't think he is arguing for free food/drinks, nowhere did he say he was arguing in favour.

Spend your free time on work... Very stupid idea.

Depends on the relationship that you have with your employer.

I always (in the past) tried to drink the kool-aid as much as I could ... (until that got abused) ...

If I start a business, one of my main goals is going to be to build a team that does justice to the passion that it's members put in to it.

What can be a passion for business that is not even yours? You want the impossible.

Plenty of people are self aware enough to know they don't have what it takes to [start,own,run] a business. They can still be passionate about the work they're doing.

I have been passionate about working for organizations that were not mine.

Many of the people that I work with are pretty passionate about what they do as well.

it isn't really your free time if it involves going out and finding food

How do you compare Amazon to Microsoft?

Moved to Google and TBH have cried once or twice because I didn't realize an employer could be so humane. Amazon was terrifying, but the academic culture I came from normalized self brutalization to succeed,so I didn't realize how much they were relying on my lack of a sense of boundaries and personal priorities to extract excess labor.

And, I'm already making 50% more at Google than I was at Amazon, after a bit more than a year.

That self brutalization stuff works on people who needs outside approval to feel good, and it's encouraged behavior in specially American culture to work hard and compete your entire life.

Sounds pretty terrible to me. When are you supposed to enjoy life if you are in constant competition?

enjoy life? people have to value life to enjoy it first.

> That self brutalization stuff works on people who needs outside approval to feel good

Prestige and the perception of it is a huge part of self-worth.

Mind if I ask what team(s) you were on at Amazon? Looking to avoid the worst.

I’m starting to get the impression, though, that if I want to be happiest as a Big Tech Co. engineer, I really just need to work at Google.

The teams in the relational databases organization were in a pretty terrible shape when I left - most of the higher management comes from IBM IIRC, and it's visible. The operations teams get the worst of it (unsurprisingly).

Also, caused by years of neglect and patchworks, whatever teams deal with basic infrastructure (DNS, load balancing, corporate infrastructure...). Though none of those are in Seattle anymore, IIRC.

From what I've heard, Facebook has the most chill culture out of the big three.

This is not what ive heard. Hours are worse at FB (esp. the cool infra) because of nebulous “impact” metrics than Google despite the nice perks.

Google is far better in this regard.

I heard FB is good as well, though I still don’t get why they need so many people to do what they do. Heck, even MS is probably better than Amazon. I delete all Amazon recruiter emails (of which I receive about 2 per week) as soon as they arrive.

"even MS is probably better than Amazon" - what makes you think so poorly of Microsoft?

You can tell them to stop contacting you and it works.

Not in my case. I’ve asked them numerous times to remove my email, it subsides for a while and then comes back at the same rate.

OK, it happened to me just now, two years after telling them to not contact me. But it was a different group, was gaming, now is AWS.

Wait till GDPR tell them you are in EU ;)

>but the academic culture I came from normalized self brutalization to succeed

What school did you go to? Went somewhere similar.

Honestly I've never heard of a college that respects these types of boundaries. By its very nature if you're taking 15+ credits of academically challenging coursework you're going to be working 60+ hours a week.

My school recommended 3.5 hours of work outside of class for every 1.0 hour of lecture (roughly equivalent to credit hours with rare exception). For the minimum full-time load of 12.0 this equated to 54 hours a week (12 hours of class, 42 hours of outside). 18 credits was 81 hours a week all in, and this was expected. 100-level classes were typically less but my junior year particularly it was pretty much spot on.

That describes pretty much every PhD program in the US.

And, frankly, many strong undergraduate programs, perhaps especially ones which are also very large (my school has 500 person class size even in your second-to-last and last years, so you need to go above and beyond to distinguish yourself enough to, say, get a professor to write you a recommendation)

I was also talking about an undergrad program, probably should have been more clear in my top comment.

I wish I could do that.

I work under 40 hours a week with no pressure to work more, I get along with my coworkers and look forward to going to work in the morning. I have worked a crunch time that was pretty terrible, but that was a once off. It's been almost 2 years since my last crunch time.

The comp is decent. It doesn't match google/fb but it's better than a non tech company. I have a target of ~170 total comp as an SDE II with just under 4 years of experience out of college. This is my last year of my initial stock grant so my take home is quite a bit over 170.

I've never seen anyone cry at work. Closest was a guy that got pip'd, but he was genuinely struggling. I can/could see glimmers of truth in the NYT article but I've never seen it that bad. That said, I am aware that tech (SDEs in particular) tend to be treated a bit better than everyone else.

My experience aligns with everything here. I don’t doubt that there are some very unhappy people and dysfunctional teams at Amazon, but I haven’t discovered them personally.

One possible, yet perhaps overlooked, side-effect of the NYT article is that very driven engineers have self-selected to work at Amazon. Compared to my past workplaces, I feel there are far fewer people just punching in the hours for a paycheck, but I am not sure if this is specific to my team or division.

I would think a driven engineer would be driven because either 1. wants to work on complex problems 2. wants more compensation. I guess there's complex problems at Amazon but not more than any of the other big ones, and probably less than some startups so in conclusion I don't see a driven engineer self-selecting for Amazon.

While this is a fair point, I’m not sure I agree. Personally while I am driven by those two things, I am probably driven more by doing new things, and even more by delivering the most value to the company that I can with my time. I recognize how impersonal and unsexy that sounds, but as a nice side-effect, it tends to yield complex problems which I am generously compensated for solving.

ok, it's probably a limit of my assumptions about people then.

I remember I was on a very big complicated project doing some groundbreaking stuff on single sourcing multiple meda a decade ago and a couple years ago I asked someone else on the same project what was the best part about it for them and it was when they had made some svg conversion algorithm for generating all the various colored backgrounds and icons that any dynamically generated website needed when a customer decided they wanted to generate a website for their data.

It was a ridiculously trivial part of the whole, but that was what had really made him happy.

>my take home is quite a bit over 170.

I hate you so much. I have been clawing and scratching my way to $100k/yr for over 20 years and I am still nowhere near it. I do more work than my peers, my peers come to me when they need a solution designed or created, and I am the go-to guy when someone has a technical question of any kind. I work for a company you are all familiar with, no matter where you are in the world.

I am getting fucked. Hard.

Are you in the Silicon Valley or Seattle? Location matters when you're talking about compensation numbers. If you're on a visa it also seems like your compensation could be less due to negotiation power. However, it sounds like you're not in the Silicon Valley since salaries for new grads start at above 100k/yr. It sounds like a lot, but it's really not when you factor in the cost of living.

It is a lot. You don't have to live in the most expensive house you can find within 10 minutes of work.

I am a US citizen and I didn't go to college. I live near Chicago.

You could always move to where things are booming and see your salary double overnight.

What does “pip’d” mean?

Performance improvement plan. Basically a chance to get your act together before they fire you.

Some would argue it's more of a "start looking for a new job, we're about to fire you" warning.

I don't know whether you're making this statement about Amazon, in which case I have no insight and you can stop reading now, or whether that's intended as a more general statement.

If it's the latter, I'd like to challenge the assertion that a PIP is necessarily the company trying to get rid of someone. In my experience as a manager, I've always made sure that PIPs are as honestly designed to get people back on track as could be. In, say, the last five years as a manager, and in my organisation of a couple hundred engineers, there were exactly two cases (and the key point is that I recall both specifically) where a PIP was primarily motivated to document the already extremely obvious (to anyone far and wide) underperformance and attitude problem. And even then, the managers in question had the professionalism to design the PIP to be eminently achievable.

Generally speaking, I find the likelihood of a PIP to be adversarial and/or a tool to be able to fire somebody to be much more strongly connected to whether there has been an adversarial relationship between the employee and their manager. For that reason, I found that it paid off hugely to make sure people move to different teams & managers and get a reset there before taking any drastic action. In the same way as people are said to leave due to their managers, not jobs, it's key to take that personal component out of a bad situation.

> In, say, the last five years as a manager, and in my organisation of a couple hundred engineers, there were exactly two cases....where a PIP was primarily motivated

In my workplaces I would consider 2 PIPs over 5 years among 200 (highly filtered) engineers to be a normal rate, yet you are implying this is a small fraction of the total PIPs.

I'm not a manager so it is definitely possible that I'm unaware of many instances, but to have a pip for more than low single digit percentages of your workforce seems like a big red flag. Whether the motivation is cya or honest encouragement, a pip still means their current performance is unacceptable, so you seem to be describing a harsh environment (or a large collection of unmotivated employees, but the former seems more likely in this industry).

Can you clarify?

I can try. :)

The industry this was in was moderately high pressure, but by no means a grind like you might see in games, etc. We painstakingly avoided bs deadlines, for example.

To a first order approximation, five years by 200 engineers is a thousand engineer years. So naively, that'd be two PIPs per thousand engineers per year. Of course, you can argue that this isn't true since the performance of an individual from one year to the next is correlated. But this was a very rapidly changing organisation where people move between departments regularly and there's a lot of growth. The latter means that you get a lot of new people that might turn out to be a poor fit. So I actually think the original approximation of quite conservative: 2 out of 1000 engineers being disagreeable about their performance assessment sounds like a total luxury for managers!

But you're right to point out that that's only the bad cases. Our company had a(n HR imposed) rule that anyone receiving sub par ratings (needs improvement) for two consecutive quarters had to go on a PIP.

In a growing organisation, complexity keeps increasing: more coordination overhead. More things all going on at the same time, more scaling challenges, etc. So naturally, performance that was just about alright last year just about DOESN'T cut it this year. This means that in my experience, it would be a sign of rating inflation or managers that avoid difficult conversations if the fraction of "needs improvement" in any given quarter was less than ~5 percent. That's a number I just pulled out of thin air, but in the right ballpark in my experience. And there you go: you get several times as many PIPs as the "bad" ones discussed above.

In my limited experience PIPs are an HR process to document why they are firing you, not any real stab at recovery / rehabilitation.

That could well be the case at your employer.

However, the reason why I wrote the lengthy post you're replying to is that this is by no means universal. This means that if every employee starts with the assumption that it's just a firing tool, the chance to succeed drops dramatically. That's because instead of heeding the warning and pulling oneself together, one might disengage, become cynical, and give up.

So please, before anyone checks out in that situation, pay close attention to what's been happening in the department, and be careful about simply throwing away the career one might have had in that company just because of someone else's claims.

Or put differently: that situation is one best served WITHOUT cynicism, but indeed rational caution.

>So please, before anyone checks out in that situation, pay close attention to what's been happening in the department

The issue is that much of this is an opaque process (for both good and bad reasons). People are forced to make an assumption one way or the other, because they have no access to the data. At that point, the prisoner's dilemma dominates.

I don't doubt companies like yours exist, but are they the norm? I've not met one person in real life who has been on a PIP and it was not a case of the manager trying to find an excuse to get rid of him. Netflix's HR got rid of them because they were being used by managers to get rid of employees.

Concur on the opacity. I also didn't mean to imply that companies that abuse the process don't exist. I'd guess it's more common than not, if nothing else because most managers aren't... great at their jobs.

That being said, likening this to a prisoner's dilemma is a tiny bit misleading: the costs and benefits between the options are less symmetric then in the idealized proposition. There is really no benefit to going cynical about the process besides some cheap satisfaction in a bar after work and avoiding introspection. That doesn't mean it's not pragmatic to make a plan B, however!

>There is really no benefit to going cynical about the process besides some cheap satisfaction in a bar after work and avoiding introspection. That doesn't mean it's not pragmatic to make a plan B, however!

First, the two are not exclusive. One can introspect and go straight for plan B without bothering with the PIP. Why go along with the PIP even if you accept you are at fault, if you do not know if the company will keep you? You can always improve at a new job.

To me, it does seem like a prisoner's dilemma.

You have to weigh the probabilities of each outcome and decide. In the few cases I've seen, the real issue was a disagreement between the manager and the employee on whether their was underperformance at all. As a clear example I've seen in my company: The employee is more productive than a coworker, yet he was put on a PIP and the other wasn't. He also did not work long hours, choosing instead to be efficient. He was in the habit of disagreeing with his manager and the customer on many issues. However, the PIP did not mention any of the last part - it just said he was slow to meet his goals and was often not at his cube. Yet when he went to the manager, HR, etc and asked what "slow" means and how it is being measured (because he likely was ahead of some of his coworkers on those metrics), etc, he really did not get anything concrete - just phrases like "well if your peers and manager think you are being slow, that is enough".

This kind of example is not unusual where I'm at. And this is an example of no transparency. The employee literally was excused of something but had no way to defend himself: No evidence presented by the management that he could question. Just that his manager and customer were not happy with his speed, and some of his coworkers saying he would leave work before the others.

When you see that happen at your company, you lose faith in HR. If I get a PIP that I disagree with, I'm not going to bother. Plan B will become Plan A. Heck, even if I agree with the PIP, I don't see a point in following it through, because given the company's policy, I have no way of knowing if they are sincerely trying to help me or trying to get rid of me. I can always introspect and go for plan B.

I've known people who've survived pips. Usually it's because their manager was bad and wanted more brown nosing. Happens now and then at the L6 manager level.

And those people who use that as a blanket statement for the entire industry are objectively wrong. There are a handful of things being on a PIP could mean.

1. You're not really trying because you're used to the work being relatively easy. It means you need to actually try, and barring evidence to the contrary, you have no reason to believe you'll be fired if you shape up.

2. You're trying your hardest and the work just isn't good enough. This is a bad sign, and you'll likely fail to meet the requirements of the PIP so you should start looking.

3. Your company is using a PIP to cover their ass for legal reasons. In the US, this makes no sense at all, especially for folks in the $170k+ total comp bracket, because you can be fired for any or no reason (barring certain protected classes). It's unlikely the company is going to spend $100k to cover their ass if you don't fall into a protected class.

I have seen multiple folks at multiple companies put on PIPs both formal and informal, and I have never seen it used as a cover for someone to get let go.

Or just another way for a manager to prevent you from changing your team or not give hike.

It's mainly a way to avoid having to pay out unemployment insurance: it provides documentation that you were fired "for cause". Most US companies do it, so you can't ever really count on getting unemployment benefits.

My understanding is that incompetence is not a justifiable cause for firing and denying unemployment benefits. The fire-able behavior has to be "intentional" in most states.

>My understanding is that incompetence is not a justifiable cause for firing and denying unemployment benefits. The fire-able behavior has to be "intentional" in most states.

Check your state. In my state, it is. Being fired for performance reasons disqualifies you from benefits. My company is "nice" enough that they openly state they will not challenge unemployment benefit claims if they fire you for that reason.

My wife and I own a business in a rather pro-employer state and even our DOL does not consider being bad at your job just cause for denying unemployment. We had an employee use company resources to actively plan opening a competing business half a mile away and still lost our request that he be denied unemployment benefits after we fired him for gross misconduct.

If you get unemployment benefits denied, especially in a very pro-employee state like California or New York, you certainly did something to justify it.

I'm in Texas. I've never experienced this myself, and haven't ever had to apply for unemployment benefits (knock on wood), but I know plenty of people (5-6 in as many years, all with different companies) who have been fired or laid off and none of them has ever received unemployment, even after fighting their former employer on it.

My point is that you should NEVER count on getting it, and especially not with getting in quickly. I got laid off in Michigan and was eventually accepted, but by that point I had burned through all my savings (I was pretty young, so there wasn't much to burn through) and already accepted a job here in Texas. It was a nice bonus, but didn't really help me with my unemployment situation in any way.

> I have a target of ~170 total comp as an SDE II with just under 4 years of experience out of college.

This is honestly lower than I expected. I have friends who are new grads at Facebook that make more than that with 0 years of experience.

Amazon has taken steps to prevent abusive behavior from occurring, such as creating a process for engineers to challenge managerial pips and allowing engineers to transfer while on development plans. In my opinion, these steps seem more like treating the symptom than the cause. The overall culture remains the same. Engineers are still treated by management as resources to be allocated, and for me, this is the hardest pill to swallow. Even though my manager, my skip, and my peers tell me I do good work, at the end of the day, I feel that all I am is X capacity points per sprint. The feeling of being disposable in the huge machine that is Amazon is quite depressing.

Some of those steps are not really genuine in practice though. Getting a transfer while on a dev list requires you to get something like VP approval from the receiving team. The result in a lot of orgs is that they just won't look at the candidate.

Amazon's also re-instituted bell curve attrition goals with little warning to managers (1-2 weeks before annual reviews in my org, and percentages only in the meeting itself). The last few months have been a special breed of stress that I hadn't seen at amazon in my 7 years prior.

I left earlier this year to a much less stressful position.

Tbh I don’t agree that this is amazon specific, generally at any big tech co you will feel this way unless you find your way into something more specialized. For instance, I have a friend at G who was on a front-end team for maps for a while but recently switched to work at google brain after collaborating on side projects. He said the difference is night and day for him in terms of self direction and responsibility.

Other commenters: just because employees _are_ resources doesn't mean that managers should make them _feel_ like they are. There are companies that do a good job of making employees feel more of a sense of being valued, and so at least on that dimension Amazon seems to be doing a poor job.

What gave it away? The fact that there’s a department called Human Resources? The only way to not feel like a cog in a wheel is to be your own boss.

> a department called Human Resources

And in that phrase, "Human" is the adjective...

The alternative seems to be something like “people operations”. I don’t find that any more encouraging, really...

Back in the Dark Ages when people still had pensions and unions, this department was called "Personnel," which was perfectly descriptive and non-humiliating. This is obviously the reason it had to change to something orwellian that lumps in a company's employees with its inventory of pig iron and staple removers.

Yikes, I had totally forgotten that term (which perhaps reinforces your point..)

It’s human not humane. We are cattle not puppies.

Yep, that’s why I ran away fast and got my mba as soon as possible. As despised as the degree is here on HN, it’s a decent route to getting out of the now commoditized swe role.

Working in the role has taught me so much about how shitty it feels to be treated like a commodity, if I ever make a transition to management, one of my top priorities will be treating human beings like.. human beings.. just make sure the sprint gets done on time.

You are.

The software engineer profession is becoming like traditional factory workers, only this time they have ping pong tables and free snacks. Also the salary is very high. But the downside is that you are still at the bottom of the pyramid.

That would be the warehouse workers not tech

Warehouse workers are treated like equipment. And will eventually be replaced with real equipment.

I was at Amazon for 8 years, left in January of this year. VP I worked for routinely belittled very senior engineers, made some of them cry/move teams/quit. The VP was never disciplined or had his scope reduced.

Had projects cancelled on a whim without an actual replacement/reason.

At Amazon, I wasn't a person, but some resource.

Some orgs were fine, most are not.

A manager from a "no jerk policy" org told me there is a culture of cruelty in Amazon management, and if he played the game he would have been at a higher level.


Worked in an AWS team, and the biggest issue was constant fire-fighting and oncall/operational load. Code quality is really bad across all teams in AWS due to constant prioritization of features over stability. We use to get 20 pages a day, and it was very common to get 2-3 pages in the middle of night. It was horrible and yet management didn't pay much attention on fixing it. At the end devs starting leaving the team one by one. Recently I heard that the team hired twice the number of devs to reduce frequency of oncall rotation.

Fulfillment was like that 5 years ago. Just widely reputed to be the worst place. New upper management came in and started rating the L6/L7 management on their highsev counts. Things got a lot better very quickly.

What's highsev?

Every software team is their own operational team as well. A highsev is a high severity ticket/incident, leading to someone being paged in for immediate assistance.

Include managers in overnight pager duty and I bet it would quickly become a priority.

Out of the 6 coworkers I’m close with, I’ve seen every single one of them cry for work related reasons at least once over the past year. Peak is hell.

Then why are they (and you after witnessing this) still there?

I'm a software consultant so I've had the opportunity to work at nearly a hundred different offices.

I've seen employees driven to tears at two companies, and both of them were wretched to work for.

It became my barometer of whether the company was a good place to work for.

I really like working for companies in finance. They're generally laid back and the pay is decent, not great.

I find that interesting b/c I have a few friends who work at large banks in the finance side of things.

They would not describe their work culture as laid back.

I can only think of one former coworker who cried from stress during work. Strangely enough, she's one of only two devs I know still on that team out of the original ten members when I joined. (I'm not the other dev)

Either your friends are emotionally unstable or should report abuse and leave the company. Seriously, why be so unhappy with your workplace? Do they work in North Korea?

Happens in South Korea and Japan also.

I don't think I could make up a better example of missing the point if I tried.

We lost "anytime feedback" and end of year reviews changed dramatically. This is a horrible loss.

Previously, the anytime feedback tool had you, at any time, give anyone else in the company feedback (positive and negative) in the form of "Situation, Behavior, Impact". What happened, how did the person react, how did it impact me. It went to the person's manager and into a record somewhere. At the end of every year, you were asked to give additional anytime feedback to you entire team and anyone who asked for it. Managers read through all that feedback, summarized and gave you a full year end review that was the source of a lot of my personal growth.

The NYT referred to this as "ratting out your coworkers", so now that's gone.

Instead, there's a short, stupid and less-than-anonymous version that takes about 5 minutes and is done just once per year. Your manager doesn't read any of that feedback before they give you your year end review and pay changes, but they do give you a verbatim copy of what was said- you can figure out who said what pretty easily.

The problem was that 1% of the managers were sociopaths who abused their power. The response was to increase their power.

But I'm still here, for some reason.

Edit: no, let's be fair here. I'm still here because I like what I do. I like the problem space, and I like the people I work with.

The talk here about sticking at a job that makes you cry, when you have in demand skills and can work anywhere, is nuts to me.

Frankly I very much doubt that most of the claims in this thread are real or worthwhile. Besides the obvious anti-Amazon hardon that HN has, the thread itself will select for the most unhappy Amazon employees. Indeed what we're seeing is a kind of race to the bottom, now with gender bingo. It's really unfortunate that the mods let these kinds of anonymous, negativity-fueled threads stand. It's an open invitation for firms to drive negative coverage about their competitors.

It's mostly the compensation. I make twice as much at AWS as I did working as an engineer at non-tech companies.

Other comments on this post indicate that Google and FB pay more than Amazon, but I'd probably have to take a sizable pay cut to work elsewhere.

> ... I'd probably have to take a sizable pay cut to work elsewhere

There are other companies besides Amazon that say this. Because of this, it can't possibly be true. The only way to know for sure is to brush up your resume and see if you can get some better offers. Don't take your boss's promise that you're well paid. They can't possibly be objective about it.

Yeah it's insane. I can't tell if the people who say it isn't bad just have good teams or are lying. The fact that there is a chance of crying at work based on your manager is absurd and washes away any good of working at that company.

I can easily believe it. The overall structure may be designed to be ruthless to employees, but teams and orgs have a ton of leeway to form their own culture.

They purposely break up teams that get too big in order to keep with the idea of "two pizza teams", that is, a team small enough that two pizzas would be enough to feed everyone. The team and managers set the tone of culture at this level. At the next level up, the smaller teams coalesce into the upper org headed by a vp or whatever. The upper management here and the team managers sets the culture for cross team interactions.

It can therefore be possible to be on a good team if your managers are proactive and shield their team, but managers also have a ton on their plate and are beholden to the same power structures that are attempting to grind them into dust.

There was one manager that was beloved by all in the org because he took care of his direct reports - he saw the writing on the wall and jumped ship to a greenfield project in a different org. A bunch of senior engineers followed along shortly after.

It is often said that people don't leave jobs, they leave managers. I've seen it be true much more often than not.

I'm guessing brand popularity had something to do with it. Along with perceived 'prestige' of working at that company.

But yeah it does sound a bit crazy to me as well. Perhaps some of their employees are there on work visa and don't want to risk them and their family having to relocate to another country again. But I don't think that's the case for all the people whom complain.

Its because Amazon is very easy to get into today. It has no prestige.

Businesses do not want their employees to have mobility. They structure environments to prevent mobility.

This is incorrect because i cant pass a Google or FB loop and im convinced its eventually going to lead to my suicide.

Mate get a grip. I see you posting everywhere — Blind, Reddit, here. And different aliases everywhere. Seriously, stop defining your self worth by where you work. It's sad. If you're so dissatisfied with Amazon's "prestige" just quit.

Telling someone who expresses suicidal feelings to "get a grip", and using the J-word ("just") to tell them a supposedly easy way out of it, is cruelty. I'm sure that you don't mean to be cruel, so please don't do this.

If there were an easy way out, the commenter would have found it. What he or she needs is respect, empathy, and support for finding a not-so-easy way out of it. If you can't do that, please don't reply, regardless of how annoying you find the comments.

You're right. I didn't mean to be cruel... sorry about that, but I can't seem to edit/remove my comment.

There are SO many other tech companies out there.

I'm a Senior Software Engineer, and have been at Amazon for almost 2 years. I work in the Retail org in the NYC office.

Overall, I've been happy with my choice to work at Amazon. Compared to most other tech companies I've worked for, the hours are predictable and not that intense. Of course, a lot is asked of engineers during crunch time, but that's the same way everywhere in the industry. I like what I do. I like the projects I work on. I like my coworkers. I'm happy with my compensation.

In terms of perks, there aren't free lunches every day, but most orgs that I know of have some budget for a snack shelf. There are also other perks though - there are are opportunities to learn from other software engineers in the form of tech talks, internal conferences and the like. There are also opportunities to learn about the business side as an engineer.

I've generally found other people at Amazon very willing to help. I've had people outside of my team review designs and give feedback (and I've done likewise for other teams). I'm currently working on a project that's required me to reach out to a bunch of different teams to get input on how to approach a problem, and all of them have either accepted a meeting invite or responded to my email with the info I was looking for in a reasonable amount of time (a couple days).

Amazon has 14 Leadership Principles, and I've found that people mostly take them to heart. For example, it doesn't mean that you can use "Insisting on the Highest Standards" as a blank check to refactor your code to the point that it's immaculate, but it does mean that most of the product people I work with get that tech debt is a real thing and slows down product development at some point, and they will budget time to address tech debt when given suggestions by engineers.

Most of the people who have left our team in the past 12 months have left to go work on other teams. Some of them left to work for a different org, some because they wanted to work in a different office.

Amazon's not perfect, but it's pretty good, and most of the things that are frequently raised as issues on HackerNews are, in my experience and the experience of everyone I've talked to at Amazon, generally not issues.

> Of course, a lot is asked of engineers during crunch time, but that's the same way everywhere in the industry

I would like to point out that this is just objectively wrong. There are many employers in our industry that do not impose crunch time, and who view crunch time as indicative of poor engineering practices.

Maybe your statement came out wrong, but I was surprised enough when reading it that I felt compelled to let others know that this is not reality. There are lots of good employers that practice sustainable development practices in our industry.

Reading this thread, I'm having a very hard time understanding why anyone would want to work at Amazon (other then the somewhat high salary). Judging by responses to many of the parent comments, I'd say that others seem surprised as well. I hope this surprise reflects the abnormality of the practices described in this thread because they are not as common in the industry as you suggest.

>Of course, a lot is asked of engineers during crunch time, but that's the same way everywhere in the industry.

This is categorically false. Might be true for small startups, but most established companies do not ask a lot of engineers during crunch time.

The only thing that sounds out in your message is "crunch time". You didn't go into detail but regular crunch time is unacceptable imo.

To counter those objecting to your statement of "Of course, a lot is asked of engineers during crunch time, but that's the same way everywhere in the industry":

Everyone likes to pick those nits. I also work in the retail org at Amazon and have only had a crunch time twice in the almost 11 years I've been here (and it lasted two to three weeks both times). Software is hard and planning its implementation and development is hard. Get over yourselves and accept occasional imperfections in the process. (If they are _not_ occasional in your work environment, consider that a suggestion that you get out--Amazon or otherwise).

Anyone saying Amazon is uniformly this or uniformly that is as full of shit as anyone saying it about any other company.

People who read these threads and decide "well, now that I've seen this, there's no way I'd work for Amazon" are doing themselves a disservice, just as much as if they substituted any other company for "Amazon". Collect your data; talk to people that work there--you will get a variety of opinions. Bash-posts on HN and Reddit suffer from severe confirmation bias.

People that like working at Amazon and have had an overwhelmingly positive experience (like me), often don't wade into these threads because separating their signal from noise is really tedious and we have other more fun things to be doing.

You seem to be a well conditioned Amazonian because you possess the same nature of dismissing concerns instantly rather than accepting that something is probably wrong and needs to be fixed.

If people have complained on similar lines throughout on Hacker news or NYC article or other sources, that means there is a pattern. Maybe you have been fortunate enough to not have experienced some of the misery faced by others, but please follow amazon's most important principle of being data driven and think about it.

One sometimes-unfortunate thing about the Internet and global accessibility to other peoples' opinions is that it's easy to find other people "just like you". This leads to a signal amplification that doesn't necessarily mean the problem is as bad or as far-reaching as the group would have you think. It certainly can be, but concluding that from a limited news sources with unspoken agendas isn't accurate. We can all get in a huddle and complain about things, but there is a non-small number of people who just ignore it--even though they would have a positive counter-argument to offer--and instead go on about their business because they don't want to get involved.

Remember that when you're reading the news (here or elsewhere, since rarely is news generated on HN) you and your outrage are being used for marketing (and possibly furthering some other agenda).

I agree with your closing sentence about being data driven and thinking about it--getting out of the news bubble and using your own brain to analyze something is good.

I interned at Amazon a 11 months ago at Hyderabad, India. I used to go to the office at 1PM and return home at 2AM. So much work pressure. They literally treated as a robots. Yes, we did work as a robot because they lure us by offering PPO( Pre- placement offer).

They used to give us a weekly task which was never supposed to complete if you work even for 60 hours/week. Thus our whole weekend was ruined in completing this task.

I have got a mentor who himself can't able to complete the given task so he gives his some of his work to interns.

Amazon is a great place to learn but not for the work.

New entries are still being added, so probably great https://sites.google.com/site/thefaceofamazon/home

Nothing has changed.

I have worked in Amazon for many years now in India. Jeff himself doesn't seem interested in taking work culture seriously. I have never seen any interviews of him after NYC article where he accepted that something was going wrong and needs to be fixed. Instead he turned the whole debate into work-life harmony rhetoric.

In India, the situation is far worse than US. There is less transparency and more opportunities by senior leadership to rule with an iron fist without any accountability. Concerns are suppressed instantly. One might have been an excellent employee for couple of years but for some reason if you are not on top of your game for even a quarter, you will start hearing complains from everyone and the situation can go upto PIP (Performance Improvement). The culture completely lacks the emotion of "Let me help you". It is heavily influenced by politics and survival of the fittest which might be fine for a small period but takes a toll on you in long term. Probably this explains why attrition is so high in Amazon.

Working for Amazon in India is almost like working for an entirely different company and is not a great comparison to working for Amazon in the US.

Cultural norms in the US apply in the US; cultural norms in India apply in India. I've generally found Indian managers and developers to approach the work entirely differently than their US counterparts. Not a negative--just an observation.

There does seem to be a pervasive undercurrent of "if I do good work on my team here in India, I can get out of here and go to the US as soon as my promo goes through". This sentiment naturally comes out in behaviour on teams and around coworkers.

1. It depends on the company (Amazon vs AWS) and it varies from org to org, and team to team. Just like in every place there's going to be great and crapy people. In 3 years at Amazon I had the opportunity to work next to great people, but also with people at the complete opposite side.

2. In my case, it did not. I decided my happiness/wellness and health (physical and mental) were more important.

Ex-Amazonian here (for real). Put up with almost 4 years of what I would now consider some serious sweatshop practices from my managers (had a few in that time lapse), for not much at the end but it felt good to leave the place. After that, I took two months off to recover from stress and work exhaustion. Work only, no life. Crunch mode was a daily pill. The mission sounded cool and staying that long because it felt that we were helping each other in a prison camp with my team. Frugality is a joke, because top execs will get rewarded. I would never consider this company again and never will recommend anyone to work there.

Joined Amazon Dublin in the Summer of last year as SDE2 (that's the category where most engineers will fall into), so way after the NYT article. Pay is very good for Europe - AFAIK one of the best for the position and above G/F/MS in Dublin (according to Glassdoor), though I think that at the end of the day you might take more home if you're working for G/F and living in London/Switzerland (due to lower taxes).

As for the work environment, like in all big companies, it really depends in which team and project you land. My team and adjacent teams are full of respectful people and work is pretty good. We're building some "large scale" systems, and technology wise it's pretty cool. But I've heard stories from people in other teams where they were relegated to doing oncall and fixing bugs. I also know 1 person that didn't make it through the probation period (he was in one of those oncall teams). The company is big and has a lot of different projects, so YM(will definitely)V. I've had to interact with a lot of different people across the company and my impression is overall positive.

In terms of work load, it's not light. At the same time, right now, it's not that high, but that will probably change once we're closer to the deadlines. I enjoy it, it keeps me active and not bored at work. I know people who do 8-17 (1 lunch hour) EVERY DAY. Pretty much everyone around me works 8-9 hours. The teams around me are also very flexible with remote work (a lot of us work remotely 1-2 days a week). In term of the actual work, me and my team have had to design systems, write documents (the 6 pagers, design reviews, etc), and we're implementing them. A lot of technical freedom. I also hear manager refer to people as resources and I dislike it - not sure why/where that terminology comes from, but I think it's something common inside and outside the company.

Yes, perks are pretty much non-existent. No snacks, no free lunch/dinner, no gym, just water, fruit, and coffee. Heck, not even free tshirts and the employee discount is ridiculous. But if that's what you're looking for in a company, then I'm sorry, you won't find it here. Yes, you'll also get stack ranked at the beginning of the year, and getting promoted to SDE3 is not easy.

One interesting thing, at least around me, the vast majority of people seems to be 30+ old. From the teams around me, I think no one (apart from me) reads HN. People come from all around Europe (and some from Asia).

I've been with Amazon for coming up on 5 years.

I love it here, and have for the entirety of the time I've been here. There are some minor changes I would make if I could wave a magic wand, but I can't imagine any workplace is perfect, and when I say minor, I really mean it.

I don't really have a lot to say about things as they relate to the New York Times article, because the workplace described in said article was never even remotely close to the experiences I've had.

I work on a fantastic team, and I work with some amazing teams. Some of the smartest people I've ever met. I don't see myself leaving the company any time soon.

Twelve managers in three years. Quality of life changes dramatically depending on who you get. Left after being put on a PIP - stack ranking in action. Not worth trying to fight it with that particular manager.

I joined in mid-2016, My team is in a pretty good spot now.

In my team and all the orgs under my manager's manager is pretty chill. We are a team out of India. In India the comp is really high compared to other Indian companies. The vesting cycle is same as US though. I have heard about the bad culture in US. I have never seen anyone cry or even stressed. We don't have many crunch days.

TBH Amazon Indian org is known (from the Seattle folks I spoke to) for being sub-par filled with employees from service companies, so no surprises there.

On the contrary I think the frugality strategy has lead to hiring the top talent in India and not in the US. Therefore the pay here is higher compared to the bigger companies (not MNCs but product as well), I am from an Indian unicorn startup and the pay was very competitive. The US opinion of any Indians IT worker seems to be the same, that is that we are service oriented workers who don't code, therefore I'd take it with a grain of salt on what they say.

But yeah, the talent here is good since hiring talent is cheaper here compared to US. If you have to pay 170k$ to hire the best in US then in India you'll be able to hire the best at 50 LPA which is about 70k$.

I have been part of many interview panels and they haven't been any easy interviews as such.

I'm curious as how are the salaries in top start ups in India compared to the likes of Amazon/Google? Like for a mid-senior engineer. Appreciate any numbers you know off.

^this. Part of my team at AMZN is in Bangalore, and they really are way below average compared to US. Usually its taken as low cost centre to send less lucrative work there, like operational stuff...

Disagree. Amazon.in teams sits here and all of the India related initiatives are done here, which include lucrative initiatives as well - which I won't delve into. However it is also true that some of the US operational burden is sent to India, but not all drudge work happens in India. In my opinion Amazon is moving to a model where they are going to hire top talent in India giving the premium salaries of India and hire cheaper - less talented engineers in the US for US centric operations primarily as a measure to cut costs, this is why the it has become a common notion that anyone can get into Amazon US.

I am curious outside of the other companies of FANG, does Amazon represent median representation of workplace culture or are they an outlier?

I have not worked at Amazon, but I have seen worse types of workplace culture in some cases over my career.

I joined fresh out of college about a year back, no one respects your gender identity and everyone almost always purposefully refuses to use the correct pronouns

Could anyone here comment on Amazon Robotics? What would I expect as a SWE working there? Is it different (better/worse) than Amazon as a whole?

Anyone who's worked at both Amazon and Apple want to compare the two?

depends on team

This is only very small amount of information, though. Of course it depends on the team. I think even at the crappiest of employers you will find a team or two that are not as painful to work with.

And since this platform here allows more than one person to answer a question, it is totally valid to just describe your own, personal, non-objective experience and let the reader make conclusions based on the sum of what they are reading.

It does entirely.

In an org consisting of hundreds of thousands of people, "culture" is a pretty local phenomenon.

The Amazon experience is entirely dictated by the team on which you land.

I agree. But in my experience, even when VPs expose a vision of their culture, directors/GMs are the ones who end up exercising their vision/culture to their teams.

Check this out https://www.teamblind.com/article/Amazon---is-it-really-that...

and more topics on the same site

Can someone share the mentioned NYT Article mentioned?

I interned at Amazon last year in the Alexa org (non-frontline team in ML).

My team was rarely in the office before 10:30 or after 6, even during crunch time (we launched our feature during my internship) but i did see code review responses at odd hours sometimes.

I enjoyed the project a bunch, and while my coworkers werent the most social bunch they were pretty smart and effective. I did pretty well and exceeded managers expectations for my project to get a return offer.

I shopped around a bunch after and interviewed at all the companies I could but got rejected by all of the top ones (FB after phone, Google after onsite, Airbnb and Cruise after coding challenge..) so I ultimately picked the return offer despite getting a 3 other offers in the fintech space because I liked the project and location at Amazon.

Does that mean I’m a happy camper? Fuck no. My total comp for the first year is only $145k out of undergrad with a base of $106k. My friends at places like Google, FB and Cruise are making more like $180k-$230k by comparison. Perks are also nonexistent.

The worst part, though, is knowing that i have become stuck in a company with a significantly lower hiring bar. Im honestly terrified that the value on the resume will decline over time and i will never be able to get into a more prestigious company. The idea of being relegated to a 2nd or third tier company has been eating at me, and comments on places like CSCQ, Blind and this AskHN nearly drove me to suicide before.

No hiring manager looking at resumes is going to put any stock into whether it says Google, Amazon or FB, or what school you went to. They will care what you worked on. If you bring with you this completely unjustified view that your coworkers are worse, it will show, no one will want to work with you, and you aren't going to get to work on anything interesting.

Your attitude is extremely concerning, you have a lot to be proud of career wise already, and you seem unable completely unaware of that. You have a solid base to build on and you could end up anywhere in a few years.

Amazon didn't hire you because they have a lower bar than anywhere else, they hired you because someone was impressed by you and wants to give you a shot. Extend them the same courtesy at least.

I think you need to seek psychological counselling ASAP, but until then stay away from Reddit, HN etc, as far as I can see your perspective is completely warped by the dishonest way that people present their own professional image, usually because of their own insecurity. Consider why people come to HN to brag -- it's likely because they aren't getting praise anywhere else.

> No hiring manager looking at resumes is going to put any stock into whether it says Google, Amazon or FB, or what school you went to.

Even if the hiring manager won't, it's a fairly safe bet that the filtering stages prior to it landing on a manager's desk will be looking at those things. Have you never been approached by a recruiter talking to you about how excited they are about "the Netflix guy" or the "Stanford woman"?

At the lower information density stages in the hiring pipeline, broad generalizations are still important.

The recruiter is not usually empowered to filter a qualified candidate because they "only" worked at Amazon though, especially not if they made a good impression at Amazon and come with a referral.

I don't think anyone with a final say cares what the recruiter says beyond here's a list of CVs, they usually aren't qualified to go much deeper, but if they are, they aren't ranking companies based on what juniors on programming forums think are trendy.

It's not just active filtering of inbound resumes. Recruiters target their outbound searches by technology, keywords, companies, and universities. (Source: I am a hiring manager and I work closely with the recruiters who sit a few desks away.)

> The idea of being relegated to a 2nd or third tier company has been eating at me, and comments on places like CSCQ, Blind and this AskHN nearly drove me to suicide before.

This isn't a very healthy outlook. By that I mean using prestige and income level as your optimization function isn't a great way to achieve [fulfillment / joy / making life worth living]. I'm not trying to preach a specific optimization function but I hope you'll talk to people you trust to get some objectivity about what is [healthy / unhealthy] for being a fulfilled, long term contributor to society.

Im of the opinion thats the only optimization function worth using. I dont know of any others in the state Im in - I just graduated from a mediocre state school and cant pass interview loops, but everyone that has attempted to convince me otherwise hasnt, from what i can tell, experienced my long string of getting barely anything for my 10+ years of dilligence and work. Unlike my friends im not a crypto millionaire, an FB employee, etc.

Just focus on interview prep. Take 6 months and work on it every day for an hour or two. It's a learnable skill.

TL;DR: Do not let optics get you down, focus on enjoying life, and do not stop seeking support until you feel supported.

Sometime after the relentlessly stupid decisions of my youth and sometime before coming into tech, I had figured out my entire life. I knew exactly where I would be, when I would get there, and what I would be doing. I was in love with my chosen path through life- I was in disbelief how well each and every piece fell into place. Physics and math were the cornerstones of my life, and I spent a non-trivial amount of time every day in awe at the opportunities that were cropping up for me.

Along came one of those infamous "life events," and two months later I was begging for a job at McDonald's. I left that job to shovel horse manure on a ranch, making a staggering $300/week.

I left that job for my first gig in programming. When I heard the (low, but on the right scale and extraordinary by my standards) salary that they were offering, I literally felt the tension leave my body. I grew up poor- Naturally, I thought life's biggest challenges revolved around money.

That first year, I made more money than I had in my entire life up to that point (late 20s). Over the next few years, my salary quadrupled. Me of 10 years ago would have lauded my problem free life; Me of today realizes money was the proxy for deeper issues.

A couple of years after making the jump into tech (about 3 years after leaving research), I was having an extremely hard time connecting my day to day with value. It turns out, this issue had been there all along, hiding neatly being the dollar proxy.

My mood, demeanor, and overall outlook on life began to tank. I felt trapped in a good career, with people counting on me. I approached my oldest and most trusted friends (read: from the hood) with my problem.

Absolutely no one could understand how I could have any problems- I was successful, had disposable income, my coworkers respected me, and the only "poor" habit that I still had was checking my (obviously not overdrawn) bank account several times a day, and always before making a purchase.

This is one side of the optics problem, which could probably be spun as a corollary of Dunning-Kruger: Just because it looks good does not mean it is. Keep in mind that social profiles are curated to present the "best" of a person's life/career, even if that only constitutes .0001% of their life.

I allowed my friends' optics problem to convince me that I really was not super bummed, even though I felt that I was, and I stopped pursuing support. I eventually returned to buying support from a dealer after ten years clean. The lesson here? Never let someone else convince you you are okay- If you need support, keep looking until you find it (please!).

The other side of the optics problem involves those that are looking back at you. This particular side of the optics is interesting, as it only becomes a problem if opted in to by the user. It does not matter what others, even if they are potentially a future manager, think of Amazon as an employer.

This is one place in life you totally get to be selfish, and no one will hold it against you: The only opinion of Amazon as an employer that matters is yours. Not NYT's. Not mine. Not HN's.

In my own case, I found reprieve in honestly answering the following question at the end of each day: "Did I provide the best solution to the problem that was presented given the constraints that exist?" It certainly is not a remedy for a toxic work culture, but it may help you identify your own intrinsic value, strengths, and weaknesses.

Being armed with self awareness can not only help weather the storm while you find your path through life, but it can be a great confidence booster on the interview circuit: As a hiring manager, I can definitely tell when a candidate believes that they crushed it at their last/current position.

If you let them get you down, there is a non zero risk that you will get bitter, then carry that bitterness with you into the interviewing room, which compounds the problem when you start to believe that you are undesirable as a candidate/employee.

The absolute worst outcome would be opting out. Please do not do that- there is always a way forward if you have the courage to look. I know our legs may grow weary from the journey to here and now, making the first step of any pivot seem insurmountable.

Often, that first step is the only one we have to take by ourselves, though.

Do not let them get you down and disregard non-meaningful optics. Start thinking about life goals that you would like to reach, and begin formulating a course of action to get there. Sometimes the first step is asking for help, and that is totally okay, too.

Also: Rock Climbing. :)

If you need any additional support, please feel free to respond to this comment, and I will get contact info to you.


edit: spelling

You forgot cost of living. Converting your numbers from Seattle to San Francisco: $203,000 with a base of $148,400.

I don't know what the extra $55,000 is. An expected bonus? Some rough guess regarding future value of stock options? Retirement fund matching? You didn't make the distinction for your friends.

Where I am, your standard of living can be had for $90,160 with a base of $65,910. The needed pay drops by about 38%, yet the likely salary drops by only 17%, meaning you'd be better off. It's like my dollars are almost 50% better than your dollars.

That is typical. Pay is generally higher in costly places, but it usually falls far short of the change in living costs.

> It's like my dollars are almost 50% better than your dollars.

Only if you're living paycheck to paycheck.

It doesn't make sense to adjust your savings rate (or loan repayment rate) by cost of living.

To illustrate, assuming you're living off of your base (a single 20-something can probably do better though), you're comparing saving a $39k bonus or a $24k bonus. That's over a 50% difference in savings rate.

That's not to say you should take the higher paying job. There are other considerations besides money, obviously.

Remember that the needed salary and the typical salary don't change at the same rate. Going from his place to mine, that equalizes things for roughly a 20% savings rate.

Somebody earning $200,000 in San Francisco who moved to Seattle would gain an extra $33,558 in disposable income, despite income dropping to $142,858. This is because costs drop to $176,414. To equalize the savings in dollars, the rate would need to be 59%. Is that person in San Francisco going to save 59% of their income? If not, they'd be better off in Seattle. Of course, Seattle itself is not cheap, and you can do much better.

And yes, there are other considerations, like being able to afford 3500-square-foot house on 5 acres of land and still get to work in under 20 minutes.

The cost of living has, baked into it, a sort of normal-for-the-area lifestyle. It is simply expected that less-urban people will have larger houses on larger lots.

It's not a big deal, certainly not worth suicide. You might try to reframe your thinking: Amazon is not 2nd tier. In standalone voice assistants they are basically number 1 at this point. So you have a great opportunity here. Google is playing catch up and Apple has lost its momentum. That being said, if you want to work at Google or FB, identify what you need to improve on and then do it. Interviews are two way streets, it can be as much about them than it is about you. Also the money will come. Focus on learning, networking and doing good work.

The money will come eventually.

>The idea of being relegated to a 2nd or third tier company has been eating at me

Relax. Life is only a contest if you think it is. And it's a contest where you're almost certainly going to get below 3rd place. While progress and peak performance is good, satisfaction with what you have is also valuable, probably better, actually.

I wouldn’t worry about being “stuck”. I would focus on the quality and interestingness of work you get in your current role. People who think they are stuck should consider other factors like how they present themselves in interviews. Careers are long and if top companies only hired from other top companies they would soon run out of candidates. I know several people who’ve been hired into these top comp companies from humble backgrounds.

This guy is obviously some sort of satirical troll. Stop feeding it.

That word 'obviously' is dangerous here. People vastly overinterpret online comments, especially when it comes to who's trolling (or astroturfing or shilling, etc.) They routinely accuse others of this when it turns out not to be the case. From a careful reading of their comments I don't think that user is trolling at all, but rather is telling the truth (and such data as we can find in the logs confirms it).

Now consider the downside if you're wrong. Isn't it obvious that posting like this is a terrible idea?

People with suicidal feelings often say things that don't make sense to others. That's a consequence of their being—for whatever reason—in an extreme situation. The particular detail they're expressing the most pain about can seem absurd, if you don't know what else it connects to. But if you were to find out what it connects to, you'd no longer find it absurd, nor would you feel annoyed or dismissive, and you'd surely feel bad about hurting someone in that position.

I'm thinking the same thing. I've never met a 25yo who complains about making $145K a year.

I’m 22. It’s less about the money and more about the fact that it’s lower tier.

How are you so certain?

Sorry, but is this a serious post? Honest question.

> My total comp for the first year is only $145k out of undergrad with a base of $106k. My friends at places like Google, FB and Cruise are making more like $180k-$230k by comparison.

Heaven forbid someone is making more money than they know what to do with than you are.

> Im honestly terrified that the value on the resume will decline over time and i will never be able to get into a more prestigious company.

Is this a real concern? Surely you can be hired on technical merit. Google hires new grads! And people who only worked at "top-tier" companies still have to pass an interview everywhere.

> The idea of being relegated to a 2nd or third tier company has been eating at me, and comments on places like CSCQ, Blind and this AskHN nearly drove me to suicide before.

That's sick. Not to be insensitive for you, but our priorities in this industry are whack. Surely you can find a meaningful job outside of a megacorp that's bleeding the world dry. Or do you just care about money and status?

You have some fair points but your comment crosses into personal attack, and that does more harm than the fair points do good. Could you please (re-)read https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and not post like that here?

What's the protocal for a commenter with suicidal ideation? I feel like many of the replies here are unhelpful, and you should do something about it.

It seems to me that the only human response is to express respect and offer what support we can.

I agree with you about the unhelpful replies and am attempting to respond to them all. If you notice one I missed, it would be helpful to send a link to hn@ycombinator.com.

People don't do this kind of this kind of thing intentionally, but because their interpretation of others' comments are distorted by cognitive biases that unfortunately nearly everyone is unaware of. It leads to inappropriate responses, and occasionally cruel or even dangerous ones.

The comment you replied to is not a personal attack. I find your comment unhelpful and excessively negative. Read the HN guidelines -- assume positive intent.

When I say a comment crosses into personal attack, that's a signal that I'm assuming positive intent because I don't think it happened on purpose.

When someone posts from a place of suicidal suffering and another user replies with "that's sick", asking if it's a joke, and using sarcasm ("heaven forbid") etc., that's brusque enough to count as personal attack in this intensely personal context. Had the original comment been about something trivial, I wouldn't have called it that, though I might have still called it uncivil.

So the answer to your objection is that I appreciate your standing up for the site guidelines but we have to adjust moderation for context and this was a special context.

> Heaven forbid someone is making more money than they know what to do with than you are.

I see what you're saying; however, all things being equal, I would want compensation comparable to my peers if we were doing the same job. Why do the same job at two-thirds pay?

I see what you mean as well. But, I don't think this kind of thing should impact your well being. The guy said in other posts that he can't get into those better companies and is considering suicide. It sounds so odd to me that I don't know if he's serious.

It also stinks of tech entitlement / myopia.

I have friends in SF/Oakland who make less than six-figures getting by, working longer hours without perks, and none of them are contemplating suicide.

Because you probably aren't doing the same job.

Speaking as an employee of one of the big cos, the engineers who get paid $100k base vs $140 base have lower expectations of performance attached to their work.

New grads at Amazon, FB, Google etc have about the same responsibilities. The only thing that affects pay significantly is other offers for matching, education (sometimes Masters/PhD get more) and location (+10% in more expensive areas for Amazon, slight COLA adjustments at Google. None at FB though). Otherwise the bands and responsibilities are fairly consistent.

If anything, since Amazon engineers are expected to be on call for the same things that Google hires SREs to handle, I'll be doing more.

Nothing wrong with chasing money and status, especially in the initial stages of one’s career. If that’s what _really_ makes him/her tick, great. Money especially tends to have multiplicative effect over time, most jobs you take will necessarily pay more than the previous job. But notice the “really”. There’s 45 years of work in a lifetime, and one needs to find a deeper motivation than money and status.

I don't think that there's anything wrong with expecting some money and appreciation to follow genuine achievement, but focusing on those rewards to the detriment of actually making something cool is going to be pretty unfulfilling and unsustainable career-wise, doubly so if you are overt enough that your colleagues notice.

Yeah, you can play whatever game you want in life. However, playing the money game is dangerous, and can easily create attachment and greed. I'm not necessarily preaching about his choice of game -- more about his lack of perspective, really.

Not playing the money game is dangerous as well. Like it or not, money is a potent signaling mechanism. The more you’re able to charge, the better you’re treated, the easier it is to get access to “cool” jobs and projects, and the easier it is to throw in the towel on the shitty ones. I’m not even talking about things like compound interest and the peace of mind that comes with financial independence in your mid to late 30s, even just tactical considerations make it worthwhile to extract as much money as possible from the employers. After all, they do try to extract as much productivity from you as possible, so it’s only fair to reciprocate. There’s no shame in it, and pursuing meaningful work at the same time is far from mutually exclusive.

>Surely you can be hired on technical merit.

My dozens of failed interview loops after 4 years of interview preparation have proven that I do not, in fact, have technical merit.

If I can't pass a new grad loop at Google I doubt I can pass an L3 experienced hire loop.

I couldnt get into any of the companies you mentioned and picked Amazon as a last resort. What should I do now? Ive contemplated suicide but i dont know if thats a wise choice.

There's no way to private message on HN, so I'm just going to leave this here for a little while and delete it.

Call me at -------. I will talk. I will listen. It will be private and not judgemental. I'm not a professional mental health specialist of any sort, but I do feel like when it gets to the point where you actually type out the words like this hearing a friendly voice might help. I'm awake. I'm ready for a call right now. If you don't want to talk today, call me tomorrow, next week, next month, whenever. Write down my number because I can't leave it posted.

1-800-273-8255 <- these people are professionals and can help too.

edit: If you didn't get the number and want it, leave a reply and I'll post again.

I've read all your comments in this thread and believe you. I know what you're describing is extremely painful, but help is available. Other users have mentioned some, and if you feel it might help you're welcome to email me at hn@ycombinator.com.

I'm sorry about the unhelpful replies some other commenters posted. I don't think people do that on purpose. It's because they can't imagine that level of pain, and perhaps don't want to, because it's scary. So it becomes easier to assume that it can't be true and the suffering person must just be trolling. But it certainly can be true, I believe you, and if the voting on comments is indicative, so do most readers.

If you feel its getting bad, seek help! There is always help available, for instance here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Suicide is not a reasonable choice. Quit. Reset. Declare bankruptcy if you have to. There's no dishonor in a personal struggle.

Money isn't the answer to most of life's problems. Getting in with the right company isn't the solution either.

These jobs are all just jobs. Garnering the approval of a hiring manager at one of these companies should be an ego boost, but not garnering it is no failure at all. It's not a measure of your aptitude or abilities. It's not a measure of you as a person.

It's very easy to get caught up in the moment and get caught up in the pressure of a work environment and lose sight of what matters.

What matters first and foremost is your own mental health. Take care of you. Nobody else can.

> Ive contemplated suicide but i dont know if thats a wise choice.

I don't think it's wise but you can't take it from a rando. So I'd seek objectivity from sources you trust. Many get this from friends. Sometimes friends can't provide everything you need.

If you've never tried therapy or are skeptical about it, I've found that the healthy way to think about it is as an objectivity machine. It's a black box for you to pay money (a.k.a use your nice tech healthcare plan) and get a person who isn't incentivized to lie to you or hurt you / is sworn to your best interest. The value they provide is objective feedback about how you're thinking about the world. Your mind's way of viewing things has blind spots; you're limited by what input data you got as you moved through the world. When you're making decisions / synthesizing your experiences it's incredibly useful to get validation data so that you can measure the performance of your brain-model.

^ Also since every black box isn't equal, if you find that a therapist isn't providing the kind of throughput or trustworthiness that you need, you can shop around.

If you think life isn't worth living, please seek some objectivity because it's a rather drastic decision you have to make that can't be made again.

People have tried to talk sense into me in the past but I’ve been somewhat distrustful. The black box analogy is a good way to reframe my thinking. Thanks!

Same here. Looks like AMZN these days is way easier to get into compared to Google and Microsoft. I couldn't even clear the first rounds at others, but got an offer from Amazon.

The person you replied to is considering suicide, and your only response is to ignore that and agree with the rationale that led them there?

I think he is trolling people with the suicide talk.

From the information I've seen, you and the other commenters expressing this are making a serious mistake. Now just pause and consider what that means—what you're contributing to by being wrong in a situation like this. Is that who you want to be? I'm sure it is not.

Sounded like a dark, tongue-in-cheek response to the "never work for amazon" advice. Like, his only other option is death according to HN commenters, since the only place he got an offer from was amazon.

Or so I hope...

I didn't interpret that way at all, read their other comments. Even if they are just trolling they clearly aren't healthy right now, because that's a pretty fucked joke.

I know people here as a rule aren't very empathetic, but the responses to this person are particularly cold.

The top voted responses are empathetic, which suggests that the bulk of readers are as well.

> tongue-in-cheek response

I think you are correct.

> Ive contemplated suicide but i dont know if thats a wise choice.

... I think you need to talk to someone about this, because you've got an incredibly distorted sense of perspective, and suicide is never a wise choice. There are always alternatives.

It is most definitely not a wise choice. Just ask yourself this question: If you _did_ get that google job you were after, would all of your problems end, would you be happy? Chances are you'll still be struggling with depressive thoughts and coming up with ways to make yourself unhappy. You've done some cool stuff already and have a resume most others would kill for, I promise (pretty much everyone coming out of bootcamps). I think you just need some professional help and someone to talk to. You are so much more than the job you have and the code you write.

There's slot of companies out there to work for with great people don't think success relies on working for one of the top five tech companies choose life dude.

Quit today.


You'll be OK.

That attitude is a reflection of your internal perceptions. I got into all the companies mentioned and I chose Amazon as my first choice.

Now that you're in Amazon your chances of getting into F, G, etc are higher. Believe it or not but the first tier hires plenty from the second tier - and I think Amazon is above second tier.

I have no doubt I'll get another interview at Google at minimum, the question is if I'll be able to pass it. The answer is a resounding "no" if I couldn't pass it now.

Do a ton of Leetcode (and read up CTCI).

I have, but I haven’t gotten much better. The average Stanford freshman can (and does!) easily outperform me.

Work to live, don't live to work.

If Amazon is your last resort, you are clearly in an extremely (extremely!!!) lucky position and you should reflect upon that. For a lot of people, a "last resort" job is cleaning restaurant bathrooms or working in abattoirs. You've got options that are putting you in the upper-tier of working people.

yes, but cleaning bathrooms doesn't make you want to kill yourself.

Speak for yourself.

Thanks to linked in, I saw who was on a 1st level connection with the ex-director there who was arrested for running ads for prostitutes in Bellevue. Those 1st level contacts are still there and in higher positions now. Being 1st level on linkedin doesn't mean they are the same character or were part of the crime, but they are all in management positions. I emailed some women that still worked there and told them they should leave.

That's a really bizarre way of thinking. 1st level connection doesn't mean personally close. Are you willing to be held responsible for the misdeeds your own 1st level connections might get up to?

1st level and in the same small org. People that would have known, interviewed, and hired the person. Companies don't just hire rando's of the street they know nothing about into high management positions.

Yes that's insane I used to work for a huge Arab civil engineer in london - the head of my division will have known many of the Bin Laden family and quite possibly met Bin Landen when he was younger.

To answer your question, I hope it has changed. I was uneasy there with how managers would chat up the young women employees in their offices (with the sliding roller doors) for hours. In a few instances I felt uneasy with the way some people were obviously drooling in close proximity to women, staring, etc. That's what you get when there is tons of alcohol in the office. If the place has not changed I would recommend a no outside alcohol policy and training to prevent sexual assault.

" I was uneasy there with how managers would chat up the young women employees in their offices (with the sliding roller doors) for hours"

Maybe they were, you know, working together.

Yeah, I considered that, managers there are always trying to hire women they want to fuck and have heard anecdotes of interns who think using sex will get them a full time position. This was not that case.

What did you say?

- Hello, I stalked your supervisor, he's in a business of prostitution, you should leave your work.

First you're goddamned right I stalk all those shady people. And yes, I said something like, one of the management associates was charged with pimping out sex-trafficked women, I think maybe you should find a safer place to work.

Don't harass those women.

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