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This article brought back memories of my time working in Kindle.

Amazon has a culture of promotion focused “engineering”. This rings true across product management and software development.

Rather than solving real customer facing problems, many organizations including Kindle, emphasize “what do I need to do to get promoted?”

This is not only SDEs, but L7/Senior engineering managers and L8/directors, who latch onto a sales pitch and put all their eggs in one basket.

The template is like this:

> I’m going to build a new framework, platform, format, or some other “thing” that everyone should now use to solve {{problem}}. Then, I can claim a larger scope and significant impact, no matter how pointless, costly, or annoying this thing is to customers.

They write documents. These are narratives where they spend hours and hours reviewing and nit picking how “crisp” a sentence is, or how there are too many commas, or some other superfluous bullshit.

There’s an OP1 document, where an L7 writes a fancy narrative, justify more head count and growing their organization. It’s their ticket to a director promotion.

If you’re a developer, you flock to the same project. For L4s and L5s, it’s your ticket to the next level. For an L6, you spend your time selling the absolute hell out of this thing, going on a road show and pitching your idea to get buy in from other teams. You’re careful not to write much of the code and mainly come off as being the architect and consultant. This is your ticket to getting to the Principal level. If this is someone else’s idea, you’ll do whatever it takes to take credit when this succeeds but blame everyone else when it fails.

Best case, the thing you deliver gets you promoted. Then, you simply just move onto to another organization. You were in Kindle and this new piece of shit has made on call hell? Oh well, you already got your promotion. Now you can just move on to AWS (or find another team in any of Amazons legacy businesses where you can coast).

Kindle was an army of H1Bs with an extremely toxic culture. They refuse to hire or even interview white, black, or Hispanic candidates. You can pay H1Bs less, and they’re happy with it because they get to live in Redmond, WA instead of India.

I could go on and on, but I feel anxiety right now even thinking about my time working there. Absolute shithole.

My impression from working at Google is that people are similarly promoted based on implementing new features rather than maintaining existing features, including bug fixes. It's been 6 years now since I left, but I can still tell when there's a promo cycle because the UI on my Android apps change arbitrarily and become slightly buggier.

Just to rant about both companies, Amazon Prime's Chromecast support seems to be currently bugged out. It plays for a few seconds then gives up with a content not available error. Maybe it will work again in a year?

Prime video has always been extremely buggy in my experience. It’s baffling that a product backed by someone as big as Amazon and part of their core prime offering can be so difficult to use. Then again Netflix has been getting much less usable over time and HBO is similarly buggy so maybe that’s just par for the course in streaming.

I'm ex-Kindle (Doppler/30) and I had exactly the same experience. It was shocking how many requests we got for better ePub compatibility and just a better experience overall. Never happened. Customer needs were absolutely not a focus unless a senior manager's wife/husband had some random issue and then it was a major priority (but good luck explaining that in a PRFAQ or via the Release Management team.

> They refuse to hire or even interview white, black, or Hispanic candidates.

This is complete BS, the org has as many white developers as asian and indian and even opened a big branch in Madrid

> You can pay H1Bs less, and they’re happy with it because they get to live in Redmond, WA instead of India.

Salary is a _direct_ computation from performance ratings which are the same % for every org. For H1Bs to be paid lower, they need to be systemically rated lower by the same managers who "refuse to hire white, black, hispanic" candidates.

There are some really cool openings at Amazon I was considering moving into but this makes me rethink. Thanks for the write up.

My wife works at AWS (for the last ~5 years) and has generally loved being there. She says the parent post has truths (people write documents), and a lot of exaggerations.

So if that was the _only_ anecdote that made you rethink, hopefully this is a second anecdote that helps you make a choice!

(side note: If you dislike working with Indians it can be a terrible place, a good number of her colleagues have been Indians (she is one as well).)

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