Linkedin got updated months ago and the move came even before that, but incase you missed it, in April 2021 I left Amazon after three mostly successful years. Nothing here is news, but a reflection after some of the raw emotion of the decision has worn off.
Amazon was a giant change in direction for me both in terms of career trajectory and company size. There was no guarantee of success and for a long time it felt like the biggest mistake of my career. Over time I started to find my way, make a few friends, and get to know some incredible people. One benefit that Amazon has over other employers is that as a software dev, it’s possible and encouraged to find a team and industry vertical that works for you. I was able to find a great team working in a space that I was very passionate about, which kept me at Amazon a lot longer than I thought I was going to make it, but also ultimately led to my decision to leave.
There’s an old adage that “people leave managers, not companies.” That wasn’t the case here. My managers were awesome and incredibly supportive of both my personal and professional development. I just couldn’t do Amazon anymore.
It became “Day 2”
If you’re ready for a fireball, anti-Amazon screed, I’m sorry to disappoint. As a former employee and a customer, there are certainly areas where Amazon has the ability to do better by their employees. The fact that they added a Leadership Principle around it is a really good sign that they believe that too. People at Amazon take LP’s very seriously.
Amazon is a company of 1,000,000+ people working in dozens of countries with the largest part of the workforce involved in the margin-obsessed retail part of the enterprise. Yes there are some awful policies and leaders, but the opposite is also true. There is no universal Amazon experience, just like there is no universal Austin, TX or Brussels Belgium experience. YMMV. The reality is that no company in this space is going to be leaps and bounds ahead of any other when it comes to the employee experience. Margins are too tight and the customers are too price conscious.
So I get why, but that doesn’t mean I have to be super happy about my contributions. On one hand working on HR software for our operations group was amazing. There was so much opportunity to have a positive impact on a very large workforce.
It was also very frustrating because there is only so much that can be done before business realities get in the way.
I’ve spent the vast majority of my career in very early companies where the possibilities were endless and the risks of not doing something were greater than the risks of getting it wrong. That’s my definition of “Day 1” and that’s not the vast majority of Amazon. “Day 2” is where reality sets in, budgets need to be considered, lawyers consulted. It is very important work, and for some that is their “Day 1,” but not for me and finding a change just felt right.
It took a long time to work up the nerve to accept this. Amazon was great for me. This is all happening in the middle of a pandemic where so many people are struggling, yet I have the privilege to help fill open head count and launch alternative hiring schemes for software positions. I had a team I liked and supportive management. If we’re going to be fully transparent, the uptick in RSU value was quite nice too.
But I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing. I missed being in a place where everyone is pulling in the same direction, where personal ambition benefited everybody and not just the individual. I missed working with sales people and marking people and spending time thinking about how to actually get product in the hands of customers. I missed being able to quickly turn their problem statements into a solution. That can’t be done at Amazon scale.
I also didn’t want to have to go into an office, my home setup is too nice. And if we’re going to be transparent, I kinda wanted to be paid every two weeks with some upside, rather than the effective every-six-month thing that Amazon settles into. I did enjoy not thinking about making payroll, so finding a place doing well was a must.
Therefore I left Amazon and joined Scale. I’ll write up a little more about what that’s been like in the next post.
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