June 3rd was my Day 1 at AWS Marketplace in New York. After 8 years of people management and startup building I decided to join Amazon’s fastest growing and most technically challenging business in an individual contributor, Principal Engineer role. In this post I will answer the obvious question - Why did I choose AWS? - and give some personal interviewing tips.
Why did I choose AWS?
I had multiple job offers, including some fairly challenging CTO jobs at growth companies, but AWS was the one that spoke to me the most and felt right for two reasons.
- AWS was my best candidate experience.
- AWS is where I am going to learn the most.
In sharp contrast to two other large coporations, I had the best candidate experience at AWS. My future manager, peers, recruiters, interviewers and Amazonians from my personal network were highly responsive, convincing, clear with expectations and challenges, realistic about the hiring process and all around incredibly bright. The first example that stood out was that my dedicated recruiter actually understood the tech involved to an unexpected level of depth. Then, the interview loop itself was hard, and every single interviewer was of truly impressive caliber. I wanted to work with these people!
On the topic of learning, I left a healthy Engineering team at Artsy that was focusing on delivering customer value and cutting edge technology. Most growth company opportunities faced organizational and technical challenges that I had already dealt with successfully. There was little for me to learn from them, and they needed me for what I already knew how to do. They had little to offer other than team and revenue growth. In contrast, I had everything to learn at AWS. AWS is growing much faster than any of these companies and I have never worked at the scale of an AWS service. I only had a vague idea of how to actually build one and that was really exciting.
PE Interviewing Tips
There is a lot of information online about AWS interviews. My personal experience was very consistent with these.
Amazon is customer obsessed and closely follows its leadership principles. Think of good examples from your past experience where you have demonstrated each principle and make sure you can talk about that in depth and breadth, in an orderly and methodical way. Most questions were behavioral and these videos helped me approach answers with the traditional STAR method (discussing the specific situation, task, action, and result of the situation).
Furthermore, every specific role at AWS has tenets. These are used to evaluate people at a certain level. Ask the recruiter to communicate the tenets to you and discuss the tenets with them. For a principal engineer these are fairly obvious and range from being hands on, flexible in approach and having respect for work by others. The complete list was recently published here. Similar to leadership principles, it was helpful to me to think of good stories where I have clearly demonstrated these tenets before coming to the interview.
You will code regardless of how much open-source work you have out there, how many years of actual code you’ve delivered, or what you think about whiteboard interviewing (here are my thoughts from 2012 :). Do spend several hours doing all ranges of problems on leetcode and don’t worry about it.
Finally, you will meet some of the smartest Engineers at AWS that have worked on some impressive services used my millions of customers. The bar is high, but they are also very nice humans. Have fun!