After contemplating for a very long time and gathering all the courage, I have decided to share my learnings working at Amazon as a new grad. Listed below are collective and personal opinions of my own and couple others that joined as new grads. It is not my intention to hurt anyone, or cause any distress. Listed below are just opinions from some random netizen. Do not construe this as professional career advise. Please take this with a grain of salt.
Here is some information about my background before Amazon.
Internships: 2 (1 SWE, 1 Data Science)
MS in US (Top 20 univ), Computer Science. GPA: 3.75/4
Bachelors in CS from a moderately reputed university in India.
Interview Prep, other offers.
Leetcode: 300 problems (Mostly medium, few hard, and remaining easy)
Also practiced a lot on Code Signal and completed Algo expert.
Other offers: Microsoft new grad, Redmond WA
Other interviews: Google (reject).
Was also interviewing with Salesforce at the time, and received a verbal offer that I declined.
About my Amazon interview exp: 3 OAs, 30 min interview in December 2019
Here are some key takeaways,
- Don't be dazzled by the brand name.
- Amazon has something known as URA. Each manager has a quota he/she has to meet to manage employees out, for "performance" reasons.
- You could be meeting the L4 SDE bar, and still be managed out (and most likely).
- Amazon has a hard working culture than a smart working like Google, Netflix.
- Amazon new grad hiring is a joke. My Amazon interview exp. was the easiest. I couldn't for a second believe how I got hired. 3 OAs, 1 casual meet and greet type "interview" and you get an offer letter in your inbox?
- You're not guaranteed to be a better engineer than other new grad hires, and hence making you "invincible" to PIP or URA. If you for a second believe that you work harder and smarter and cannot possibly be put on PIP, you're naive.
- New grad hires via Student Programs are assumed to be incompetent. Everybody knows how you got here. Nobody respects you. Other L4s, L5s want you gone. Most assume you're not deserving of the FAANG brand tag, and that you cheated you're way in here.
- You're an easy target for PIP. Remember how you got here? Remember the 30 min interview? It is much easier to justify putting you on PIP.
- Manager's promo is more important than yours. There is a lot of favoritism.
- This company doesn't give an F about you. If they choose to, you can be replaced in a matter of hours.
- It is very hard to find a team with a good culture. And if you do, it is probably temporary.
- Always keep up to date with your LC and interviewing skills.
- I would try to get out ASAP.
- I would reject Amazon before they reject you.
- Should you join, there are super high chances that you may develop imposter syndrome. Don't let this happen. Seek help.
Up until last month, I have been receiving good feedback from manager. Delivered 2 solid projects with high visibility. Received an email on Friday notifying me that I have not been meeting the L4 SDE bar and that my manager will create a improvement plan with target goals. Verbally confirmed that I can accept 3 months severence and leave. Will most likely take the plan due to visa issues. Turns out, a vast majority engineers being PIPed lately are new grads who joined via student programs.
The last couple of days have been extremely stressful for me. I did not see this coming at all. I was having discussions about my promo process the week before. This is so bizarre and stressful. I feel I am being abused, but am totally helpless. I can only hope that this changes for good.
Some questions you may ask.
Q1. Should I accept Amazon New Grad offer?
A. Sure. If you don't have any other offers in hand, or any other interviews lined up or just too dumb to bag an actual offer.
Q2. I accepted. Should I continue interviewing?
A. Absolutely. Do NOT stop interviewing. Get out of this mess when you can. Do not worry about reneging Amazon offer. They don't care.
Q3. But I am a good engineer. I can crack the actual interviews too.
A. Doesn't matter. A lot of it is luck dependent. You cannot guarantee that you will get good projects that can be delivered in a timely manner. Or guarantee that you will be in a org with a lower URA quota, and a good culture. (Which is almost non existent here). Also, being good at LC doesn't translate to being a good engineer. There are a tonne of other factors.
Q4. I am on a visa, I would run out of my allowed unemployment days.
A. Join, but keep looking out for other jobs. Get out before they let you out. (Which can happen in as little as 6 months)
Q5. I want my peace. I'll just join.
A. Sure. But you most likely won't have any after you join. Get out!!
Q6. So why is Amazon doing this? How does it benefit them?
A. I do not work in HR. This is just my opinion.
- Amazon is a 2 phased company. They build new and solid products, and then maintain them for a long time. Most products are already built. (Alexa, retail, AWS etc.) They don't need the top most talent. They need the bare minimum. They just need coders with basic skills, to maintain their complex codebase.
- Mandatory URA has been in Amazon's practice for a long time. Nobody likes to PIP someone out. It involves a lot of documentation. Hence, Student program new hires are easy targets. It is very easy to justify, as there is documented proof that you have not been through a thorough interview. (Perhaps an unintended side effect of this new style of recruiting at scale?)
- The average tenure of a Amazon SDE is less than 2 years. It is a constant influx and outflux of SDEs. It is becoming very well known in the tech circles that Amazon has a major culture problem. Solving this problem is very expensive. Good SDEs who know about this don't join or prefer not to join. And Amazon requires SDEs. They feed on SDEs. Gullible new grads are just easy to convince. Even more so, if they are international students. As Amazon knows, these folks that are here on a visa would just play safe and accept the offer anyway.
- They want to use and abuse SDEs with workload that requires almost 10+ hrs a day and weekend work, shitty oncall shifts, and basic, boring tasks that most people wouldn't prefer doing. Heck, Frugality is one of their LP.
- They extract even more out of you when you're on PIP. As they know, you need a f'in job. You need to maintain visa status. You need to pay bills. You need to pay back your high interest loans in your home country.
Q7. So what if they PIP me out, I can easily find another job.
A. Sure. But if you're on H1b, you have only 60 days to go from interview prep, applying, actually interviewing, getting formal offers, and starting. All within 60 days. Tough luck. If you have only 1 attempt left to apply for H1b, most companies wouldn't even interview you.
Happy to answer more questions here. Please upvote. The goal of this post is to educate everyone joining or thinking of joining on what they're getting into and manage expectations.
Edit: A message to current Amazonians who agree with this post. Please comment down below and show support so others don't repeat the same mistake we did.