Thread regarding Amazon.com layoffs

Golden handcuffs, LP’s and a strange culture

It’s been a year since I joined AWS. I was fully prepared for all the quirkiness I’ve read about online. Let me just say that things aren’t as they really appear.

The reality is, people weaponize the leadership principles all the time in a passive-aggressive and deflective manner. This is because of the “someone does it to them” that seems to cascade endlessly. This is not normal social behavior. The reason why AWS hasn’t fallen apart is for two reasons; the first is the golden handcuffs where, if you’re not performing (or gaming the system well), AWS will simply not give you more stock. This, in essence, will look like a $100K pay cut and so you will leave. The second is that AWS has convinced the world they’re super high tech. I’d love to say that this is true but AWS leverages open source projects heavily or invest in areas the world already knows makes money - things like server hardware, chips/ASIC’s; people at AWS seems to believe AWS invented this stuff and are bleeding edge - just not true. AWS is basically a data center with automation around it, something that was invented prior to AWS. Advanced services are open source projects wrapped in AWS automation scripts. Almost everything that has complex code , someone else wrote, but Amazon uses for free.

In the end, the culture of AWS is one that Is brain wash through financial fear and technical ignorance. What AWS doesn’t know is that some customers are “smarter” and doesn’t need to be told what to do. The world is just lucky with have stagnant and lazy fortune 500’s who can’t acquire talent because, is the my hired super smart people like other high tech companies, I’d imagine AWS would be in a different position.

PS: RE: the writing culture. I used to think this was awesome but it’s not. While it does force people to fully think things through and have things on paper but it’s really a mechanism to avoid having people talk. People say AWS is a introverts dream .. that just isn’t true; it’s an endovert’s dream, which is a nicer way of saying people with sociopathic or bipolar behavioral problems. If you’re wondering why you’ve become mentally unstable, it’s probably because you’re not mentally ill when you joined and AWS is silently instilling its ill behaviors upon you.

Join AWS if you need money but it comes at a cost. Leadership principles sounds good but people’s selfish behaviors ruin them by hiding their defficiencies. AWS truly does “reinvent” stuff but does not invent (huge difference). If you’re young and know zero tech history (anything before 2007) then your ignorance is your saving grace. I don’t plan on staying around AWS another year since the soul of who I am is slowly deteriorating.

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Post ID: @OP+19i6xQ4R

9 replies (most recent on top)

@yhie and the OP are SPOT ON! If it weren’t for the fact Bezos/Jassi and 2 levels below them have so much “f—k you” money, they’ll choose to ignore the sane people. HR, like all HR globally, are useless/powerless to do anything. If it weren’t for the fact the server/storage/network (the data center) infra basically “sells itself”, we’d be singing a different tune.

Re: the LP’s, I feel like this is some type of Ivy League/Fraternity thing. It’s like we are rushing to be part of a frat (day 1 principle) and being hazed every day. The only people amused in this analogy are the upper classmen (the AWS execs).

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Post ID: @Glem+19i6xQ4R

The original post sums up my feelings of AWS precisely. I have been here for 2 years, and I’m bored out of my mind because AWS is simply an IT shop for enterprises that no longer want to build a physical IT infrastructure. As person who has led innovation teams at successful startups, as well as large enterprises, there is no worse place to be.

Getting things done here is nearly impossible. The “writing culture” does nothing but throw hurdles in front people with great ideas. Any and all novel innovation is stifled by the culture. The “long-timers” (people here 5+ years) are both unwilling and unable to change anything about how they operate. This is the very definition of a “day 2” mentality.

The company is not a place for free thinkers. An independent mindset is not welcome here. This is why so many people have to uncomfortably pretend to be in the cult. Yes. It is a cult. There are rituals (writing, group reading in silence, The LPs), mantras (Its always day 1, etc.), and even earned stripes in the form of badge colors showing tenure and seniority—not unlike the colored sashes earned in cults like NXIVM.

I know a lot of my AWS co-workers from previous jobs. It is funny to see the people that needed to be micromanaged in every other job they’ve had, climb the ladder here so quickly. These same people were unable to thrive in environments that required them to operate with autonomy. They lack actual vision and leadership qualities that inspire others. But here they do the rituals, chant the chants, and up the ladder they go.

The compensation plan here is only good for 2 years. Even with the stock more than doubling since you joined, you will not match your original 2 year cash plan. Getting more stock is an arbitrary exercise that happens at a single point in time each year. It’s based on performance, but you will almost never have the same direct manager for an entire year, thus a fair an equitable rating system doesn’t exist. BTW, I am an L7 people manager here, I am on my 3rd director in 2 years and I am at least the 3rd manager for over 1/2 of my team members. In spite of my #1 goal of creating stability as well as a documented and achievable promotion plan for my team members, my id–t L8 director (a long timer) keeps shifting resources in and out of my team seemingly out of boredom.

Since I just hit my 2 year mark (and I’m now officially off my sign-on cash plan), I’m already looking for opportunities outside. This is in spite of a great review I just received yesterday, and more equity. I am more than happy to walk away from my unvested shares for the right opportunity.

Which brings me to the last sad fact about AWS. Talent retention literally doesn’t exist here. “Retention” is a word that AWS HR is totally ignorant of. It’s never spoken, it’s never planned for, it’s never thought of. There _is_ the sloppy notion of a “dive and save”, where if a very high performing employee has a competitive offer in hand, their manager can write a paper touting how awesome the individual is, and how the team would suffer without them. The process of handling flight risks this way is total amateur hour. The paper is then reviewed by everybody in the reporting chain up to the VP, as well as the HR Business Partner (an HR generalist in any other company), and HR leadership (an L7 or L8) within the department. Of course each party comments on the document, which takes many days, and 10 times out of 10 a re-write will need to take place. Once everybody is in alignment, MAYBE they will agree to offer an individual something to stay. However, since there is almost no flexibility with anybody’s base salary, this offer is based on equity. And equity takes time to vest. So, almost nobody being recruited by other companies stays here at AWS.

This speaks volumes about the long-timers. Most of them clearly weren’t recruited by other companies, and had to stick it out here as loyal ritualists. And these are the people we work for.

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Post ID: @yhie+19i6xQ4R

The AWS interview style is very Socratic, designed to get “you” to talk given a minimal question. Again, nothing new, this approach was used in the 80’s and 90’s and proved it wasn’t as effective in hiring the type of people company’s wanted. By type I mean not technically sound but psychologically sound. Now the Socratic method is designed to understand your personality, which requires you to be emotionally exposed in order to reveal if you align to the leadership principles. The flaw is, during an interview, you’re nervous and for that reason, the Socratic method of assessing behavior is thrown out the window and yet a group of AWS people, whom are not psychologists, will asses your LP affinity.

This being said, the interview is designed to test one’s ability to lie throughout the process. What you end up getting is a disingenuous workforce that “no one” really feels comfortable opening up to and hence you must rely on the LP’s and tenets to get through life at AWS. Like the OP said, if you don’t have a mental disorder, you will at the end of your tenure. For those long haulers, they’ve been titled up and made their career off the initial success of cloud selling EC2 and S3 so they don’t really count since they drank the koolaid.

Don’t feel bad about the interview, just follow the pattern AWS expects or get rejected. But know the interviewers aren’t aware of what’s really happening.

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Post ID: @luul+19i6xQ4R

I interviewed for AWS a year ago. During the interview, a VP asked me this: "tell me a time when you failed". I told him I actually spend lots of time ensuring I minimize the risk of failures, and if they happen if do my best to put mechanisms in place so their impact is limited. So I didn't really have a great failure example. Oh but that isn't in the LP handbook! You must have a failure! He wouldn't take this for an answer and retorted "you work for , you must have bugs right? That's a failure". For a moment, I was a bit dumbfounded. I told the interviewer "do you believe AWS software is bug free?" - I was very much aware my reply would change the atmosphere. I had already told myself I would never work for such an arrogant person completely blinded by ready-made LPs.

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Post ID: @girm+19i6xQ4R

Let’s not forget the “leaders” that claim people are defensive when it’s simply a “disagree and commit” situation or simply asking/commenting in a concrete manner. In other words, these are leaders who do not like to be challenged at any level or see defensiveness when they don’t realize they’re confusing people or being too ambiguous.

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Post ID: @2zhc+19i6xQ4R

The way people speak about the LP’s is akin to how religious zealots speak about the 10 commandments. It’s funny, religious zealots are considered brainwashed and “crazy”, however at AWS, this is deemed normal.

Driving culture is not using LP’s to measure people and should be something that exists intrinsically within us. LP’s shouldn’t be weaponized and (literally) verbally spat like how it’s used today. If this isn’t clear enough to people, just watch any documentary on religious cults, you’ll recognize the patterns.

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Post ID: @2ekr+19i6xQ4R

I found it very funny how they prepare people for LP interview, pretty much teach you how to pretend and fake.

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Post ID: @1kxl+19i6xQ4R

So beautifully said. I applaud the poster for their candid honesty.
Wish more people in tech were like that.

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Post ID: @1oqc+19i6xQ4R

Haha, The freaking leadership principals are such jokes! it's so f—ng fake!

I worked there for 2 months and quit because LPs are all I hear everyday!

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Post ID: @1tyx+19i6xQ4R

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