Two Years at Amazon

5 things I have learned that make Amazon tick

DEV.BIZ.OPS

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Every company you join comes with its own culture and language. The longer a company has been around and the bigger it gets, the more embedded the culture becomes to the company and its employees. You begin to adopt the customs and language as your own.

I had never heard the phrase “dogs not barking” prior to joining AWS. It means to keep a watch for things that could be potential problems later. Maybe you are familiar with the phrase, but having lived in the startup world for the past decade, the phrase was completely new to me.

Before I joined AWS two years ago, I had different plans. My goal was to join a startup or launch my own. Based on a friendly recommendation though, I took a chance, got offered the role, and started my Day 1 on May 18th of 2020 as a Startup Advocate.

At the San Francisco AWS Startup Loft
At the San Francisco AWS Startup Loft

Amazon gets a fair amount of attention for having a “peculiar” culture. I do not think of Amazon’s culture as any more or less peculiar as other companies. What is remarkable though is just how ingrained, pervasive, and vital the culture is to everything that Amazon does, from operations to product development to people management.

We have a whole dictionary of Amazonian phrases. Some are generic like “dogs not barking” or doing “Start, Stop, Continue” sessions, some are very Amazonian like PRFAQ’s and “Day 1”, and some were Amazonian initially, but quickly were adopted elsewhere like “two-pizza” teams and our culture around written narratives..

Language is the connective tissue of a culture. This becomes even more critical in a company as large and global as Amazon that continues to grow at a breakneck pace. When everything is moving a thousand miles an hour, language is the glue that binds our vast organization together and ensures we are aligned on our mission and goals.

Alignment on culture is an organizational superpower
Alignment on culture is an organizational superpower

I knew how crucial language and culture are to companies, but it never felt as real until I spent enough time in AWS. When you reach the two year mark in a company, it is a significant career inflection point. Ninety days in, you do not grasp the nuances…

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DEV.BIZ.OPS

Thoughts on developers, digital transformation, startups, community building & engineering culture. Author is Mark Birch @ AWS 👉 https://twitter.com/marksbirch