What I Learned in One Year at AWS

The peculiar culture I came to love and how it powers innovation

7 min readJun 15, 2021


I wonder sometimes where the time goes. It was the third week of May and I was heads down on arranging some startup talks, when someone casually said on a call, “Congrats on your anniversary!”

I was confused. What anniversary? Did he mean me? Then it dawned on me, he was referring to my Amazonian anniversary. The day before had marked one year when I started at AWS!

I never expected that I would work in a massive company again. I loved the startup life. One year later though, I find myself even more convinced of the decision I made to come on board.

The biggest question I had going into Amazon was about the culture. The word “peculiar” kept coming up in searches and conversations. It seemed that quite a few people never made it a year before bolting for the doors. The adherence to “Leadership Principles” seemed cult like for those that stayed.

Working at AWS for a year, I learned a few things about the culture

With a year under my belt though, I can safely say I have navigated through the vast jungle that is AWS successfully. I can without a doubt state that I made the right decision coming to AWS, even despite the challenges of a role that had to change dramatically due to the pandemic.

It can be daunting to find your place within a vast organization. What helped guide me was to understand and appreciate what makes AWS tick. In the process of finding my way, I learned a few things about AWS that may help you, whether you are a customer, partner, job seeker, or someone interested in a culture that has driven so much innovation at scale.

The Peculiar Culture

I am not sure peculiar is the word I would use for the Amazon culture. That is how Amazonians refer to the culture. What is actually peculiar though is the fact that Amazon is a company that manages to live by its values in everything they say and everything they do.

Most organizations I have worked at have “values”, a “mission”, and some well-meaning words plastered onto a few walls that are meant to inspire. However no one reads them or even knows they exist. It is because they are simply words without action to back them up and make them reality.




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