My first 6 months at AWS

Today marks my 136th Day 1 at AWS (why is it always Day 1). 6 months just flew by and I thought I’d find some time to share what a ride it’s been. I also have a lot of friends and ex-colleagues who often ask me “what is it like to work at AWS”, so I have tried to summarise my thoughts here. And what an exciting time to do this, in the wake of the announcement of two new AWS regions in the less than one week! (https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/now-open-aws-africa-cape-town-region/ and https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/now-open-aws-europe-milan-region/)

I joined AWS on October 28th, 2019, and after some searching and changing of roles, I thought it best to keep my expectations low, so as to avoid any potential disappointment, but that resolve evaporated within half an hour of walking through the AWS office doors. I am a born enthusiast, I love tech and Cloud, and I found that there was really little not to love about AWS.

Do not get me wrong. It’s been rough at times. You work for a hyper-scale/hyper-growth company who has done something that nobody else ever did in the history of tech, so you need to be hyper-growing yourself at a similar pace, especially at the beginning. The nice part of all of this is that the support system for everyone to be able to succeed and grow is so powerful that no challenge seems insurmountable. Feedback from customers and peers is what we live for at AWS and – at every step – you get advice on literally anything, you just need to ask, raise your hand, and someone will be there.

Receiving feedback is also something that I had to learn very quickly. One of my senior colleagues made the fantastic analogy between feedback and an assist in sports: it needs to be well delivered, timely, and given to someone ready to receive it. If you really think about it, external feedback is pretty much the only way that enables you to raise your own personal bar and become a better person and a better professional. Even if you are a very self-analytical individual, if you don’t receive feedback from others, your biases are likely to take over and either you drown in a bad impostor syndrome (like I often do) or you fail to see your shortcomings and the areas where you need to improve.

The next thing that really struck me is what at Amazon we call “customer obsession”. We always start from the customer and work backwards, we never start from tech. We strive to build long-lasting relationships with each and every one of our customers, regardless of industry, revenue, geography or size. These relationships go both ways: we provide services, guidance, advice to our customers and they provide us feedback and their stories.

That is essential for us, as roughly 90% of what we build comes from these interactions. And we know we succeed when the customer sees us as their trusted advisors, who they can rely on to understand how to use Cloud in a way that makes sense for their businesses, and helps them innovate at a faster clip to delight their end customers.

All of this is underpinned by two very solid foundational components:

  1. a strong culture: you may have heard about our leadership principles (LPs) before. I can assure you the LPs are not a list of commandments we affix on our walls and then forget about them. We live and breathe them every day, every minute. And they are our north-star at every step of the journey, when we need to prioritise, when we need to figure out what to do next to raise the bar.
  2. a phenomenal dedication to hire and develop the best (which – in fact – is one of our LPs): our hiring bar is high and we aim at raising that constantly. Everyone at Amazon is deeply involved into hiring new exceptional talent, but it does not end there. Once the new talent is in, we nurture it throughout her/his/h* life in Amazon. Learning and growth is not a one-off thing that happens once a year ‘when you have to sit that classroom that your manager told you to attend’. When you have close to 200 services and introduce more than 2000 features, learning is an integral part of what we do and it does not just happen by accident.

I wanted to thank all the people that helped me during these fantastic first 6 months, calling them out one by one, but I realised the list is just too long, as it would include pretty much anyone I talked to since my first Day 1.

If you are a builder and you love tech like I do, we have a lot of opportunities for you to be part of all this. PM me for more details!

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