Monday, March 16, 2015

Amazon: Why not outsource?

I got this email from a recruiter. Not very many people I know have had a good experience working at Amazon. I wonder if this will get me on their "do-not-email" blacklist...

From: Jon
Subject: RE: Amazon's XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX team is hiring!
Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2015 21:40:49 -0700

[TL;DR: Perhaps Amazon should outsource their engineering work.]
Thanks for contacting me.  I think it's wise to always be on the lookout
for new opportunities.  However, I think Amazon has some great challenges
with respect to staffing.  Here's a few reasons why I won't consider a
position there at this time:

First and foremost, I LOVE my current job and the company where I work.
It would take quite a bit to pull me away.  Not just money, but something
interesting, challenging, and fun.  I'm challenged daily, I get to work on
things I genuinely believe help customers daily, and I'm passionate about
what I do.
Amazon doesn't have paid parental leave.
At least it didn't when I asked ~12 months ago. This speaks a tremendous 
amount about the culture of Amazon.  An employee told me most managers are 
willing to "let you work from home for a few weeks."  The fact that paid 
parental leave isn't an official benefit at Amazon gives me the impression 
that Amazon doesn't care or acknowledge I may actually have a life 
outside of work.  It's also pretty much standard at the top end of the 
industry to offer at least 4 weeks...  If it's not a company wide policy,
then the company wide policy is that it doesn't exist.  Policy dictates 
culture; much the same way it dictates results.
I've heard that Amazon pays so well these other benefits aren't needed. I
should take my larger salary and apply it to the benefits I want.  I feel
the culture this policy dictates is one much more suited to an outsourcing
contract than a long-term employee/employer relationship. 
Amazon's attrition is insane.
I remember reading an article which reported the average employee tenure
at Amazon is 12 months.  This doesn't bode well for anyone at the company.
For new hires, it indicates they might as well start their next job search
the first day they are hired.  For veterans it means they will constantly
be ramping up new hires and imparting all that tribal knowledge which
inevitably grows up around a code base.  Once the veterans are lost all 
that tribal knowledge may very well be lost.  Nobody will know about the 
easiest way to plug in new feature ABC into the existing architecture or 
fix bug XYZ.  So now even the company doesn't make out well in the end 
because the new hires are grafting features or bug fixes onto a code base 
with no guidance.  I don't envy anyone who must maintain the patchwork 
disaster of a system that environment eventually fosters.  The only way 
this isn't an issue is if the work you're doing is so thoroughly 
uninteresting that no real engineering is required and cookie cutter 
templates apply to all the work.  In which case Amazon should outsource.
When I asked a manager what the deal was with the attrition I was told 
that "Amazon hires such good engineers that other companies constantly 
steal them away."  Amazon wants the very best in the industry but the 
compensation and/or work environment is such that it sends them fleeing
in the arms of another?  I understand Amazon pays quite well, so it must
be the work environment.  This statement is either part of an HR script 
or someone has their head stuck somewhere it doesn't belong -- hopefully 
in the sand since the alternative is most unpleasant.
I ran a quick search of my LinkedIn connections for those having worked at 
Amazon or currently working there.  Ten of my contacts have worked there 
and only one is still working there.  I'll be generous and say that's a 
10% success rate.  Or perhaps I just have sub-par LinkedIn connections -- 
they are after all, connected to me...
Amazon's leadership.
The one and only redeeming thing about Amazon is the focus on customers.  
Amazon loves their customers.  It's clear in the service provided.  It's 
clear in the leadership principals published on the careers page.  It's 
even clear in the story I've heard about those "banged" emails Mr. Bezos 
will forward when a customer complains.  However, if Amazon has a "1 out 
of 11 found this career acceptable" review.  Where's the banged email for 
that?  How vocally self critical is the senior leadership team of their 
atrocious employee retention?  Or is that not really what the senior 
leadership team cares about?  Do they actually want a workforce that 
churns every 12 months?  Do they really care little for the work-life 
balance?  If so, why not outsource the work?  Amazon doesn't seem to want 
long-term employees.  If cogs in the wheel are good enough why not just 
outsource the work?
-- Jon

To: Jon
Subject: Amazon's XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX team is hiring!
Date: Wed, 11 Mar 2015 22:19:18 +0000

Hi Jon-

I came across your resume today and was impressed with your experience 
and your education. I am looking for senior talent such as yourself to 
staff a new initiative for Amazon’s XXXXXXXXXXXXXX team. The position is
located in Seattle. If you want to be where decisions are made and solve
problems for customers I think this is a challenge you would really enjoy.
Amazon's culture has been a great fit for me and one I think you would like.

I would love to talk with you further. Can you suggest a time to connect?

XXXX XXXXXX  |  Technical Sourcer  |  Amazon 

Phone: (206) XXX-XXXX

Work hard. Have fun. Make history.

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