You can’t imagine it. Amazon and AWS want to hire all your friends, foes, and everyone in between • The Register

Functionality Do you ever feel like there’s a party and you’re not invited? How do you feel when you launch LinkedIn and find that another long-standing connection has been rewired in Amazon or AWS?

Whether it’s a seasoned CEO like former HPE EMEA boss turned AWS EMEA boss Andy Isherwood or a all the Rust contributors squad, Amazon and AWS seem to have an inexhaustible thirst for technological talent, and an irresistible ability to recruit the targets they want, sooner or later.

Amazon has 55,000 employees in the UK and 1.3 million worldwide. At the end of 2019, its global workforce stood at 798,000, while five years ago it was only 341,000.

The firm does not officially break down its workforce by function, nor its recruitment objectives. But at the time of writing, Amazon’s vacancies page lists 54,000 jobs, including over 15,000 in software development, with just under 3,500 in operations, computer engineering and support, and over 3,000 in technical management of projects, programs and of products. It also needs more than 5,400 new solution architects.

AWS exploration specifically reveals more than 19,000 full-time vacancies. Of these, more than 6,100 are in software development, 5,258 are in solution architect roles, with 1,604 in operations, computer engineering and support, with 1,200 other management jobs. project, program and product.

In the UK, Amazon has over 200 solution architect positions, primarily at AWS, as well as 190 software development positions and 81 project, program and project management positions. He also needs a senior economist who presumably enjoys his own business. And remember, these are just the jobs he didn’t fill.

For comparison, Microsoft’s total workforce is 144,000, while Facebook currently has around 60,000 employees, up 26% year-over-year.

Oh my god it’s full of vacancies

So what the hell are Amazon and AWS doing with all of these people, especially those who on the surface look like traditional end-user or vendor roles? Paul Johnston spent a year at AWS as a senior developer advocate for serverless and says it’s just recruiting to keep up with the company’s furious growth.

“They are constantly behind in the number of people they have. So if we’re talking about AWS in particular, AWS doesn’t have enough people to take care of all the work they have. And it’s the solution architects, it’s the account managers, it’s all of that and they’re understaffed pretty much all the time. “

But even though Amazon and AWS never have enough people, says Johnston, they still succeed because “they’re so good and aware of what they’re doing, and they know their products so well, because they have to be on top.” of what they do. they know.”

At the end of the day, says Johnston, “you find that the majority of people go to Amazon because of the prestige of the job, the clients they work with. And the fact that they’re number one is the biggest business. there. And if you want to get into tech … there really isn’t any other games in town right now. They’re the pinnacle. “

Chris Jackson, director of product and technology at Thomas International and former chief evangelist at Rackspace, says it would be a boost for anyone’s resume to “immerse themselves in [at Amazon/AWS] and apply what you’ve learned in other roles in the future. “

And for technicians in particular, Jackson says, “the things that excite and excite these people are interposed in the layer as a service. So if they want to keep working on these things, you better help the people who manufacture the products that people consume.

With Kubernetes in particular, he says, “if you really know how it works, how it evolves and how it works under the hood… Doing it at scale among cloud providers is the best way to showcase your talents. “

So there are many reasons to join AWS. But what happens when you get there?

It really is the first day. Everyday

The Amazon / AWS mantra is “it’s always day one” and everyone agrees the business is really operating in a permanent start-up mode. Which means AWS and Amazon are working hard with their employees. Very, very hard.

“You are told you are the best of the best,” one insider told us. “You don’t go through the hiring process unless you’re really, really good. So, you know, there’s a lot of expectation.”

Sometimes, it seems, we expect too much. It’s not hard to find AWS employees lamenting their experiences on sites like TeamBlind or Glassdoor – alongside plenty of positive reviews to be fair. Typical complaints are that this is a toxic environment and resembles a “cult” or “North Korea” in its staunch adherence to its leadership principles and ruthless conduct of performance. .

On the former and current Amazon employee page – hosted on Google oddly enough – the most recent post is titled “Dystopian Hellscape”, but you can browse other titles such as AWS Abuses, Toxic Culture, The Turnover Problem and Everyone’s Quitting.

A source told us that this probably isn’t the kind of place you would want to go if you have a tendency to doubt or anxiety. Another wondered how well seasoned vendor or user executives adjust to the shock of the Eternal First Day, when you’ve spent the last 10 years of your career walking on Day 10.

Additionally, AWS is not considered the most generous payer among hyperscalers. And stock options are said to be loaded in the backend, which means people often leave before they earn a lot on equity.

It all adds up to a certain churn and talent burn rate, multiple sources told us, even as the company’s workforce grows mercilessly.

An AWS spokesperson told us, “We don’t mind being called ‘special’. We have our own way of doing things. Our unusual approach and culture – focused on removing barriers so builders can build – are part of the reasons our people enjoy working at AWS. One thing that has remained constant is that successful employees at AWS are recruited from day one on our leadership principles. “

Besides the impact on individuals, Amazon’s relentless search for talent has a wider effect on the industry. When someone joins Amazon, it’s not that they’re lost forever to the rest of the industry. It’s just like that.

The company is seen as controlling in the extreme. One Observer we spoke to brought up a number of DevOps and open source personalities who had joined AWS in the past year or so, and suggested that any contributions they would make to industry conferences in the future would be fully compliant with AWS doctrine.

Dr Hamed Haddadi, an Imperial College scholar who works on systems, privacy and algorithms, says that once researchers and academics go to Amazon, “they’re gone for a while.” They rarely publish articles. This contrasts with Microsoft Research, even Google and Deep Mind, he says (but not Apple apparently).

“It seems to be a very metric environment, which doesn’t work very well for research,” Haddadi explains. “Sometimes we [in the academic world] work on something for a year or two and it doesn’t pay off. “

Nonetheless, he continues, the company appears to be aggressively targeting academics. “It makes recruiting a little more difficult for us in general, at least in the London and Cambridge area, as they recruit quite intensively in this space.”

The AWS spokesperson said he absolutely supports open source, and that includes “allowing employees to contribute to open source projects and conferences,” although outsiders may wonder how long they could. be prepared to do so given their arduous workload.

It’s not that AWS is unique in this area. Hyperscalers in general are not good at sharing everything they do. For example, according to Anne Currie, a veteran software engineer and technology ethicist, “they’re doing great things with green data centers and green processes, and increased efficiency that they don’t talk about but other people could learn from.” .

But there is a broader concern, according to Currie. AWS – and its hyperscaler rivals – crave proven talent. But how much investment do they devote to the development of the raw talent on which the entire industry depends?

Won’t someone think about the graduates?

“There is an amount of training required to become a software engineer,” she says. “You have to learn, you have to have mentors, you have to have training, and it’s expensive. Not everyone takes college-level recruits. I think that’s a bad sign.”

Or in other words, someone has to pay and train techs when they’re still a little shitty.

As for Haddadi, he says, “I’ve never had a student go to Amazon for an internship.” However, he adds, this could be in part because researchers would prefer to go to a place open to them to publish.

AWS insists it focuses on “early career talent. Our teams seek to learn as much from them as we think they will learn from us ”.

At the time of writing, 44 positions were listed on the AWS Student / Graduate Jobs page and 58 on Amazon. So if you really want to join the Bezos team, chances are you have to put the years somewhere else first.

Once you’ve done that, how do you find your way? As noted, there are currently thousands of vacancies listed on Amazon’s careers page. Beyond that, the AWS spokesperson said it was using “a combination of internal recruiting supported by external agencies.”

But the point is, if you’re really Amazon hardware, there’s a good chance you’re already on their radar. As one source told us, AWS is constantly looking for people it is interested in – people in meetings, speaking at conferences.

This is equivalent to “an unwritten process of” we’ve identified someone, we’ll point them to a role we want them to play, and then they’ll be flattered… “”

The result, according to our source, is that “a lot of people are basically flattered by Amazon.”

Or you could receive the reverse treatment. A source that was targeted by Amazon told us that the intensity of the business, the obsession with metrics, and the demand for fast turnaround times were even extending to corporate recruiters. “I actually found the recruiter to be aggressive,” our source said. They did not join.

The chance to work with and learn from the best, most interesting projects, the hottest technology and a combination of flattery and ruthless aggression; Amazon / AWS will no doubt continue to leverage all of these tools and more, as it continues to consume talent at a rate that would shame Mr. Creosote.

But will he ever be satisfied?

An insider suggests that the worst thing that could happen would be for AWS to get all the staff it wants. “I think the business would slow down… because people would feel like they could relieve themselves.” ®

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