How can I hit the ground running as a tech lead?

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Senior Software Engineer [SDE 3] at Amazon10 months ago

I'll be going into Amazon as a senior engineer leading a team of 6-7 engineers. I have some anxiety as I have never worked in a FAANG company before, and I imagine the bar is high. Things are also trickier as I'll be in a different time zone from the rest of the team.

How can I make a stellar first impression after I start?

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  • Alex Chiou
    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    10 months ago

    As a tech lead, the crucial thing to know is that you need to be great at working through others, and this requires building a lot of trust fast. Here's what I recommend:

    • Travel and meet the team in-person - From what I've heard, Amazon is bullish on RTO, so this should be possible. I would stay there for at least a week and spend it really getting to know the team. Unfortunately, I know that Amazon is cheap, so they may not expense it: Weirdly though, if you pay for it out of pocket, it could make the team like you more as you made this sacrifice to get to know them. Back at Meta, I had to lead a project that required collaborating with Meta London, and my team flew out to meet them in-person for ~1 week. The benefits are sort of "fuzzy", but I 100% think doing that was very beneficial establishing that relationship. Anyways, here's some things you should do during that week:
      • Have 1 to 2 1:1s with every engineers you're leading.
      • Go out to lunch with them.
      • Do as much pair programming as possible to really acclimate yourself with every part of the codebase.
      • Have 1:1s with other relevant folks like your manager, PM, and designer (if applicable).
      • If people are available, spend time with them after work as well, like dinner.
    • Set up recurring 1:1s with core stakeholders - From the engineering side, this should be with other senior engineers on the team and the stronger SDE 2s. Make sure to cover XFN as well. This should include your PM and your designer (if applicable). Other potential relevant parties are marketing, privacy, security, and legal/compliance - These may not require recurring 1:1s, but I would try to talk to them ad-hoc every 1-2 months.
    • Request time aggressively to onboard technically - You won't have the time to flounder around reading the codebase/docs in isolation. In the same vein as that week trip, pair program as much as you can. The incentives align here as well: Mid-level and junior engineers who have been at Amazon for a while and are really good at coding there can teach you how to code and then claim credit for onboarding you (huge impact onboarding the tech lead!). It's a win-win.
    • Create a huge technical planning document - Start proactively thinking about what the project will take to ship, how to extend it, and what could go wrong after shipping. Since you are new, this will be an extreme case of bringing people together. The relationships that you build from the prior steps will help here.

    Related resources:

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