As I think about my career a few years from now, I wonder if I will continue to learn and grow at Amazon or if it would make sense for me to switch to a startup. I do care about compensation as well so that may be a limiting factor in jumping to a startup. What advice do you have for someone who may be interested in working at a startup vs. Big Tech? How many years of experience should I rack up at Amazon / in Big Tech before moving to a startup?
In a vacuum, my recommendation is to stay at Amazon for at least 1.5+ years so no one questions your tenure at the company (I actually made a video about this topic here).
It's probably in your interest anyway to stay at the company for 2-3 years due to your stock vesting schedule at Amazon. So stay unless you really hate your team/manager, and even then, I'd first try to switch teams before exploring externally.
Once you have a decent stint at Amazon on your resume, you now have the "FAANG glow" which will open up more opportunities. So the number of companies that reach out to you will only increase, which means your chance of finding a good startup will be good.
Moving to a startup typically only makes sense if:
Over-simplified answer: After 2 - 6 years
Less simplified answer: After you get to SDE 2
Longer answer: After you get tired of working at Amazon, have done some soul searching, and are certain you want to work for a smaller, more nimble company
Engineers who came from Big Tech (but weren't there for too long) tend to do well in startups. Every startup wants to become a Big Tech company some day, so coming from that background lets you teach others how to build software more responsibly, scale systems and culture, and just do things the right way.
Here's my advice for engineers going from Big Tech -> startups:
I recommend checking out these other resources too: