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Better Companies

Inside Amazon, As Told By Top Women Developers

When PowerToFly's Seattle community spent the evening at Amazon's Seattle campus.


Most of us spend time on Amazon.com each week, ordering household goods or watching streaming shows (I highly recommend Catastrophe btw). We all know the experience is seamless, especially if you have an Echo. I mean, you don't even need to lift your hands to to make orders. Yeah, it's all pretty magical and futuristic - a future that is happening now thanks to a few of the brilliant female and male engineers who talked to the PowerToFly community at an event we held with Amazon on June 28th on their Seattle campus.

With the goal of introducing women in tech to the female and male developers in the room who are running engineering teams for Amazon Restaurants, Machine Learning for Ads, and the Amazon Tickets platform, the PowerToFly community in Seattle was able to ask about what it's like to work at Amazon as they got an inside look into what the company is building.

In that spirit, Rachel Valdez, PowerToFly's Chief Dream Maverick and the MC for the event, started us off with a behind the scenes demo from Uma Boddeti, the Software Development Manager for Amazon Restaurants. Uma explained the challenges of building applications for on-demand food delivery - from coordinating the in-restaurant ordering process to ensuring that the drivers who make the deliveries go to the right house. After Uma's presentation, the audience asked her questions about the product, but they also took the opportunity to understand how Uma balances being a tech leader while raising two children. Her answer: I ask for flexibility when I need it and I get my work done. She used an example from that day to illustrate her experiences. Uma said she was planned on leaving the office early to take her son to the dentist. It wasn't a problem because her team knew she was would make up for any lost time and productivity. Uma made it clear that family matters came first on her team, as long as goals are being met.


Uma Boddeti, the Software Development Manager for Amazon Restaurants answers questions about work-life integration and the products she's building.

To cap off the event we held a similar discussion with Alice Zheng, who is a Senior Software Development Manager for Advertising platforms at Amazon. Alice is also the author of "Mastering Feature Engineering" and "Evaluating Machine Learning Models". The PowerToFly members in the audience particularly wanted to know how Alice manages her time, especially if she's feeling overwhelmed. Alice advised the women in the room to sit down with their managers and go over their task lists to prioritize when things are due. She reiterated advice she received early on from a woman executive at Amazon: focus on "running a marathon" and not a sprint. At PowerToFly we give that same advice to our team members - it's all about training and preparing for a long steady pace. Too many sprints knock people out of the game and are unsustainable, especially at high-growth companies like Amazon.

After discussing how we can better manage ourselves and talk to our managers, Alice briefly discussed what she found different and useful about the hiring process at Amazon. She touched on the set of values Amazon asks candidates to match their experiences to in the interview process. In Alice's opinion, these core values allow candidates to measure themselves against a universal company framework. If you do end up joining Amazon then you know exactly what the company expects from you and your colleagues on day one.


Alice Zheng and Katharine Zaleski, PowerToFly's Co-Founder and President take questions from the audience.

Want to come to events like these? Sign up for PowerToFly.com and we'll send you exclusive invitations for events where we connect you to executives and hiring managers at companies that care about creating gender diverse and inclusive environments. And if you're interested in working at Amazon, check out their page on PowerToFly.com.

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