Five things I’ll take away from my time at AWS

Five things I’ll take away from my time at AWS

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

As my days wind down and I complete my handoffs, I sit and ponder the last two years of my time at AWS. I remember crying my ass off to my fellow SREs on team Cyberdyne during my exit speech at Splunk more or less afraid of what was next. I took a chance and bet on myself making this decision and I will never regret it. Working at AWS has been life-changing. If you have the opportunity to work there I highly recommend it.

I have to start off with the onboarding process at amazon and how it was the smoothest of my career. They had this tool that gave you an agenda for what you should do in your first 3 months. I was shocked at how easy it was to onboard given the world was shut down with covid. I was used to the learn to swim lesson from my previous employers who were in dire need of my services asap. Was I eager to get started with my customer? Yes Did I know what I was going to be doing the next two years? No lol…

The Drive down 121 is a lot different than what it was when I was a kid. I used to drive to the far east side of McKinney weekly for my baseball lessons and back then it was a two lane street with stop lights similar to 380. Now the SRT Sam Rayburn Tollway takes you from grapevine to McKinney on a quick 25 mile ride. If you make that trip you cant miss the gigantic Toyota HQ Buildings on the right before you get to the tollway. My AWS career ironically started and ended supporting this giant customer. As I look back on the past two years, some big wins that come to mind are helping my customer save millions through cost optimization recommendations, supporting major business events like mass migrations/Super Bowl commercials, and getting the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in the world that build on AWS. This job has been a life changing experience and I am truly grateful for everyone that had a hand in it.

Ok enough of the sappy shit, now let’s get into the good stuff.

Here are the Five Things I’ll Take away from my Time at Amazon.

Control your schedule

I had a 1–1 with my skip level and this was his first piece of advice that really stuck with me. As you gain tenure at amazon your roles and responsibilities will to grow. It is very very very important to maintain a healthy schedule and make sure that you don’t get burned out. I blocked off at least 2 hours a day for personal growth/lunch and that’s when I normally take a screen break and train. I set expectations quickly with my colleagues that I will not join meetings if sent the day of without reaching out directly. I also try to stay disciplined with checking my email and about 8 months ago removed it totally from my phone. Being a tam on a large account sucks because you get emails from every single account and if you have thousands of accounts then thats a fuck ton of pointless emails. You can’t block them because there are case updates that come from that silly Its a pickle and I ended up just having two folders inbox/No reply so that it kept things simple.

Bias for Action

If you want something go get it, If you want to do something go do it. Your manager will help you with your goals but your career at amazon is in your own hands. One of the great things is that a goal every year is how much do you give back to the business. Ways to give back to the business include interviewing, mentoring/coaching new TAMs, or my favorite joining a TFC. TFCs or Technical Field Communities give you the option to go do what you want to. In my case I chose the Builder Experience because they owned fault injection simulator and I am a huge fan of CHAOS engineering. If you are reading this stay tuned as I have been writing a ebook on this topic and will be releasing it in late July/august. Anywho, take bias for action in situations and you will find success.


While working with Toyota I became very familiar with the Toyota Way and Kaizen. Kaizen means continuous improvement. Always try to get better everyday because if you are not growing you are dead. I would tell myself to try and be 1% better today. Do something 1% better or make yourself 1% better and before you know it you will see gains. To make reliable systems you have to continuously improve. If you want to be a high contributor in your organization you need to be continuously improving. Never stop learning and always raise the bar.

Customer Obsession

One sword you can always fall on at AWS is the customer obsession one. I leaned on this a few times as I felt the situation warranted it. Always do right by your customers and give them what they want. AWS is built on customer feature requests and the ability to make it happen for my customer was one of my favorite things working there. If you want to build a business, start with the customer and work backwards. Focus on their problem and finding solutions for that. Although insubordinate, if what i was doing was best for the customer I always had an out. Sales is the blood of business and you don’t have sales without customers.

Think Big

I have always kind of been a dreamer and I love the fact that AWS encourages everyone to always think big. Dont just think about the here and now, Think about where you want this to be. I’m always forward thinking and coming up with crazy ideas for new businesses. I have seen it first hand how a conversation turns into a PRFAQ and then becomes a service. At amazon they encourage you to do this as this is how some of their biggest services have been formed. Thinking big is for the dreamers and I am always thinking about the next BIG THING.

Well, that wraps it up as my time here starts to wind down. I have been reflecting on my last two years and can say that I truly learned a-lot here. Working at amazon was the best form of higher education I could receive. Was it hard? Yes! Very Hard! Would I do it all over again if I had the opportunity? Absolutely! It has afforded me my dream of working in professional sports and I cant wait to help TRD win races :) Cheers Y’all

~Kyle Shelton

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