Amazon built a secret new unit to fix its crumbling engineering culture

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  • Amazon has created a new team called “Amazon Software Builder Experience,” leaked documents show.
  • The team’s goal is to help Amazon become “the best employer on the planet for software builders.”
  • The creation of ASBX came in response to internal complaints about a slowing engineering culture.

Software engineers at Amazon are frustrated by bureaucratic inefficiencies, so the company has created a covert new team to address their concerns.

Earlier this year, Amazon formed an “Amazon Software Builder Experience” group with the ambitious goal of turning the internet giant into “the best employer on the planet for software builders,” according to an internal document obtained by Insider. did.

Since launching, the ASBX team has grown to more than 400 employees and is working on automating code, improving developer tools, enhancing tutorials and safety infrastructure, said a person familiar with the matter. speak to the media.

“The Amazon Software Builder Experience (ASBX) organization was created to be dedicated to improving the software builder experience across Amazon,” one of the documents states. “Our initial focus was on some of the fundamental pain points we hear from our customers, such as how to manage and deploy code on a daily basis, the ease of use of our operational tools, and the campaigns people ask us about. I guess. Company.”

Concerns about Amazon losing its innovative “built” edge have come to the fore in recent years, with many long-time executives responsible for the company’s early growth vying to invest in smaller startups and competitors. I am going to another company. Some current and former employees call this “Day Two.” It’s an ominous departure from Amazon’s fast-paced, entrepreneurial culture called “Day One.”

The ASBX initiative is of increasing importance to Amazon. Because retail giants are committed to being the best employers on the planet, not only for frontline warehouse workers, but also for corporate and tech workers.

In an email to Insiders, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed the team’s existence and said it was part of an effort to maintain the Day 1 culture.

“Maintaining a Day 1 culture means always listening to our employees, maintaining the highest standards, and constantly looking for new ways to provide better tools and mechanisms to help builders succeed. Being vocally self-critical is another important factor in our efforts to make Amazon the best place in the world for builders. It’s part of the Day 1 culture you can sometimes see here. Our investment in recent events like Builder’s Day and DevCon 2022, and the first and hospitable Amazon Software Builder Experience team, is how Day 1 culture benefits builders. are just some of the many recent examples that have impacted the .

“More button clicks than development”

The ASBX team came into the limelight last week when they led the keynote at DevCon, Amazon’s largest internal event for engineers.

One of the slides presented during the speech, obtained by an insider, shows growing frustration among Amazon engineers. They say they are “overwhelmed” by routine software upgrades, manual testing and deployment, and clunky developer tools that keep them from engaging in more creative building activities.

“Amazon engineers click buttons more than development,” the slide says, quoting an anonymous Amazon developer.

A view of Amazon Spheres at the opening event held at Amazon headquarters in Seattle on January 29, 2018.

Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

Amazon created ASBX after CEO Andy Jassy made improving working conditions for engineers a priority. At an internal staff meeting in November, Jassy told employees she was aware of these concerns and related to the company’s goal to remain “quick and fast,” as an insider previously reported. The CEO has already told two of the company’s most senior technical executives, Dave Treadwell and Peter DeSantis, to lead efforts to “make things even faster for developers.” pointed out. The ASBX team is run by his VP Eric Docktor who reports to DeSantis.

“I still think it needs to be meaningfully better than it is today,” Jassy said at a November conference, referring to the architectural culture of the Amazon. “We want developers to feel like they can spend most of their time developing instead of reinventing manual tools over and over again. And we’re going to fix that.”

“Undifferentiated” work

According to one of the documents, a big problem for many Amazon engineers is the amount of time they spend on “undifferentiated” work. This is defined as “manual additional repetitive work that takes away the developer’s core coding/production time”.

In a recent internal survey reviewed by Insider, 34% of engineers said they spend four to eight hours a week, or about 10% to 20% of the week, on something unrelated to building new products. increase. Another study found that engineers spend 30% of their time on “repetitive tasks.”

The ASBX team is trying to solve these problems by building new tools and educational content, among other things. ASBX is made up of his seven smaller units, ranging from builder tools and engineering knowledge growth teams to mechanics, safety infrastructure and user experience. The company is also investing in roadshows, surveys and conferences to listen to engineers, the documents said.

“We want software builders at Amazon to do less undifferentiated work, build world-class tools, provide unparalleled growth opportunities, and champion the software builder experience across the company. allows us to focus on our own innovations,” says one of the documents.

And according to one of the documents, the six tenets or guiding principles used by the ASBX team are:

  1. Software builders across Amazon need consistent, interoperable, and scalable tools to build and operate applications at their own scale. Organizations scale our solutions to meet their specialized business needs.
  2. Amazon customers benefit when software builders spend their time on fresh innovations. Elimination of undifferentiated work, automation, and integrated dogmatic tools ensure human interaction for high-judgment situations.
  3. Our tools should be usable even in the worst case. This is when software builders need to use tools the most. It should be available even if no one else is using it.
  4. A software builder’s experience is the sum of tools, processes, and technologies owned across the company, and continually improved using well-understood metrics, actionable insights, and knowledge sharing. .
  5. Amazon’s industry-leading technology and access to top experts in many fields give builders the opportunity to learn and grow at a rate unmatched in the industry.
  6. As builders, we are uniquely positioned to codify Amazon’s values ​​into a technical foundation. We foster a culture of belonging by ensuring our tools, training and events are designed to be inclusive and accessible.

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Contact reporter Eugene Kim via the encrypted messaging apps Signal or Telegram (+1-650-942-3061) or email (