It’s Always Day 1 at Amazon

It’s Aways Day 1 at Amazon

Another fabric of Amazon’s DNA, injected all the way from Jeff B, is the mantra of Day I. It’s a simple yet profound war-cry, no matter whether Amazon is 25 years or 5 years, whether your organization within Amazon is 2 years or 12 years, everyone acts as if we are in the first day of a brand new startup. You know that feeling you get, that excitement, motivation, and drive to go from zero to 100 in 7 seconds, that is the mentality and culture that is demanded of you.

Why is it important to always be at day-one mentality? It instills a sense of passion combined with energy, with a bearing on customer needs, not stuck in processes and other bureaucracies befitting mature organizations, often referred to as organizations in Day 2.

The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind.

Jeff Bezos

Reading between the lines, new startups with fresh mentalities are nimble enough to sense new trends and pivot as needed, and not be stuck in the past. Ensure we don’t stay stuck in the past, and putting customers first.

Working Backwards at Amazon

Amazon’s catalyst for innovation lies in its perspective to always think from the customer backwards. That’s how most successful projects get done, and it all starts with the commonly used Amazonian phrase, working backwards.

Before building a charter, a project plan and setting out timelines, the first artifact that a customer-centric project entails is the publication of a Press Release and FAQ, or PRFAQ for short. This mechanism allows key decision makers to start with what the customer experience articulated through the press would sound like, using the journalism practice of being concise, with the most important paragraphs outlining the entire program, and why customers would get excited about it. This is part of one of Amazon’s most important leadership principles, customer obsession.

Defining the customer experience through the PR, which is no more than six pages, you work backwards and build out the associated FAQ, where you dive deeper into common questions and answers. The FAQ section is where you would outline and iterate on the tough questions that you would anticipate people would ask, by preemptively answering them.

One notable omission in Amazon’s tooling for being customer obsessed, is the lack of PowerPoint presentations, as Colin Bryar and Bill Carr explain, in their book Working Backwards : Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon:

What if we thought of the product concept narrative as a press release? Usually, in a conventional organization, a press release is written at the end of the product development process. The engineers and product managers finish their work, then “throw it over the wall” to the marketing and sales people, who look at the product from the customer point of view, often for the first time. They’re the ones who write the press release, which describes the killer features and fantastic benefits and is designed to create buzz, capture attention, and, above all, get customers to leap out of their chairs to buy.

The authors explain that as most companies take the approach of coming up with a product or business idea that is great for their organizations, they then try to spin a positive light as to why there are unmet customer needs, rather than the other way around. “If the two organizations had started the process by writing a press release, they would have had to agree on the features, cost, customer experience, and price. Then they could have worked backwards to figure out what to build, thereby surfacing the challenges they would face in product development and manufacturing.”

Amazon LPs: Learn and Be Curious

Amazon’s Leadership Principles, or LPs help its employees hold themselves and each other accountable, through tangible and measurable qualities that guide and lead decision-making, with customers at the forefront. 

This article will focus on the principle of Learn and Be Curious

What is learn and be curious?

Amazon’s official quote for this principle is:

Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

Amazon Leadership Principles

Both personally, and collectively as a team, launching products, learning is a continuous development and does not end when the project ends. Personally, you look at this LP as a way of always learning from experiments, observing an outcome based on inputs, and adjusting your control levers. This holds true collectively as a team as well, where Amazon has what we call mechanisms.

While I will dedicate a full article on mechanisms in the future, suffice to say akin to how agile works, mechanisms provide a framework for building products consisting of working backwards from the customer’s point of view (the ideal outcome we would publish in a press release), in order to keep focusing on what matters to the customer. This is what we at Amazon call, working backwards.

If you cannot explain what you are building in a way that prospective customers would embrace, then you probably don’t have a good justification for this idea.

Switching back to mechanisms, Amazon bakes into its DNA control mechanisms like the very effective and prominent, Correction of Error (COE). Correction of Error is a process for improving quality by documenting and addressing issues. You will want to define a standardized way to document critical root causes, and ensure they are reviewed and addressed.

  • What happened?
  • What was the impact on customers and your business?
  • What was the root cause?
  • What data do you have to support this?
  • What were the critical implications, especially security?
  • What lessons did you learn?
  • What corrective actions are you taking to prevent this from happening again?

Preparing for an Interview at Amazon Series: Phone Screen

I’ve been at Amazon for just under a year, at the time of writing, and as I approach my first anniversary, I reflect on how I got on this crazy, exciting merry-go-ride, they call Prime Video. I wanted to put down my thoughts on screen as to how I prepared for the interviews, what the interview process was like, and provide some tips for you, if you do get the privilege of going through the interview loop. Mind you, I am giving you just my mere perspective, as a Senior Technical Program Manager, and other roles would certainly have their caveats and domains of expertise.

Phone Screen

Assuming you’ve gone through the online application and have been sought after by a recruiter, phone screening is your entry into the interview loop, your first (and possibly only) opportunity to impress.

At Amazon, our interviews are rooted in behavioral-based questions which ask about past situations or challenges you’ve faced and how you handled them, using Leadership Principles to guide the discussion. We avoid brain teasers (e.g., “How many windows are in Manhattan?”) as part of the interview process. We’ve researched this approach and have found that those types of questions are unreliable when it comes to predicting a candidate’s success at Amazon.

(Source: Amazon)

As a TPM, I had to produce a kind of essay, demonstrating my work style in my previous companies, and of course aligning those with Amazon’s Leadership Principles(LPs), something you should certainly read back to front. Check out some of my other blog posts that dive into some of the leadership principles.


Your phone interview will consist of behavioral-based questions where you will demonstrate how you resolved past situations, whilst highlighting leadership principle qualities, along the way.

Questions you may face include(source: Amazon):

  • Tell me about a time when you were faced with a problem that had a number of possible solutions. What was the problem and how did you determine the course of action? What was the outcome of that choice?
  • When did you take a risk, make a mistake, or fail? How did you respond, and how did you grow from that experience?
  • Describe a time you took the lead on a project. What did you do when you needed to motivate a group of individuals or promote collaboration on a particular project?
  • How have you leveraged data to develop a strategy?


The first thing you will need to do is build your own experience artifact, by creating an outline using the S.T.A.R method, and use the LPs as your guide for the questions. Then come up with about two or three examples tor each type of LP, variants.

It is critical your set of examples are diverse, don’t use the same example more than once.

Amazon is a data-driven company, so have your answers in S.T.A.R, making sure you are concise and answering the question at hand, along with metrics or data to back up your decision, it will surely help validate your train of thought.

A technique I like to use is to always repeat the question back, to help you ensure you are answering the question correctly, and give you time to provide a balanced structured response.

Finally, be relaxed, let your answers come naturally and not overly manufactured, and be prepared to dive deeper into your responses.

Ask my anything

If you have any questions, please comment below, and I will do my best to answer them!

We are Hiring

Come work with me at Prime Video | Amazon. We are looking for technical program and product managers. Learn about all our cool live and streaming innovations. Based in Seattle or LA. No remote work.

Amazon LPs: Ownership

Amazon’s Leadership Principles, or LPs help its employees hold themselves and each other accountable, through tangible and measurable qualities that guide and lead decision-making, with customers at the forefront.

This article will focus on the principle of ownership.

What is ownership?

Amazon’s official quote for this principle is:

Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”

A true leader demonstrates a vested interest in the success of her or his program or product, end-to-end. As large as Amazon is, it’s two-pizza teams behave very much in a startup mentality, and as such a founder of a startup projects ownership and “having skin in the game”.

When you have skin in the game, it isn’t for the duration of the project lifecycle, but for the duration of the product lifecycle. That means, you don’t aim for short-term results at the expense of the long term, you don’t shortcut and absorb bad decisions to release the program on time, but only end up paying for it later on.

This is a cultural mentality and not something everyone can possess, but it shows entrepreneurship and resourcefulness, cutting the bureaucratic tapes and instead of saying “it’s not in my job description”, you demonstrate “all hands on deck”.