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How Kazakhs conquered Amazon: three success stories

Amazon is considered one of the best employers in the world, so many dream of working in this company.

Edition Isstory told the stories of three people from Kazakhstan who managed to conquer Amazon.

Madi Sataev

Photo: Istory

Madi Sataev was born and raised in the small village of Abai in the suburb of Almaty. While studying at the Suleyman Demirel University, he got a job at Kazkom, in the online banking team for legal entities. At that time, the team consisted on 80% of CDS-Schnick, so our hero was very comfortable working. After working there for 6 for years, Madi then moved to another aggressively developing bank, Tsesna, but there he lasted only a short time, about two years, and from there he moved to Amazon.

Further - in his words.

To get to the interview, one might say, helped by chance. In 2014, when I was working at Tsesna Bank, a close friend of mine approached me with a request to help me arrange a job for a friend. Since the guy had experience in Amazon, I thought that he could be useful in our team, despite the fact that the experience is small. I had to persuade the authorities to take it. As a result, he was accepted, and we became friends with him. Later he returned to Amazon and, one might say, repaid with the same coin, handing my resume to a manager who recruited his team of engineers. So they invited me to the first round of the interview. After the first stage, I began to explore all possible training resources. As a result, they called for an interview in Poland, where they already received an offer from Amazon to work in Vancouver.

In general, the selection process in Amazon is not very different from other large companies, such as Google or Facebook. First, the candidate is being tested resume, if the experience is suitable, then they assign a telephone interview. This interview is conducted by one of the engineers. Usually the candidate is asked to solve one not very difficult task, and the code should be written on a predetermined Internet resource, which is visible to an engineer from Amazon in real time. If the result of the interview is satisfactory, then the candidate is invited further to a live interview, where they conduct 4 or 5 interviews in a row. The process is exhausting, plus it all happens in an unusual time zone.

In my case, a live interview took place in Warsaw. Each interview took place in approximately the same scenario. We started to ask questions by experience, checked whether I fit the culture in Amazon. Then they asked one technical question on the knowledge of algorithms, data structures and system design. During the interview, I had to write all the code on the board, it is very hard if you get used to the “buns” of the development environment.

The first months of work were the most difficult for me, it was necessary to study a lot of technologies that are specific to Amazon, plus the language barrier made itself felt. Since Amazon basically only had to read English, it was very hard to read and listen. Fortunately, I came to the team in which there was a good atmosphere, it softened the adaptation a little.

Photo: Istory

At the moment I am working with a team on a service that calculates the amount of delivery. It sounds simple, but on the scale of Amazon, this is not a trivial task, especially considering the geography of the site’s customers. As we work in the openspace, I try to come early, somewhere around 8: 30 in the morning to work in silence. Usually during the day we hold one or two meetings. The rest of the time I am developing. What I like most of all is that I can compose the schedule of the day myself, that is, I don’t have a specific time when I have to come and go. There are tasks and deadlines, everything else is at its discretion.

Probably the most important thing is that you work in a company of people with different backgrounds. You learn from them, adopt views on problems, try different approaches to solving problems. Plus, Amazon provides many opportunities to learn. All kinds of speeches, talk, courses and bootcamps do not stop. Amazon is very aggressively recruiting new employees right now, so newcomers show up here every week. For everyone, I was Asian with a Russian accent, and besides, I was eating horses. Many have discovered a large country in Central Asia. The atmosphere, in principle, is friendly, it was not difficult to fit in. I can't disclose my salary, but if you refer to glassdoor.com, then in Amazon engineers receive from 80 thousand Canadian dollars ($ 60,7 thousand) per year. There are 4 guys working in our office from Kazakhstan. Another is currently preparing a visa. Around the world, at least 20 Kazakhstanis work for Amazon.

Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in Canada. Rent is very expensive here. A one-bedroom apartment costs about C $ 2000 ($ 1516) per month. I hardly spend on transport, since I live 5 minutes from work. On average, food costs about $ 600-800 ($ 455 - 607) per month. In the next 4 years I plan to gain experience here. I would like to return to my native university later and, of course, make my contribution to its development.

Utemuratov Pernehan

Photo: Istory

Our next hero, Utemuratov Pernehan, most recently began working as a Software Developer in Amazon. He is 24 of the year. He was born and raised in the sunny city of Shymkent. Pernehan decided to enter the KBTU on the specialty “Information systems”. There he learned how to program. Our hero devoted a lot of time to preparing for the ACM ІСРС programming olympiads, which played an important role in his subsequent achievements. He also participated in the KBTU Open, Hackday, Microsoft Imagine Cup, IT-Planet, Mech-Math Open, etc. Over time, all of this experience and skills combined to help Pernehan undergo an internship in a startup company imo.im in Silicon Valley. Over the 6 months, our hero saw how an application is actually being developed with more than 200 million users. It was a great experience.

Further - Pernehan's direct speech.

I have already participated in programming competitions for more than 5 for years. It helped to learn how to quickly solve puzzles during an interview. In addition to this, I read the books `Cracking the Coding Interview`,` Clean Code`, `Test-Driven Development`, solved problems from sites like leetcode.com, actively participated in all online contexts and sorted out well-known scientific articles on Distributed Systems . With this preparation, I can say with confidence, I was easily interviewed at Amazon.

My teacher on web programming Kanat Kozhakhmet had a friend who was already working at Amazon at that time. We contacted Madi and he recommended me to his company at Amazon. So began the interview process. I went through two online interviews where I was asked various tasks. Problem solving should be optimal and effective, besides, it is required to write a program during an interview. All questions were technical and required deep knowledge of the algorithms and data structure. After successfully completing the online interview, I was invited to the headquarters of Amazon, in the city of Seattle. Estimated problem solving skills, approaches to tasks, way of thinking. I wrote the program code on the board. There were questions on the verification of industrial programming experience. Amazon also focuses on leadership testing. Ask situational questions. I found these questions to be non-standard, therefore, answering them, I gave examples from my own experience. It was very interesting.

The first weeks here were a time of dating. Meet with the situation, with colleagues, with different tools for development, with internal systems, etc. Need to master a bunch of new things. You realize that you are not in the comfort zone. Problems with the language. All new and unusual. At the moment I am working on the Delivery Experience team. Our team is responsible for everything related to delivery. Directly my task is to develop a system, frameworks to improve the testing process.

Since I only recently started working, the concept of “typical day” has not yet fully developed for me. For me, work starts at 9:30 am, but it depends on the team. Every day is something new. Now a lot of time is spent on reading materials, mastering developed systems. Sometimes during breaks we play table tennis with other Kazakhs and drink tea.

There are many advantages here. The biggest plus is experience. When you work with some of the best engineers on the planet, you automatically turn on fast development mode. It's like a proven fact that playing chess with strong opponents speeds up your learning curve. The same logic applies here. The employees at Amazon are guys from different countries. You will get to know their culture, traditions, worldview and much more. They share their experience with you, it's also a kind of networking. Other pluses are salary, bonuses, and a line in bold on your resume.

Photo: Istory

The atmosphere in the company is very friendly. All people are open to communication and are always ready to help. A lot of employees. It turns out that many do not even know that you are new. But no one can meet you the way your friends and colleagues from Kazakhstan. Still, we, the Kazakhs, know a lot about hospitality. In total, 20 guys work from Kazakhstan to Amazon. I know three in Vancouver. When they hear that I am from Kazakhstan, they often ask: where is this country located, what language do we speak and also about our weather. Often, you will be the first or second Kazakh, whom they met in their lives. And they react accordingly with surprise.

I have already completed bootcamp training and proceed to the project assigned to me. I will develop an automated testing system for deliveries. As I understand it, there is a lot of work here, and even with the current number of engineers in Amazon there are more and more projects and unsolved problems. Amazon is very interested in talented developers, and if you think you are the same, or you want to know about Amazon and the hiring process in detail, you can contact us. We are always happy to help.

A meal costs $ 20-25 per day, but you can save money by preparing yourself at home. There are no expenses on transport; I live very close to the office (5 minutes on foot). I spend about $ 1000 per month on housing. In Amazon, I want to gain experience, broaden my horizons, and then the time will come to return to Kazakhstan. Wherever I am, I represent Kazakhstan, and I do everything in my power to ensure that our flag is at its best.

German Ilyin

Photo: Istory

Our last hero German Ilyin is 27 years old. He comes from the city of Taldykorgan. While still at school, Herman was engaged in Olympic programming. Then he graduated from the Bachelor's degree at the University named after Suleiman Demirel in 2011. From the first year he began to earn money, and from the third year he worked full-time.

Further - a word to him.

After graduating from high school, I decided that it would be more profitable to work in small companies, where, as a specialist, I can be involved in all project processes and can get a more complete experience in creating something. In five years, I got a good technical and life experience and managed to work in 5 different companies. In the past two years, I was an hourly lecturer at the University named after Suleyman Demirel, at the same time engaged in contract work with clients from Kazakhstan and the United States. At the university, I headed a small xLab club, where we tried to develop students with a twinkle, involving them in various projects.

I first thought about working abroad when I had 22. Then I constantly postponed it, and did not approach this question purposefully. Dissuaded myself that I can grow and be useful here. Also, I did not want to go to work without marrying, not letting, as it were, roots here. I am married now, I have two children. As a programmer, I’m getting old, and if I want to gain experience in building systems on a global scale, I have to go now, otherwise it will be too late. I told my colleagues and spouse that this year I’ll get a job in one of the giant companies.

Asked Madi to advise me inside Amazon. In a company, this is an established process; an employee receives a bonus if he advises a candidate who will eventually be hired. It is beneficial for the candidate that his resume will be paid attention to, since they will put in a good word for him and advise the right manager to the right team. In general, all win. When this was done, recruiters contacted me and the interview process began. After a couple of months, I went to Seattle for an interview, and after 7 months I received a work visa to Canada. And in the end I'm here now.

When in Kazakhstan they are looking for a candidate for a job, as a rule, they are looking for a person who is familiar with the entire technological stack of the company and in a week or two will be able to work in full swing. But here it is a little different. Here they are looking for a specialist who has a good technical base, with the expectation that during the year an employee will learn everything else. This is due to the fact that a lot of technology was created inside these companies, and without working in the company, there is no opportunity to get this experience from the outside, somewhere else. In big4 (Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft) they are picking up smart guys. These companies are ready to invest in their development within themselves.

In order to test the technical basis for an interview, they are asked to solve and write a code for solving the problem, tasks, usually simple, for algorithms and data structures that are still undergraduate. On the Internet, they complain about the bias of such an approach, and that a programmer with experience may not be able to solve a simple task. For example, David Heinnemeyer Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails, wrote on his Twitter account that he could not write the sort of bubbles on the board.

Solving problems allows you to probe the candidate's base in half an hour, and if there is a base, then everything else is a matter of time. On the contrary, it is unprofitable for a company to hire a person who knows a bunch of fashionable technologies and has experience, but at the same time he has a weak base. Firing is harder than hiring. When hiring, the company takes on significant costs for bonuses and financing the candidate's relocation.

On the first day, we were given a laptop, two monitors and a plan of what a new employee needs to do in the first month. The plan consists of a task and a link to an internal site where it can be completed. They explained that Amazon is self-service, and we can solve all our tasks through internal sites. The HR staff is small, and they do not have the opportunity to lisp with everyone. The total number of employees at Amazon is in the hundreds of thousands. Here you have to read a lot and search for information within the company, and not in Google, as we usually do. It has its own internal search engine and its own ecosystem of internal sites, of which there are more than 100.

Photo: Istory

I work in the Amazon Web Services division of the Simple Queue Service team — a message delivery service, like mail, for information systems only. This is one of the most highly loaded systems in Amazon. Millions of requests per second pass through us, and we have thousands of servers around the world that we own. It is also interesting that in Amazon we fully take on everything related to the product, and this is the development, testing, uploading, monitoring, communication with customers and possession of all hardware and other resources. We have a duty, it happens that you have to get up at night and solve problems.

I wake up in different ways, sometimes at 8:00, sometimes we get tired and sleep until 9:00. I usually have breakfast at home, sometimes at work. At work, there is almost always cereal, milk, nuts and fruits. One of Amazon's tenets is moderation. They do not offer breakfast, lunch and dinner like Google does, but they do eat healthy food. I go 15 minutes to work, during which time I have time to think about what I will do during the day. The streets in Vancouver are pleasant to look at, but there are a lot of dog people here, and in the morning they manage to pour water over the sidewalks, so that some corners do not dry out until evening. Sometimes I am not lazy and lay out a route with minimally smelling paths. An ecological catastrophe will probably come in Almaty if there are so many dog ​​lovers. In general, I was surprised at first why there are so many of them - they walk, collect poop in a bag, there is nothing else to do, or what?

We have team planning meetings 3 times a week in the morning, and 3 times a week 2-3 hour discussions and planning in the afternoon. Team management is on track here, and I love it. I try to do the most important work in the morning. For lunch we often get together with the guys from Kazakhstan, play table tennis. I'm going home at 17:00, if I'm late, I must warn my spouse. She is now having a hard time with her two children at home, we are waiting in line for the kindergarten, there are problems with that. In the evening we try to spend time outside. Summer is cool here, greenery, beauty, ideal temperature. We live in a privileged area, we have 4 parks within a 10-minute walk, the promenade is under our noses, a free sauna, a swimming pool and a cinema. Vancouver is a good city for a family, there are many parks and places to go.

They greeted me here colder than I expected. This, of course, changes from team to team, we mostly communicate only at work. Here, in general, such a cultural vinaigrette, for someone to shake hands is too much, and no one is in a hurry to get to know you better. My classmate working in Texas explained this to me by the fact that for many close acquaintances is an additional responsibility, and they are not particularly torn. And without this I somehow feel uneasy. Fortunately, I have a couple of guys from Poland and Ukraine in my team, with whom you can say hello in our own way. It's good that there are Kazakhs in the office, with whom we constantly hang out together.

In Vancouver, we have a little bit. We all know each other and communicate. Every day we see each other at work, in the evenings we visit each other. In Kazakhstan, I got used to the fact that at least 1 once a week you meet guests and at least as many go to visit. We are also actively promoting our other guys, and Amazon is now actively recruiting specialists, so I hope that soon we will be even more.

Based on my experience, I advise: to read the book Cracking the Coding Interview. Be sure to prepare a decent resume (https://www.careercup.com/resume), update your LinkedIn account in English. Through LinkedIn, I was contacted by Google, MongoDB, Amazon, Booking.com, and other recruiters. You need to get used to solving technical problems (https://www.careercup.com/page). There is good material on how to prepare for systems design tasks. These kinds of tasks are usually set candidates with experience. (https://www.hiredintech.com/courses/system-design). In Amazon they ask behavioral questions, it will be useful to get into the principles of Amazon (https://www.amazon.jobs/principles). Practice in real interviews on sites (https://interviewing.io/ and https://pramp.com).

Read also on ForumDaily:

Personal experience: how to find first job in the USA

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Expectations and Reality: the story of a Russian woman who moved to Seattle

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