Tag Archives: Amazon

I Bet the Germans Have a Word for HappySad

6 Aug

I get soo many hits on my blog from people looking for information about Amazon interviews and/or relocation. (I also get recognised on the street more often than you would think!) So it’s sad to be posting this, but James will be leaving Amazon at the end of this month. =(

Even more sadly we will be leaving Seattle. I can’t tell you how much I love it – the weather is perfect, it’s close to beautiful hikes and amazing snowboarding, and we’ve made such wonderful friends. Honestly I feel like I could have lived the rest of my life here. I don’t even get hayfever which is freaking astounding.

So why would we leave? Because James has accepted a job offer in California! He’ll be working for Google in an area he’s passionate about, so I’m absolutely thrilled for him.

It wasn’t something he’d planned in advance (as our SEA-LAX-MEL flights, my half-used CSA subscription and completely un-used 2014-15 season’s pass will attest to) but once the ball started rolling everything moved pretty fast. We just came back from a location scouting trip in the Bay Area and later this week we’re heading to Mexico to get our visas sorted. Then at the end of the month we’re moving into corporate housing in San Francisco!

These next few weeks will be pretty hectic. I’m super sad at leaving all our friends and this beautiful city but happy that James will be working at his dream job. So yeah, HappySad.

One Weird Amazon Interview Tip

17 Feb

In the past few months James has been doing a lot of interview loops to try and work up to international trips. HR mistakenly asked him to go on a recruiting trip to Tel Aviv but it turned out he didn’t have enough in-person interviews to qualify, which was disappointing because it would have been awesome. Though James did find out that he is considered a very accurate interviewer, according to whatever metric HR uses to evaluate them.

But anyway here are some random bits of information that I haven’t seen anywhere else. They’re not earth-shattering, but with the number of hits this blog gets for Amazon interviews maybe they will help someone. First, the most useful one:

Buy This Book

Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions and Solutions.

There’s a reason it’s #1 in Software Development and has a whole bunch of glowing reviews on Amazon. James knows a lot of interviewers who actually use questions directly from it, and even if yours don’t he said it’s still extremely solid for interview preparation. Don’t handicap yourself by not going through this book – it’s so useful it’s almost cheating.

Bring a Notepad In Case You Get a Tiny Whiteboard

Oddly specific, I know. Most rooms have large, wall-length boards but occasionally only small whiteboards are available, and James said this has flustered a few candidates. If they need to keep erasing as you go to make more room they lose the time it takes to erase everything and can’t refer back to what they’ve already written.

So for the tiny minority of people who get a small whiteboard, a notebook comes in really handy. Just write the code in there then tear it out and give it to the interviewer afterwards. No frantic erasing, no muss, no fuss.

Leadership Principles

Read them. It’s not a bullshit thing, like “oh we want a motivated, self-starting people person” – the interviewers actually do look for these qualities. And at performance review time they are evaluated on how well they meet these qualities.

Disaster at the Amazon Post Holiday Party!

19 Jan

Amazon doesn’t have a Christmas party because December is a really busy time, but in January they have a post holiday party. This year was our first one – we didn’t go last year because we were sick and James was so bummed because Imagine Dragons were playing. They also had casino games for charity and international buffets, so it sounded pretty cool.

This year’s party was held at the event center at CenturyLink Field. Each hall had different kinds of entertainment – pinball machines, foosball/air hockey/shuffleboard tables, dueling pianos, palm readers, karaoke, a band (Vampire Weekend), magicians, and a laser game (more on that later).

Here people were shooting marshmallows into buckets for charity – look at PeculiarPus finding love with a snowman!

It was surprisingly difficult. James was taking photos and captured my childlike glee.

There were also multiple stations where you could get food (unlimited) and drinks (2 per person). The food was varied and nothing really stood out as being particularly good or bad.

All of Seattle is football crazy at the moment, so of course they had 12th man cookies.

We also got to see an Amazon drone prototype.

We wandered around with friends for awhile and then we saw it: the laser game.

It was a corridor that you had to run through as fast as possible while avoiding the static green lasers. You pressed a big button at the start, then another one at the end when you finished to time how fast you went – every time you touched a laser it added 5 seconds to your time. You can’t see all the lasers in my photo but it was very intimidating standing at the start of the room (James said it was like being in a spy movie).

The fastest time was 1.62 seconds but most people were getting 15+ seconds with the occasional person getting 5 seconds. Mike went through and did this amazing flip in mid air that had everyone cheering! His time was something like 2.6 seconds.

The line wasn’t very long so you could go through multiple times and there was a big crowd of people watching. Here is James on his first run-through:

I failed pretty hard on my first go but on my second try managed to get 1.92 seconds!

I got too competitive and decided to go again. The second run looked a lot like the first (marginally slower – 2.3 seconds I think) but I cracked my chin on the concrete floor. =(

You can’t even tell the moment of impact in the video and I didn’t even notice except afterwards when randoms were coming up to congratulate me (James at the hospital later:  it was especially impressive because you went after a couple of really shit people) I realised that something warm and wet was dripping. I left this giant pool of blood on the ground so James, Mike and one of the staff took me to the first aid station.

James and Mike kept looking horrified, and eventually James took a photo to show me what they were seeing.

I have a second mouth!

James said it was even worse when the medics moved my chin cos it flapped open. There was a dull ache but it didn’t hurt that much. The first aid guys patched me up as best they could, took an accident report and called me a cab to go to the hospital (which took awhile because all the taxis kept rejecting them because they assumed we were drunk).

I figured we’d be waiting at the hospital all night (which was our experience at the Box Hill hospital when James had to get his appendix out) but it was actually really fast – we were in and out in under an hour.

They asked what happened, cleaned the wound, gave me a tetanus shot and stitched me up. Here I am hooked up to one of those machines you always see on TV.

Everyone at the hospital (Swedish in First Hill) was very nice. The doctor and nurses were friendly and joking around with me. One of the nurses let me check how the lines changed when I held my breath. =) They also gave me an ice pack for my knee. I was starting to ache and feeling pretty stupid at this point – I mean, I threw myself onto concrete for no real reason. That is not a smart thing to do.

But anyway, I got seven stitches and here is the final result (the doctor was very pleased with his work):

I have to get them taken out in 5 days. A friend said the hospital bill should be pretty cheap since we’ve already met our insurance deductible this year.

So yeah, that was the Amazon post holiday party. It was a bummer cos I couldn’t go snowboarding today (the Seahawks are playing for a place in the Superbowl so it would have been nice and empty at the snow).

Lying in bed last night I was feeling sore – my poor knee was super bruised – but popped a couple of ibuprofen and this morning I woke up feeling great. My chin doesn’t even hurt – I thought that when the adrenaline and painkillers wore off the stitches would be painful, but nope. So yeah, I have learned not to be competitive over stupid things. Actually I don’t even know if I’ve learned that; unless we get a massive hospital bill or the organisers got in trouble for my stupidity I’d say that the night was pretty fun. The cheering … the cheering!

(Also James took me to get consolation salmonella buns today)

Free Cookies are the Best Cookies

11 Dec

Our apartment always has cookies (also dog biscuits and bottles of water) in the lobby. AJ said his building has cookies too, but only on Fridays, and because there are more residents the likelihood of getting a cookie goes down.

But anyway, James (who, being a good husband, is well aware of my love of free things) dropped these off today at lunch:

Amazon conference cookies!!

They were delicious. He saw me peering at the rest of the cookies and said sternly “these are for the guys at work.”


Happy Halloween: Pumpkin Picking and an Amazon Halloween Party!

31 Oct

A couple of weeks before Halloween we went to a pumpkin farm with some friends. Damo was visiting so we figured it would be a uniquely American experience for him.

We did the corn maze, which was quite muddy. There was a wooden bridge in the middle so you could try and get your bearings – here is a photo James took standing on the bridge looking out over rows and rows of corn.

There were different stations scattered around the corn maze and you had to solve a kiddy mystery based on the pictures. We all split up – which was a bad idea because at some point James went corn crazy.

We got this sweet sticker as a reward.

Everyone solved the mystery except James who, like I said, went corn crazy.

Afterwards we went to choose our pumpkins. I found this awesome one for James, which he rejected in favour of another pumpkin (FYI that pumpkin turned out to be rotten on the inside. What a noob).

I took the longest to choose mine because I wanted the “pumpkiniest pumpkin.” The others mocked me but admitted that mine was indeed the pumpkiniest. Here is everyone with their bounty. Look how proud James is of his stupid rotten pumpkin.

Before putting them in the car we had to give them a good scrub.

A plastic tarp for easy clean-up! It’s like the pumpkin version of Dexter’s murder room. Also note the drawing of Dewey on the whiteboard.

Speaking of Dewey, check out his Halloween costume this year!

He even had a little lollipop holster sewn on the back. =D

But anyway, it was our first time carving pumpkins and I think we did OK. We had to cut off the top, gut it, scrape the inside, then trace the stencil. As an Australian I always thought they just randomly carved – but stencils make more sense.

Damo used a Snoopy stencil on his:

James wanted to do Iron Man but his pumpkin wasn’t the right size so he used a cat/bat stencil instead:

I free handed it and did a pumpkin eating a smaller pumpkin:

Unfortunately our pumpkins lasted about a week before they got soft. James’ was gone even earlier – when I picked it up to throw out it basically disintegrated in my hands. =/

But anyway, today on actual Halloween the digital platform services people threw a party. There was food, beer, snacks, various Halloween decorations, including dry ice in the punch bowl. Spooky! This was definitely the scariest costume of the night:

When he walked his arms and legs were all jerky and legitimately terrifying – I’m sad I didn’t get a video of it. I was talking to his wife and apparently he wore it to their son’s Halloween party at school, and it was so creepy it made some of the parents angry!

Gilbert’s costume was cuter … that adorable triangle mouth!

You look at that box robot and just know he’s friendly. He’d fashioned it from a bunch of Amazon boxes. =D

Then when we got home I made James put the little Halloween hat on Mouse. Mouse did not like it.

He did not like it one bit. =(

Bonus Picture!

20 Aug

I love this photo and didn’t want it to get lost in the avalanche of photos in my previous post.

He looks like a dog swinging a hula hoop. =)

2013 Annual Amazon Picnic

19 Aug

A couple of weekends ago James and I went to the annual Amazon picnic. It was held at Century Link Field, which is a big stadium like the MCG. Last year (which we didn’t go to for some reason I can’t remember now) it was held at some farm in woop woop and there were huge traffic jams, but obviously a stadium is used to handling much larger crowds so this year it went really smoothly.

As we walked through the gate (which if you squint you can see reads “Welcome Amazonians”) we were given a handout that included a token we could exchange for a commemorative t-shirt and also two (beer/wine) drink tokens. It wasn’t difficult getting more drinks though – we had 3-4 people come and offer us their extra tokens throughout the day. =)

I forgot to get a pic of the t-shirt on the day so here is a really shitty photo I took today. It’s all crumpled from being in my dresser for 2 weeks, sorry!

That is the back of the shirt. The front has a picture of a broom and “Normal”, which is the start of the sentence. The little dude on it is the Amazon mascot – more on him later.

They had all these guys walking around with popcorn and bags of fairy floss, and lots of food stands around the stadium were open so you could get nachos, hot dogs, mac & cheese, soft drinks, potato chips, burgers and even parmesan & truffle fries.

And everything was free!

Yeah I know, how super cheap am I? (Answer: not as cheap as the family I saw at the end of the day that had a giant bag FULL of popcorn and fairy floss).

I limited myself to a single bag (and most of James’, but he’s never been that big on fairy floss so I was surprised he even took some).

There were a whole bunch of rides and games but they were mainly aimed at kids – stuff like bouncy houses, football/basketball tosses, etc. You could also get henna tattoos done or have your face painted.

This ride was just getting set up:

Someone told me that last year the organisers got some feedback that there wasn’t enough for little girls so this year they had a Barbie house where they were giving away these really elaborate showbags which included a free Barbie! Look how long the line was!

The red thing was some sort of rope obstacle course and there were two climbing towers set up. James had heard there would be a climbing wall, so he’d brought his climbing shoes in anticipation but the wall was really easy. Plus it wasn’t worth lining up for 10 minutes in order to do a 30 second climb.

We grabbed some food and took a seat in the stadium. Behold my hot dog! As Greg said, free hot dog is always delicious hot dog.

Check out how close we were to the field!

And here is one of the broomball games (I think the semi-final). Broomball is some Amazon game where they use taped-up brooms to hit a fitball around.

Mike keeps trying to get James to play but James is afraid he’d hurt someone because he’s an unfortunate combination of strong and uncoordinated.

We got to wander on the field which was nice. It’s all astroturf, not real grass like the MCG.

After the first couple of broomball games we wandered back inside to get more food and play a couple of games. James tried his hand at the football toss and, as you can see, missed.

I got mine in first try. /smug

It was an ugly throw though – my ball was spiraling horizontally, which I’m pretty sure is not what it’s supposed to do, but the important thing is that it was the first time I’d thrown a football and it went straight in. =D

After that brush with athleticism we wandered up to the top level, where a friend told us there was more food and fewer people. Not that there were long lines downstairs – you didn’t have to deal with money so you went straight up, ordered whatever you wanted, then took it to eat in private like a squirrel. The only thing downstairs that had a substantial line (maybe a 5-10 minute wait?) was Ivar’s but as you can see, upstairs there was no wait:

There was also different activities, including caricatures! They had 6 artists spread out but I joined the line for the guy whose style I liked the best. We had to wait 15 minutes or so (which was comparatively short – the line was much longer later in the day) but unlike the rock-climbing line I thought it was worth it to get a souvenir of the day.

You can’t really tell from the photo but the artist included a couple of small details, like James’ eyebrow ring and the dimple in my left cheek. =)

Oh yeah, and while we were waiting in line we chatted with the lady behind us who was also Australian. We mainly talked about how much we’re enjoying the US, and it turned out that she recognised me from the blog! James was less surprised than I was – he said whenever they get new Aussie recruits he directs them to my blog but they’ve always already read it. Ha!

After our modelling session it was time for another lot of free food! Here is my Beecher’s mac & cheese (it was soooo good):

There were lots of different activities upstairs. You could race little toy cars around a racetrack, play giant chess, and you also had your pick of pinball and arcade games. Here is me absconding with some knights while the guy behind me plays giant chess:

We met up with a bunch of friends and sat in the top seats to watch the broomball final (and eat some more).

image stolen from John

It’s hard to beat our seats from earlier, but pretty much wherever we sat had a great view of what was going on.

After the final they set up photo sessions with the Seahawks cheerleaders and they also let people try to kick field goals from the 5 yard line.

I can’t remember what they had on the other half of the field – I think activities like football throws, potato sack races and concerts for the kids. We tried to get in on the potato sack action later but they were clearly not sized for adults:

And the Seahawks mascot!

Afterwards we spent some time taking goofy photos on the field. I was very excited since I’ll probably never be that close again (unless Amazon have another picnic there!)

Greg and Harin went on a tour of the stadium (they got to see the commentator boxes and the locker rooms!) which sounded really cool. Probably a better use of time than taking goofy photos.

We did end up getting some more swag though. Amazon had extra giveaways for kids – last picnic they were kites and disappeared quite quickly. This year there were two discs that you strapped onto your hand and when you threw that ball thingy it stuck to the discs. So basically easy-mode throwing and catching for people who are too uncoordinated to throw a football through a hole their first try.

Technically they weren’t supposed to give them to adults but it was towards the end of the day so when I asked the guy just gave me one. John was next to me, but his person initially refused. At least I assume they refused because when John saw me get one he looked outraged and gestured wildly in my direction.

I think after that we probably got more food and drinks and wandered out to the starting area. By this time they’d run out of the bagged fairy floss but still had it available on sticks. Chi Kai’s brother had gotten word of a design-your-own-frisbee stall so we headed back to the starting section.

The whole area had a bunch of sciency exhibits for kids, as well as souvenir stuff like the frisbees, sand art and slimes.

That photo was taken at the start of the day when there were no lines for the frisbees. A couple of hours later, this was the first half of the line:

Here is James making his frisbee – it was spinning rapidly inside the cage and he had to squirt different colours of paint on:

And our finished works of art!

image stolen from Harin

While we sat down and waited for our frisbees to dry James mimicked the flapping tube man. Nailed it!

Oh yeah, I mentioned earlier, at the picnic I learned that Amazon has a mascot! Nobody knows about him because he only appears internally but apparently he’s everywhere. James said his name is Peculiarpus. Steve said that every picnic tshirt he’s gotten has had Peculiarpus on it, and there were large drawings of him around the stadium enjoying various picnic activities:

Pretty cute!

So that was our day of fun at the annual Amazon Picnic. It was awesome hanging out with friends, getting to see the stadium up close and totally gorging myself. =D The next company-wide event is the post-Christmas party in January (which we also missed last year due to being sick) and I’m super looking forward to that!