Landing your first Software Engineering role (AMAZON-edition)

Tips, stories, and surprises on teamwork and starting out!

Sefunmi Osinaike
February 10, 2021

It’s the beginning of your coding career, and whether you’re still learning, trying to land that first role after coming out of a Bootcamp, or just looking to get more experience, we’d love to see you succeed. It must be exciting to go on to the next stage of your journey into tech. While you brace the challenges ahead, prepare for interviews, or whatever you are going through as a beginner dev, we’ve got you covered. 

I sat down with two Software Engineers from Amazon to get some actionable tips that I’m about to share with you. There is still plenty more to talk about, so this will be the first part of a series where we deliver advice to help you begin your Software Engineering career.

Meet Anam

What role do you play on your team?

“I am a Software Engineer at Amazon working on building security tooling for worldwide customer service.

What advice would you give aspiring devs trying to break into the role?

I would say, you should definitely have meaningful side projects. The relevance and usefulness of the projects are more important than the complexity. 

But more than that, I would say expand your network and remain enthusiastic about your role. People like working with enthusiastic people. And if they find that you're enthusiastic, they will probably be more inclined to want to work with you.” 

What was the most helpful thing you did when starting as a dev?

The most important thing I did was to shamelessly ask as many questions to make sure that I was gaining as much knowledge as I could. 

Something else that really helped me was asking for someone to mentor me. I find that people are more often than not very willing to help you. And it's just a matter of reaching out and asking for that help. 

People are very kind... mostly.”

What is something you learnt on the job that you didn't expect?

“So much of the communication that you do, as a developer is done through writing. Whether it's on slack or in emails, or in documentation, so it's really important to know how to write. I learned this way too late, pretty much after I started working. 

Now I just have to make a more conscious effort since it takes me a little longer to write things. So that was unexpected but super important. 

If you're a good communicator, you will be a great engineer, as well.”

If you are starting as a developer, you have to find ways to give yourself a competitive advantage. Went to a hackathon recently? What’s stopping you from continuing to really build out that idea? Especially if it was something worth solving.

Meme generators are cool and all, though you need to also consider something that WOW’s your recruiter. Definitely go quality over quantity with side projects - stand out from the rest!

Attend the Winter 2021 Demo Day!

Our Co.Laborators have been hard at work for the past few weeks! Come hear from Product Managers, Designers and Developers on how their first time working within a real product team went, and see their shipped products in action!

Meet Bhavan

What role do you play on your team?

“I'm a Front end engineer for the Alexa shopping list team. I lead the technical implementation of features for Alexa lists on the mobile app. 

I work alongside Product Managers, Software Engineers and Engineering managers to build features that increase customer activation and acquisition. 

Specifically, we use React Native to build out features.”

What advice would you give aspiring devs trying to break into the role?

I think curiosity and willingness to learn is very important. Our team comprises of generalist engineers, with teammates coming from diverse experiences. The ability to ramp up on a new programming language and framework is definitely a huge advantage.

I'd advise aspiring engineers to build leadership skills and wear multiple hats, whether it's leading projects, communicating with different levels of stakeholders, presenting in demos, or explaining coding logic. 

The job entails more than just writing software, and the soft skills are also crucial and to being a great engineer.

What was the most helpful thing you did when starting out as a dev?

I think it was recognizing great mentors within my team and learning closely from them.

It's important to go in with the beginner's mindset early in your software career to absorb and understand the differences between good and bad coding practices. It helped me build a strong foundation for my software career.

What is something you learnt on the job that you didn't expect?

I think for this job, it was learning how to communicate efficiently. 

Communication channels can get messy and ineffective, which can cause bottlenecks to completion features.

Working with multiple stakeholders, especially in today's remote world, meant my communication had to be efficient so that I can update progress and raise blockers when necessary.

A common point that Anam and Bhavan made was the importance of mentorship to fuel growth. It helps get feedback from others on how you can improve and reveal the strengths that you can play to in interviews. You also get to build those verbal and written communication skills while going back and forth with your mentors.

If you’ve been to networking events in the past, reach out to folks you met or ask the organizers to connect you with people who have expressed their desire to mentor. When asking someone to mentor you, be very clear in your ask and what you’d like out of mentorship. Being honest and open will allow mentors to understand how best to cater to you and if they see how determined you are, they might refer you to others in the case where they might not be available.

Finding mentors on your own can be difficult though. Especially ones who you can meet with on a regular basis, to really see you grow. 

That’s why with Co.Lab, you’ll get a dedicated mentor as part of your team to build you all through building and launching a real product. Need more support? You also get access to dedicated engineering mentors to ask questions to during office hours! 

Here’s a sneak peek at some of our Software Engineering mentors (you can see the rest on our LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram

Application for the Software Development track for the Winter 2021 cohort is ending soon. Apply today.

We hope this was helpful. Stay tuned for the next part of this series, where we bring you tips from Software Engineers in the industry. Let us know what you think and what other topics you’d like us to write about to help you start as a developer. You can also suggest folks who you think would be great to interview. We would love to tell their stories.

Stay up to date with Co.Lab

We'll be sure to keep you in the loop

Get more information

Have questions? Our team will get back to you as soon as possible.