Is Amazon’s work culture worse than Apple’s or Facebook’s?

Image: Reuters/Gus Ruelas
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This question originally appeared on Quora: Is Amazon’s culture worse than other big companies — Google, Facebook, Apple, Oracle, etc.? Answer by Jeff Meyerson, host of Software Engineering Daily.

I worked at Amazon and left after eight months. It’s a distinctive experience that isn’t better or worse than other tech companies. Say what you will about the culture, Bezos had very specific ideas about how he wanted to run a company and he has executed on those ideas in an extremely deliberate fashion.

Google, Facebook, and Apple have high-margin monopolies. Amazon’s cash cows are low-margin, competition-sensitive commodities: online shopping and cloud services. It wouldn’t make sense to have a luxurious culture. Moreover, Amazon was structured like a single-company Berkshire-Hathaway early on. Cash cows are to be used as hedging instruments, not gourmet food troughs.

Google, Facebook, and Apple were more like products that got companies built around them. This strategy has led to companies faltering in the long-term, like Dropbox or Twitter.

Amazon is super unique, and the only way to glimpse how it works is to go work there. This is a nice upside, and makes the company impossible to compare in a vacuum to Facebook, Google, or Apple.

For most employees (particularly young recent grads) all of these giant corporations are terrible deals. It doesn’t matter if you are at Facebook, Amazon, or Oracle.

There is so little leverage, so much cultural Kool-Aid, and so many luxuries that can become addicting. Each company only encourages independent thought if it looks picturesque through that company’s established lens.

If you are a technologist at one of these giant companies, and you do not have an exit strategy, you are selling your career short. At Amazon, at least it is easier to come to that realization because the day-to-day existence is less blindingly indulgent than Google or Facebook.

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