ASK Dev Tuesday: Amazon’s Hiring For Echo & Alexa

If you’re interested in building a career with Echo and Alexa and either already live in, or are willing to relocate to, the Pacific Northwest, you’re in luck: Amazon’s aggressively recruiting.


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Amazon held an event for developers in its brand-new Seattle building on 2/18/16. It was later reported as an “invite only” affair, but that’s misleading: any interested developers were allowed to sign up ahead of time, the event was “invite only” simply for practical reasons of not overbooking the venue.

It was also reported after the fact as a recruiting event, but that’s not how it was titled or described during the sign-up period for attendees. Rather, it was billed as an “Alexa Smarthome Event”. One developer who blogged about it afterward had not gone there expecting any kind of recruitment talk.

However, on the night, recently-installed Alexa Smart Home Director Charlie Kindel (formerly Director of Echo and Alexa) said:

We haven’t really been shy about why we wanted to run this event…We have lots of innovation to do on behalf of customers, and most of you know people who might be interested in working on something like Echo and Alexa — maybe it’s you.

Geekwire reported in more detail on the event the following day. The post is worth a look, especially since it includes images of some of the more informative slides about Alexa / Echo architecture. Per that post:

Amazon, which competes with companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft that are also developing virtual assistants, is certainly on a hiring spree for Echo and Alexa teams — a search on its jobs site for “Echo” shows 569 open positions, while a search for “Alexa” shows another 241 positions.

The “Alexa” job listings number at 263 as of this writing.

Note that while of course it’s safe to assume experience will be preferred, no previous Alexa / Echo development or engineering knowledge is required. Depending on the position, coding, voice synthesis engineering, testing, QA, machine learning and similar areas of experience and training are wanted.



Are You Cut Out To Be An Amazonian?
I have never worked for Amazon but I am acquainted with some current and past Amazonians, a couple in the Alexa/Echo area. My personal take is that these open positions probably aren’t for the faint of heart, but there’s nothing unexpected about that and it doesn’t have to do with Amazon specifically.

Groundbreaking development work is always going to be very demanding work, no matter the workplace, and Amazon’s made no bones about its ambitions for this platform. The upside of doing groundbreaking, demanding work is that it can be incredibly exciting and fulfilling work, too.

As for Amazon specifically…as I said, I can’t speak from experience on that. I know from my contacts that Amazon seeks to hire the best, it’s a fast-paced workplace, and the Alexa/Echo area is still somewhat in flux in terms of organization and formal processes. It’s a great opportunity to get in early if you’re flexible and willing to change and grow as the division does, but people who prefer a solidly established workplace with set, predictable processes and rules written in stone are likely to be frustrated.

Last year’s New York Times profile of Amazon as a brutal workplace is old news, and while I don’t doubt the honesty of the Amazon employees quoted in that piece there are plenty of unsolicited rebuttals to be found online too (like this one and this one).


Independents Are Welcome
You don’t have to become an Amazon employee to get involved with Echo and Alexa. As reported in Barron’s, Amazon Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels recently appeared to give a talk at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, which is focused on technology start-ups. According to the article:

Vogels was there to pitch to startup companies to get them to use Amazon’s AWS cloud computing service to build Internet of Things Applications.

Amazon’s putting its money where its mouth is where Alexa’s concerned, via Alexa Fund grants awarded to outside companies looking to expand Alexa Voice Service functionality or integrate their own devices with it.



Amazon’s current job openings under keyword “Echo”

Amazon’s current job openings under keyword “Alexa”


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