There was a time before Amazon and AWS were Enterprise Ready

It is hard for many to remember when Amazon and AWS weren't really enterprise-ready.  AWS wasn't really AWS in the beginning. It was really a scalable data center. The company restricted its employees to locations where the Amazon store collected sales tax which really ended in 2016.  Amazon pivoted to PaaS with the introduction of S3 and EC2 in 2012.  This is when AWS started moving from being a data center to the internet's operating system 

Amazon Called and I had no idea what they were thinking

An Amazon cloud engineer called me in the early 2010s wanting to know if I was interested in a Field Engineering position with AWS. I had worked for a few vendors by this point and was pretty interested. 

There were only two field/cloud/customer engineers covering the entire USA, and possibly the planet. I don't remember if they had anything outside the USA.  Both engineers worked in Seattle. 

We discussed how they worked at that time. I couldn't see how it would be successful with enterprise customers and said so.
  1. All personnel had to work out of Virginia or Washington
  2. Amazon employees weren't allowed to go to customer sites because they didn't want to do business in states other than VA and WA.
  3. Customers had to travel to Virginia or Washington for in-person meetings. Video conferencing existed but it wasn't the easy on-demand service we have today when anyone can spin up a meeting of 50 people without thinking about it.
  4. Most vendors had bonus programs for engineers tied to sales.  Amazon didn't have any of that.  
  5. Most vendors paid about 20% more for Field Architects / Sales Engineers because people that were technical and adaptable to various business situations weren't always easy to find. Amazon didn't intend to do that.
I described how I thought they were not going to succeed with only Skype. Then I described how other vendors interacted with customers and how they paid.  I was sorry that I just didn't think the model would work with enterprises that liked high-touch care and attention. 

A few years later Amazon started collecting sales tax everywhere. All the restrictions were removed. They visited people everywhere. They incentivized people with stock instead of quota bonuses. The products continued to improve and previously unimaginable rates. They hired people everywhere and ended up with 10s of thousands of field people.


It is one of those pivot points where you wonder if you should have taken a different tack.  Taking the job could have been a blast and a huge windfall. It could have been an exercise in frustration with an early exit.  I can't remember the name of the person I talked to. I hope their ride was great and that it turned out to be the experience that they thought it would be.


Revision History

Created 2022 04
Video Created 2023 03


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