Guest Speaker Series – Drew Tennenbaum from Amazon

Guest Speaker Series – Drew Tennenbaum from Amazon

Drew is an accomplished software development leader experienced in building technology platforms, small and large projects and engineering teams. Some of his projects include award-winning video games, business critical enterprise application software and mobile development applications.

He has worked for the past two years in Orange County, CA as manager of software development for retail giant Amazon. He was manager for Amazon’s app store client team, and most recently managed the monetization team in an effort to maximize profits.

Early Beginnings

Drew has been coding his own projects since he was just 12 years old. He graduated the University of Arizona with a CS degree and has been in the CS industry ever since, compiling with languages such as C, C++, C#, Java, .NET, Objective-C and many more.

Coding was my Legos and Erector set. I actually started out in Assembly and x86 programming, because that’s all there was back then. When I started coding, there were no frameworks or libraries you could just pull templates from; you had to just kind of build everything yourself. I always had a passion for building things, and coding lets you make something from nothing. To me, there’s nothing more satisfying than identifying a problem and then creating an elegant, yet simple, solution to that problem through coding.

In the developer world, passion and focus are what set you apart from other developers – even if they graduated from a more prestigious school or you think they maybe brighter. As a manager at Amazon, I’ve done over 200 interviews, and you know what I look for in a developer – not necessarily the skill-sets or the brand name degree, but actually the passion of the candidate for coding.

You could have a genius developer who is super smart, but if he’s just there to collect a paycheck, you won’t get innovative solutions to real-world problems. But then you have this other developer who is dedicated and loves to code – even in his spare time. He’s the one you want on your team – he’s the one who will stay up late hours to crack the problem and create solutions. Because that’s what he loves to do. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to love to code and to really grow your passion for it.


Interviews and Monitoring the Market

 Make sure you keep yourselves apprised of opportunities in the marketplace. It provides valuable insight into how the market is changing and growing. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, get one!

Then Amazon contacted me through LinkedIn, and asked for an interview. I didn’t think I would be interested in changing jobs, but then they came back and offered me a great opportunity. And it worked out so well because the job also brought me back to Southern California to spend more time with family.

As it pertains to the art of interviewing, be aware that talking through interviews is much, much better than standing at the whiteboard and not saying a word. Interviewers will oftentimes guide you if you tell them your thought process. What they really want to know is how you tackle problems, and how you visualize possible solutions. If you keep to yourself, it will only be awkward and you’ll lose out on that beneficial guidance.

LinkedIn and GitHub

As a manger, I check LinkedIn profiles, but more importantly, I check people’s GitHub accounts. If someone has passion for coding, they’ll be coding their own projects and collaborating on GitHub. You can really impress an employer with your work on GitHub, so make sure you start building your profile and posting your projects and code.

Data Structures and Algorithms

In general, if there’s any standalone advice I could give to you that could help you boost your career prospects, it’s to learn how coding works at a more basic level. More specifically, read up on data structures and algorithms and know how to explain them when asked.

The Value of Networking

Networking is an integral part of your career as a developer. The more people you know, the better. It could help you get the next job or the next promotion. Go to Meetups – especially web development related Meetups. The two most common questions I hear at these Meetups is “Is anyone hiring here?” and “Is anyone here looking for a job?”

We thank Drew for his valuable time and insights and want to wish him the best in his new endeavors!

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