Tips for applying for a job at AWS

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I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person.” – Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. Amazon is totally obsessed with hiring the best people, and has notorious hiring standards. Getting hired at Amazon Web Services (AWS) – the leading cloud platform – was a completely different experience then I have seen at any other company. As a newly joined employee I can share a bit on joining this company, it’s not just an interview, it’s a process of calls, work and an appointment, of course every on-boarding is different but perhaps this can give you an idea of what it’s like to join.

Step 1, Online application: I browsed http://www.amazon.jobs and applied for a job in Amsterdam, and a few weeks later on a hot summer day, I checked my phone and there it was: an e-mail to plan a phone call with an Amazon recruiter!

Step 2, Phone interview: The first phone interview with the Amazon recruiter was planned right in the middle of my holiday in The Netherlands, so I took the call at my parents house with the kids outside playing on the lawn. I was a bit stressed initially but it turned out to be a nice call about why I applied, what my goals were and my salary expectations, the call continued with an explanation of the potential steps ahead in the hiring process, and some tips to get hired, for example I got the tip to review the leadership principles https://www.amazon.jobs/en/principles before my next call.

When I hung up the phone, I felt a bit surprised but also happy as this recruiter was trying to get me all the information to be successful with this on-boarding. I don’t know, I somehow expected a colder approach and no help at all.  She send me this link which covers everything to learn about the Interview process: https://www.amazon.jobs/en/landing_pages/interviewing-at-amazon

The second call occurred a few weeks after that, with someone in my future role. This talk was more technical and in-depth. I could have passed this without AWS knowledge as it was a generic discussion.

Step 3, Assessments: I made proceeded to the next round which is an assessment and an in-person interview day (sometimes referred to ‘the loop’) The assessment is sent well in advance and I did it over a weekend.

Step 4, In-person interview: In the late summer, I was in between jobs and my family was away giving me the perfect opportunity to prepare for the In-person interview, I made a list of potential questions and rehearse my potential answers, one tip I got during the initial call with the Amazon recruiter, was to prepare my answers in STAR format. The STAR method is a way of answering behavioral-based interview questions by situation, task, action, and result. Rehearsing my answers gave me the opportunity to re-examine the stories I told about myself by listing experience, being accurate, and not hiding failures. The following ‘cheat sheet’ was something I carried to the interview.

Exactly one week before the In-person interview, I received an e-mail with a schedule for the day, I would be doing back-to-back interviews with various people from 10AM till 4PM. I ironed my shirts, and on a Wednesday morning, took the train to the AWS office to do the In Person Interviews. Sweaty hands but otherwise fine, the high paced interviews finish quick, at one point I took a breath and wondered if I was following the examples that I practiced. There was also a white board sessions included, the day was intense, but also over in a flash, waiting time.

Step 5, The feedback: After exactly one workweek, got a phone call from the Amazon recruiter that told me: You got the job!

There were various phone calls and emails discussing the jobs, benefits and remuneration. My starting date would be one month after my accepting the offer.

Some tips:

Check your network: If you know anybody at Amazon/AWS, reach out to them and ask them about the role. This can give you some insights before the formal chat.

Certify yourself: Whilst I didn’t hear back from any applications at first, I found that it helps to get certified. I had applied a couple of times in the past but only after achieving certifications (Cloud foundation and more importantly, Solution Architecture Associate) I was approached by an AWS employee that asked me if I had ambitions to work for AWS/Amazon. I was thrilled, this was the opportunity I was looking for! Checkout this link for more information: https://aws.amazon.com/training/

Prepare yourself: There is no harm in bringing a piece of paper with you with a ‘cheat sheet’. I made a list of leadership principles and matched my own experience to them. This gave me the opportunity to understand if I align with the leadership principles, but a way to avoid keep giving the same use cases during Interview day.

Virtual vs. in person: Sometimes it won’t be possible but I found easier to meet people in person during the Interview day than via video chat. Personally, I preferred do this one in person, even if it meant fly halfway around the world.

Amazon Jobs If you got curious about working at Amazon/AWS, please don’t hesitate to checkout their website. Here are positions in the Netherlands, but there are jobs all over the world: see jobs in the Netherlands here.

Gokohai Shabu Shabu

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imageI’d like to tell you about a Japanese hotpot restaurant called Gokohai, it has been a red wire through our life here. First time we visited, about one year ago I was invited by a colleague. We came there for the reason to eat as much as we could. (how romantic), he, in his terms went there before to over-eat with his bikepolo friends.

No one leaves unsatisfied with Y5 Asahi draft beers and Y88 gets you a ticket to unlimited beef piled in mountainous form. Besides the food, you eat in private in your personal room. The taste and the service was so good that we kept on coming back. When my family or friends come by, we can’t resist not taking them to this place. And each of them enjoyed it. Now we got to the point that the waitress recognizes us (actually, mostly because of our Japanese friend) and gives us splendid treatment. Last time it was my birthday and we received free wine, fish and gifts so i almost feel obliged to keep on coming and write this post of praise. Hah.

Chongming island offers park/camping outside Shanghai

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Today we visited the Dong Ping national park just outside of Shanghai. I’m sure this island will be the next hot spot for Shanghai (and China) travelers and company outings; Why? It’s green, featured great (clean) facilities and we received friendly service for a good price. A quiet forest with lakes, but also activities like rock climbing, gocarts racing, BBQ, horse riding etc. and camping area’s. We spent our day walking around the park. It’s not all peaches and cream, don’t expect offroad tracks (I did), it’s all asphalt route, besides this, the project manager made sure that the visitors know their Chinese sing alongs, but more about that, first the location:

How we got there: We took the traditional ferry from Wusong Port in the early morning (accesable by Metro). you don’t have to buy a ticket in advance. There are two ferry’s going there (well today), one at 7 and one at 8:10. We took the one at 7 and were at the Chong Ming park one hour later. Address of the port: No.100, Songpu Road, Baoshan District (021-56671202), or see the map below. Bus However, these days the island is also available through a bridge just outside Shanghai. But we wanted to take the ferry as we were traveling light. Total duration about one hour. We took the bus back at the end of the day and spent about 1.5 hours, but ended up in the center at the Shanghai Circus. We were a bit shocked of the 70 RMB entrance price. Wasn’t sure to expect a funpark or a national park. Upon entrance of the park, we saw loads of Chinese renting bikes, which all rode off to the actual funpark (o really?!) which was just a few km away. We decided to walk instead and try to avoid all the hectic (which was the point of going there in the first place). We stumbled upon a teahouse where we basically spent the morning trying tea and enjoying the sun, which just started to break through. After that, we got a bit hungry so we wondered off again. Oh, I mentioned the music right? The project manager indeed made sure that people can sing along with today’s popsongs. Every few meters there is a speaker featuring the tunes. At one point there were game sounds and explosions. After about 2km, I smelled the hint of meat being roasted. Unaware of this, I told Suna it would be awesome to do a barbecue that day, but I honestly I didn’t expect the serviced barbecue in the park. It was well done, area’s for camping (20rmb for 1 tent) and chalet style houses where we could rent a barbecue and buy some meat. We kicked back with a beer and watched Chinese schoolkids play games in the grass.
At the teahouse drinking tea and relaxing in the sun. Serviced barbecue. Rent a BBQ for 30 rmb and order the meat on location.

How to go to Hong Kong via Shenzhen

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I spent some time relaxing and buying clothes in Hong Kong yesterday. Previously, when I visit HK whilst being in mainland, I would fly to HK airport but recently I found out it is much cheaper through Shenzhen. I saved half of my travel expenses. If you are not interested in saving money at the cost of time (or like to see beautiful HK airport), this guide is not useful for you. I bought my plane ticket one day before my trip. The 900 RMB flight to Shenzhen was much cheaper then the 2200 RMB flight to HK. I was flying from Shanghai, but also from Beijing, Chengdu etc. this should be cheaper. You land in Shenzhen, take the bus, change bus at the border and arrive in the heart of HK city. Shenzhen airport – when I landed in Shenzhen, I found the bus companies selling tickets at the exit of the arrival hall. Bus rates varies from 100 to 150 RMB. There is also option to take the turbojet boat. I would advice to take the elements bus company. They have options to drive directly to Kowloon, central (100 RMB) or Kings Cross. Total driving time: 1.5 hours. Crossing the border – Passing the customs is a breeze, you exit the bus, just follow the customs tunnel and enter the bus on the opposite end. Both sides I was surprised it was not so busy. It took me about 15 minutes to pass. Note that mainland residents still need a HK/Macau entry visa to cross the border.
Arrival in HK and the way back to Shenzhen – I decide to get of at Central and take the metro from there. When I wanted to go back, I took the metro to metro stop ‘Kowloon’. Get of at exit c2 and find the elements bus terminal.

Buying a christmas tree in Shanghai (howto)

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treeTo get into the holiday spirit, we’ve ordered a tree from rosagallica.com. A tip from Marc.

Whilst the trees are mentioned to cost about 200 RMB, a lady called Camille followed up on my order and notified me that they exclude the costs made for delivery. I’ve agreed on a price of 400 RMB, which is about 40 euro’s, which is still about half the costs for a similar (delivered) tree in Amsterdam. Are we happy? Yes. The tree was much bigger then we expected (I’ve intentionally left included the door on the picture to give you an impression), but for that price, I was hoping for a tree like this. The tree came in a pot, but turned out not to have a root so we think it will start losing nails very quickly. All and all, the price was reasonable, it’s great to have a tree in the house, I especially like the forest-smell. At least we have a place to stash all our christmas gifts this year. Oh, decorations were not included :-) Happy christmas everybody!

Available sizes Price ex transport
80 – 150 cm 180 RMB *told to be sold out
150 – 200 cm 350 RMB *My tree is about 2 meters
200 – 250 cm 450 RMB
250 – 300 cm 600 RMB
300 – 350 cm 800 RMB

Five fun things to do in Seoul

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I was talking to my friends about my life in Seoul. Our New Delhi cab driver suddenly became excited; he was flying to there the day after! In return, I spend the rest of the drive about the things to do in this marvelous city. He was so grateful for the info that he didn’t want any money for our 15 dollar taxi ride. Since another friend is going to Seoul this week, I’ve decided to list and share a few recommendations:

  1. Start by having a beer in the 63 floor building:
    63 floor building is quite an old skyscraper, displayed on the box of Simcity 2000. You can get quite a spectacular view on the city (from south side to center). Many may argue that Namsan is a better view, but you have to pay to get in, instead for a cold beer. The best part is that a 1.5 dollar cruise leaves at the foot of the building.

Screen shot 2009-11-22 at 1.51.42 PM

2. Visit a palace, like Gyeongbok for example, for culture, Amazing to see the historic culture while you are in the middle of the city! Especially beautiful in the fall.

3. Jimjilbang in Dongdaemun: Visit Cerestar, close to Dongdaemun or better, the 6 story high dragon hill spa, for about 5 dollar you can experience traditional korean spa. You can sleep here for the night (public place, on the floor floor) Imagine spending a day here in your pajamas doing fun stuff like watching movies, swimming, eating and sweating in the sauna.

4. Shopping in Myongdong: If you like shopping, Myongdong is the place. The KRW is climbing again but Korea is great shopping for low prices. If you don’t like it (like me), stay away as far as possible, very very busy.

bbq

5. Shopping you can do everywhere, Korea is about the food. Go to different places throughout the city, including
eating BBQ fish + wasabi, called: sengsan kui (sengsan meaning fish, kui mening BBQ) Eat some Korean BBQ (ofcourse) I prefer Samgyeopsal, either beef of pork. And another recommendation is to go to “all you can eat” fish houses: Ask the tourist office about these unlimited fish houses, there are a number and you can pick the fishes from the aquarium and they get prepared. Also, you can try live (living) squid here!

 

It’s good to take pictures!

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So, it takes about 20 years for me to forget a sight, as it seems. Displayed below is a old and a new holiday picture, taken in the south of France. The first picture is around 1990, second one almost 20 years later. The chap in blue is me, the handsome girl in the right is my sister Mirrin.

What is particularly interesting is that none of my family members were sure that we have seen the castle before. We all knew about a previous holiday seeing a similar castle, but it didn’t quite look like this. Coming back home, I was sure that I have seen this castle before, but couldn’t prove it. For some reason, I found it necessary to go through my pictures -what are weekend for anyway- and look for it. It turned out that we did see the castle before, but that it just looks a lot better then it did 20 years ago. The trees have grown taller, the roof was repaired and the walls have been painted, but the location is exactly the same, astounding how the memory can boggle us some times, it’s good to take pictures!

Apartment in Shanghai

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My apartment

The hotel was nice to stay for a week, but it’s still a hotel. I found a decent place to live, close to my office, and I am moving in this Wednesday. While settled down in a comfortable place, I am prepared to dedicate myself to my job to the fullest. Good times!

In Hong Kong for the week #2

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I like this city so much that I decided to upload some more pictures to give you first hand about what I think is beautiful around here. Hope you like it!  You can go up any skyscraper in Hong Kong, (which I almost did) but you can see the city best from the Victory Peak. Simply take the tram up the hill, and you will see this magnificent view of the city. In real life, the city lights are also dancing around over the scenery. Very pretty thing to look at, almost as hypnotic like a fire or water. I view to remember!
Art gallery building in Macau, China

Don’t be fooled by these buildings, the whole area is full with artsy shaped casino’s. Macau was both the first and the last European colony in China. In 2006, gambling revenues from Macau’s casinos were for the first time greater than those of Las Vegas Strip (each about $6 billion), making Macau the highest-volume gambling centre in the world. We lost track of time as well, amazing place to be!
The metro in Hong Kong, or the MTR are much simpler to commute in then for example in Seoul or Osaka. However, if you are staying on the island as a tourist, one might as well take the tram. They are cheaper and more fun to ride as you see more of the city.

Buddhistic statue praising and making offerings to the Tian Tan Buddha.

Sheung Wan is a public market with whole floors devoted to fish, or fruit, or tiny restaurants. The variety is wonderful! It reminded me of those marketplaces in Southern Europe. If you have the chance, order some squid and let the sales men prepare it for raw eating. Little bit of sauce… delicious!