Posts Categorized: The Netherlands

Tips for applying for a job at AWS

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.

Working at Amazon Web Services

This week I started working at AWS (Amazon Web Services) in Amsterdam.

In my new role, I’ll be helping companies in Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg with their journey to the cloud, including release management, agile/lean practices and strategic delivery, with a focus on quality.

These first few months are all about further introduction into AWS and Amazon’s working, our customers, and the peculiar ways of Amazon. Next week training will kick-off with a trip to AWS in Berlin. Very excited to start in my new role.

I took this photo with the CTO of Amazon, Werner Vogels back in 2013, I never guessed I was lucky enough to be able to work here.

 

Mirrin’s doctorate ceremony

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We visited Nijmegen, The Netherlands to attend the thesis defense and doctorate ceremony of my Sister, Mirrin. In short, she studied wound infections in an Intensive Care, find her study here. It’s a conclusion of a 10~13 year study, I needed a dictionary (long live the Kindle) to plow through the document. I am incredibly proud of her and wish her good luck with her next step!

Moved to Chengdu, China

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Whoa… 5:30 AM already? My mind was hazy whilst Suna and I ate a quick bite before driving the 70km back from my parents to our apartment in Nieuw-Vennep. Our voices sounded hollow in the empty apartment – sold off most of it in the previous months. The moving van arrived, and work went swiftly. Had to walk down to the Albert heijn downstairs for a tray of their complementary coffee at 8 am. Thanks Albert Heijn! The crew packed the boxes, we dropped the key off and were on the move. klm-schiphol-chengdu-bus-dreamliner-zonnebloem-panda At Schiphol we found a bus which was campaigning our new destination: Chengdu! Famous for Panda’s KLM now offers direct flights with it’s new dreamliner planes. After living in China until 2012, we kept returning (2013 and 2014) for holiday to meet up with friends. But todays trip to the P.R.C. isn’t a holiday; we moved back! Currently residing in a hotel and exploring the city tomorrow to find a place to live.

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Goodbye DonaldDuck, Kieskeurig & Sanoma

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Yours truly has quit his job at Sanoma and has his last working day today.

It was a difficult decision; Sanoma has been my rescue back in 2012, hiring me straight after the crash-and-burn of my Chinese startup. Starting in the fancy Amsterdam office I felt proud finally working on ‘major league‘ websites with a shiny new Apple laptop. As architect the door was open everywhere and I learned a lot about performance based web business. Particularly about MVP’s and making decisions based on traffic instead of assumptions.

Later my work moved to the city of Culemborg when I became IT development manager at Kieskeurig.nl (a price comparison site owned by Sanoma) where I established a new development team and we developed a brand new site. I was part of the strategic board and I got my first lease car ever! When Kieskeurig’s office relocated to Hoofddorp, my family moved along. However, As things at Kieskeurig.nl were pretty much setup I moved departments to Kids & Teens.

Ah, Sanoma. Lot’s of great memories with it’s infamous office parties, company outings and investments in their employees but the publishing company does struggle with reclining ad-sales and orders. The 500 colleagues being let go back in 2013 signalled the publisher’s change of course.

As IT manager Kids & Teens I became part of a game development team building a game strategically aimed at countering the stagnating income from print. After the game was launched and put in maintenance we developed various other websites related to the kids and Disney realm. But things cannot last forever, I’m leaving. This week my colleagues set-up a goodbye drink and we went for Korean Barbecue in Amsterdam! I’ll be missing all of you, keep in touch!

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As I’ve got a new opportunity I’m moving on. I have a double feeling because Sanoma feels like home (little village) to me now. As it’s my last working day I’m handing in my laptop symbolising the end of my work here. I’ll enjoy a week of free time and then prepare our flight back to China for our next chapter!

Belgium cows

hubermontStaying in Belgium for a few days. We found a nice French style cottage surrounded with vast forests on rolling hills and alternating fields full of mooing Belgium cows.

It’s the perfect scenery for some outdoor activities and off-line time with the family. Nature is the number one toy for kids, just a simple puddle (yes it’s been raining a lot) provides endless pleasure, not to mention the swing in the backyard of our rental place. Once we get bored with all this nature we’ll probably head out the neighboring country of Luxembourg to explore this particular city.

A visit to the Keukenhof

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We visited the keukenhof yesterday, one of the world’s largest flower gardens. The garden is based on a 30 minute bikeride from our house. Even though spring is just beginning, there were quite some flowers out already.

My daughter Mia is walking since a few months and she loved racing over all the paths, neglecting (but kindly being averted by) anyone in her way.

Working at donaldduck

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After more than a year I still feel that working at Donaldduck is special. As the brand is well known, it’s read by generations as it’s introduced in 1952! An immediate success, inspired by the post-war success seen in Scandinavia. At first stories were simply translated, later Dutch covers were introduced until finally, full stories (1954) produced in the Netherlands; still heavily influenced by original content was introduced.

Considering it’s historic background, the magazine is relevant and prominent as ever, with Dutch made content made by Jos Beekman, Joan Lommen, Bas Schuddeboom, Ferdi Felderhof, Jim van der Weele, Lotte Roep and Esther Holtkamp, Wilma van den Bosch and Michel Nadorp (and many others). Editor in chief Dimitri Heikamp introduced a digital strategy, with the magazine as a backbone. For instance, Twitter saw it’s 43 characters introduced in 2010; a success with Donald duck leading with 173k followers. Larger digital projects such as a soft-type course called ducktypen.nl and a 3D educational game called duckworld.com followed suit. Right now we are preparing to launch the new Donaldduck.nl website. (more info soon) Whilst many think we sourced these titles from abroad, they were actually made as part of the editorial team of the DonaldDuck magazine. (With a small development team and product owners) The title allows also allows some educational cooperation with other brands, such as the van Gogh museum and ‘Nederland Schoon’ (education about throwing trash for kids).
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It’s fun to work close to the magazine editors. They work hard with over 500 deadlines per year! In early 2015 my face appeared in the magazine. I have also been asked to review a sketch of a story. Stoked, I spent the better part of new years reading it through. That story was published just last week and my comments were in! Just spotted the magazine in the supermarket so it went full loop. Nice to see the responses at twitter, interesting to see how the process from story to magazine takes place.

Riding our bikes to the beach

miaatthebeachToday we had one of those late warm summer days here in The Netherlands. Too good to stay inside! One of the great things of living in Haarlemmermeer is that the beach is reachable by bike. I cycled there before but Suna didn’t find the time yet. This morning we packed our lunch-bags and rode off together! The road was easy and enjoyable passing the typical Dutch flower fields and then past the Kennemerland national park. This is one of the few national parks in the country and I am looking forward to visiting it again in the fall. We followed a road though dense trees ending in the sandy dunes. Halfway we spotted a deer walking by and there were some gliders landing in the open fields. Once arrived we parked the bikes and walked out to the sandy beach. Mia yelled of excitement once we saw the sea. We picked a nice spot and we played for hours in the sand and with the water. She is also keen for dogs and saw a lot of them. She was so excited that she slept all the way back to our house. I’m always excited for the beach. Going to the beach means excitement, good moods and good times. When I was young we would go to the beach about once a year during the hottest (and busiest) days of the year. Now we can just ride down, I’m hoping to spoil Mia with a lot of spontaneous visits like these in the future. It’s amazing to go out riding with the family, also to see Suna excel on her bike. Hoping for more of these tours in the near future!

 

No more traffic jams

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When we moved to the Netherlands, I lived in my hometown (center of the country) close to my family and work.

However, my job happened to move to the headquarters in the ‘big’ city. Fine, I thought, I’ll drive. However, I then spent the better part of my week (12%) driving to my office and back. Listening to podcasts and audiobooks did cure the pain a bit, but it was a time waster.

I’m happy that my wife agreed to move closer to our office and last weekend we made the move! Now I’m enjoying short travel times and no more stress about traffic jams, life is good!