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Amazon vs Qualcomm for full-time software engineering

googOrMsoftgoogOrMsoft Posts: 35Registered User Junior Member
edited November 2012 in Engineering Majors
I'm a new grad (June 2013) with competing offers from Amazon and Qualcomm. The financial situation is near identical between the two offers. Also, I like both San Diego and Seattle, so that's not a factor.

I'm most concerned with:
-Learning
-Working with smart people
-My own career
-Enjoying my life

My gut feel - At Amazon, I'd probably have the opportunity to learn a lot more. I get to choose my team which allows me to learn exactly what I want to learn. I also feel like Amazon is a very respected brand for software engineers, and having this on my resume might do more for me than Qualcomm. My Amazon interviews were rigorous, which leads me to believe the people there are smart.

On the other hand, I've heard bad things about Amazon's work life balance and frugality, and I realize I'd have a more care-free time at Qualcomm. I do enjoy having a life and doing things in my spare time.
Post edited by googOrMsoft on
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Replies to: Amazon vs Qualcomm for full-time software engineering

  • googOrMsoftgoogOrMsoft Posts: 35Registered User Junior Member
    Anyone have any experience working at Amazon?
  • MyHipieMyHipie Posts: 49Registered User Junior Member
    Wow, congrats!

    Three of my friends went to Amazon last year (new grads 2012) - all software development engineers. They all love it there. Kind of disagree with you on the work life balance part. They say they don't work more than 45 hours a week, and the work environment is pretty chill. But the work itself I heard is very stressful. The only con I have heard is that they don't have free food/drink at the office. Lol.

    Just thought I'd throw something into the thread. I'm currently in the process of interviewing with Amazon for a summer internship. Don't know anything about Qualcomm.
  • sumzupsumzup Posts: 799Registered User Member
    I interned at Amazon this past summer; your experience at Amazon will be very team-dependent. My team was alright overall, but I could definitely sense the pressure put on full-timers (also being on-call can be a nightmare). The frugality thing is alive and well...I don't know much about Qualcomm, specifically, but in general it seems like other tech companies have a lot better perks. Amazon says they like to pay more instead, but it seems to me that other companies in the same class will match that pay (or pay more) along with providing better perks.

    All of that aside, Amazon is definitely a great place to learn and be surrounded by smart people, especially if you pick the right team. I don't intend to return to Amazon, myself, but if I were forced to, I think I could be content.
  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 Posts: 22,762Registered User Senior Member
    Qualcomm is more of a hardware company and the downside to working on software for a hardware company is that software usually gets less respect. In many cases, software is done to support hardware sales so it may be viewed as an expense item. That said, Qualcomm is now the #1 chip company and they have a cash hoard of $26 billion so they definitely have a lot of financial strength along with options to invest.

    The rap on Amazon about work-life might be due to the news stories about working in their warehouses which doesn't sound like interesting work. Amazon is a company that is growing like mad but they don't seem to manage to earn much money. Wall St is giving them a pass as they are in growth mode but you have to worry a bit about working for a company that doesn't make a lot of profits as investors can eventually tire of the game.
  • sumzupsumzup Posts: 799Registered User Member
    They don't appear to have much profit because most of it is invested back into the company. They could easily stop doing that and appear to have huge profits, but that would hurt their long-term goals.
  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 Posts: 22,762Registered User Senior Member
    > They don't appear to have much profit because most of it is invested back into the
    > company. They could easily stop doing that and appear to have huge profits, but that
    > would hurt their long-term goals.

    Yahoo Finance reports that their operating margin is under 0.97% and their profit margin is 0.07%.

    Do you consider 0.97% operating margins to be "huge"?
  • sumzupsumzup Posts: 799Registered User Member
    I'm just parroting what I heard from people at Amazon; I haven't actually looked at the numbers.

    But it looks like they're purposefully going for low margins in order to gain marketshare (e.g. Kindle) and pass back savings to customers (e.g. AWS). Their goal is to make money with scale as opposed to making money with high margins.
  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 Posts: 22,762Registered User Senior Member
    > I'm just parroting what I heard from people at Amazon; I haven't actually looked at
    > the numbers.

    Ahh. So they lied to you.

    > But it looks like they're purposefully going for low margins in order to gain
    > marketshare (e.g. Kindle) and pass back savings to customers (e.g. AWS).

    "Is it a good strategy? Consider that Amazon announced a net loss of $274m in that quarter and that it's forecasting in next quarter to do anywhere between a net loss of $490m to a net profit of $310m. That's the biggest variance I've ever seen in such a forecast; even if you allow for the $290m of stock-based compensation that it may have to pay, Amazon is saying it's going to make anything between a $200m loss and a $310m profit. Half a billion one way or the other."

    iPad mini v Kindle Fire v Nexus 7: the Christmas fight approaches | Technology | guardian.co.uk

    Seems like they're working pretty hard to enrich executives with stock compensation.

    Market researcher Chitika Insights in their October 2012 tablet reports that the Kindle Fire had 0.5% of the US/Canadian browsing market. The iPad had 92%. The Nexus 7 has 0.85%. Google and Amazon are in a battle for similar markets. Google wants ad revenue to point consumers to their customers. Amazon wants customers to shop at their sites for profits on what they sell. Google's operating margins are at 28%.

    > Their goal is to make money with scale as opposed to making money with high
    > margins.

    The two things aren't mutually exclusive.

    The mobile components market is notoriously cutthroat with a lot of chips costing very little money. Qualcomm plays in that space and they have 30% margins. Amazon has been playing the game of pushing out profits since their inception back in the mid-1990s. Back then in the days of Munder net-net, you had companies with stock prices going to the moon. Having profits wasn't considered cool. The more money you lost, the higher your stock price went.

    Amazon is a cool company. They do a lot of things well and they are eating the lunches of other companies. But it's nice to work for a company that makes good profits and good earnings from the perspective of employees. Unless you're in a startup and there, the risk/reward equation is considerably different.
  • KamelAkbarKamelAkbar Posts: 500Registered User Member
    I dunno, I'd leave the income statements for the investors and accountants to worry about. I really don't see how profit margins should be a consideration unless it appears the company is about to tank.
  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 Posts: 22,762Registered User Senior Member
    > I'd leave the income statements for the investors and accountants to worry about.

    I've worked for companies that no longer exist and it's not a lot of fun living through the death spiral. You have going away parties for those leaving after they've found jobs in other companies and maybe those for people that have been laid off. And it happens week after week after week after week.

    Your work in a company is funded by something. It could be an existing product that generates current product and service revenue or it could be a new product that's funded by existing projects or an R&D fund. You could work in a company where it's your manager's job to find or propose projects that have or get funding. If you can't find funding, then you might lose your job or control over it. You might be working for a company that's a defense contractor and lose your job when your project gets cut.

    > I really don't see how profit margins should be a consideration unless it appears the
    > company is about to tank.

    Things can happen really quickly with companies and their markets.

    HPQ - SharpCharts Workbench - StockCharts.com

    If you don't have a choice in jobs, then take what's offered. If you do have a choice, choose wisely.
  • ChardoChardo Posts: 2,056Registered User Senior Member
    An impressive choice. Might I ask what school and degree you earned? Gpa? Internships, etc.?
  • ChrisTKDChrisTKD Posts: 890Registered User Member
    I wouldn't expect Amazon to earn high margins as they are, in effect, a very large retailer. Retail margins are low so volume has to be high. Of course, you don't want to be working at a company which falls into the old joke that "they lose money on every item but make it up in volume". Amazon sells the kindle using the same marketing strategy popularized with ink jet printers - - sell the printers at or below cost and make all the profit on the ink. It's not clear yet whether Kindle users are buying enough books, movies or other on-line content for Amazon to earn sufficient profit using this strategy.

    Still, I don't see Amazon going out of business anytime soon and if the type of work is interesting and has the potential for a long-term boost to your qualifications then why not?
  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 Posts: 22,762Registered User Senior Member
    > I wouldn't expect Amazon to earn high margins as they are, in effect,
    > a very large retailer. Retail margins are low so volume has to be
    > high.

    Whole Foods is another large retailer and has operating margins of
    6.44%. COH is a large retailer with operating margins of 31.22%. TIF
    has margins are 19.43%. Yum Brands (Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut,
    Taco Bell) is a large retailer and has margins of 16.25%. McDonalds is
    a large retailer and they have operating margins of 30.29%. Macy's is
    a large retailer and has margins of 9.35%. TJX (TJ Maxx, Marshalls) is
    a big retailer with 11.68% operating margins. CVS (drugstore), which
    has twice the revenue of Amazon has operating margins of 5.73%. WalMart
    has 9 times Amazon's revenue and an operating margin of 5.94%.

    > Of course, you don't want to be working at a company which falls
    > into the old joke that "they lose money on every item but make it up
    > in volume". Amazon sells the kindle using the same marketing
    > strategy popularized with ink jet printers - - sell the printers at
    > or below cost and make all the profit on the ink.

    "Whitman also noted that printing was one area that was going through
    some secular changes and macroeconomic challenges. Weaker consumer
    demand is one factor, as consumers are doing less printing at home,
    especially of photos. Some likely culprits are smartphones, iPads and
    Facebook, where people now show off their latest baby or vacation
    photos."

    H-P?s big problem? Hardly anyone prints any more - MarketWatch

    > It's not clear yet whether Kindle users are buying enough books,
    > movies or other on-line content for Amazon to earn sufficient profit
    > using this strategy.

    Amazon has come under pressure from mobile devices where there's less
    space for ads compared to laptops and desktops running browsers. Doing
    their own device to control the ad experience is a reasonable response
    but they aren't really getting a lot in the way of marketshare.
    Google's Nexus 7 has really changed the game in small tablets forcing
    even Apple to respond with their own entry.

    "Still, I don't see Amazon going out of business anytime soon and if
    the type of work is interesting and has the potential for a long-term
    boost to your qualifications then why not?"

    Well, that's fine. But the question for this thread is on a comparison
    between two companies. One with strong earnings and one with weak
    earnings.
  • ChrisTKDChrisTKD Posts: 890Registered User Member
    >Well, that's fine. But the question for this thread is on a comparison
    between two companies. One with strong earnings and one with weak
    earnings.

    Well, that certainly could be a factor in the decision but I think it's probably much more important to look at what type of work the OP will be doing at each potential employer. If he/she is gaining more valuable skills at one place versus the other then that IMO would trump the relative financial strength between the two companies. Get the better skills; quit if necessary and then move on to a company with financial strength.
  • BCEagle91BCEagle91 Posts: 22,762Registered User Senior Member
    I think that the work that you do is important but so is the company that you work for. We discuss interviews with potential new hires and sometimes the kids that come in to interview don't really know much about the company, our division, who the CEO is, our markets and how we're doing financially. It's not bad to know this stuff when you're going on interviews.

    > Get the better skills; quit if necessary and then move on to a company with financial
    > strength.

    Something employers hate: spending six to nine months getting en employee up to speed and then losing them.
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