I am currently in Seattle after having finished interviews with Amazon.com. I have already been offered a full-time position but went over to talk to them and find out whether this was someplace I want to work. Pertinent information I found out was as follows:
- Amazon is divided up into several "organizations," and each organization has several "teams." I talked to two organizations (Distributed Systems Engineering and Financial Systems) and two to three teams within each organization. I found one team (Customer Experience Analytics, which analyzes data from how customers use Amazon.com to find out how to improve the Web site to generate more sales) that I want to work at, but I am not particularly interested in any of the other teams that I met with.
- It is not possible to lock in a position on a particular team when you choose to join. Instead, you select an organization. If you do not select an organization one will be selected for you. Then when you get closer to the start date (about a month or so out) you get to choose a team from all the teams that have openings. Of course the teams that have openings are constantly in flux, so there is no way to know what teams will be available when it comes time.
- The deadline date for accepting the offer is December 19. Thus I will have no idea which graduate schools I will get into when accepting this offer. I analogized this situation to "Deal or No Deal", because I have to decide whether to take the "Deal" at Amazon before knowing enough information about it.
- I talked to my recruiter about this situation and he said that one possibility is to decline this offer, and then in May 2009 call again to see what teams are available, and join a team if there's a team with openings then I want to be on. (they have already evaluated my qualifications so I don't have to go through the interview process again.) Of course there's always the chance that all the spots will be full by then. The way I think about it is that this option is a dominant strategy: if all the teams I want fill up by then, then I wouldn't want to work at Amazon anyway, while if not, then I can still get an offer.
I will probably ask my recruiter again about what happens if I sign the offer letter now, and then when the time comes find out that there aren't any teams I want to work on, but the above option is probably what I'm going to do. So in a few months, I'll find out what was in the "cases" that I opened. (I think one of the other students I was with, when I mentioned it being like "Deal or No Deal," said something about opening a door to find out what prize is behind it. I reminded him that doors as a device to hide prizes in game shows were outdated 20 years ago, and the only reason anyone remembers them is because of the associated math problem.)