Software at Scale 4 - Akshay Shekhar: Software Engineer, AWS


Akshay Shekhar is a software engineer working on Amazon HoneyCode, a no code tool to build applications. He’s been in a few different teams at Amazon, and he used to be a maintainer of Elementary OS (and his name is still on the team page).

We talk about the experience of being an open source developer, working in startups, corporate tech blogs, evaluating starting a startup vs. staying in a tech company, moving from India to Canada, AWS organizational structure, a comparison between technology choices and communism, building reliable systems, and the technical challenges faced in building a no code platform.

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Notes are Italicized

0:00 - Introduction

4:45 - How Akshay got into open source development

7:01 - Canonical emailed Akshay a CD since downloading it would have taken a month at that time. Those were the days..

Elementary OS is its own separate OS.

8:45 - A controversial Elementary OS blog post.

15:39 - College Experience, and internships.

21:20 - Pivoting to Amazon. Akshay was inspired to join Amazon from a blog post about some scale issues (The only thing I could dig up was this). We talk about the hidden impact of corporate tech blogs. Mostly in agreement with Dan Luu’s take on it.

24:00 - Starting off at Amazon Data Extraction as an intern. Solving address matching.

31:50 - Technology at a large company that can easily be spun into a startup (and evaluating whether one should join a startup).

37:00 - Contrasting the Google and Amazon approach on building software. “It’s like Communism vs. Capitalism”. Yes, I really like this question.

45:00 - Working with research engineers in Amazon, and unnecessary SIMD optimizations.

48:00 - Moving to AWS Networking. Switching teams at Amazon is very normalized. "For the first couple of months, when you switch teams, don’t speak. Listen”.

53:30 - “Respect what came before” from Principal Engineering Community Tenets. Chesterton’s Fence.

55:10 - Akshay worked on a machine database for AWS

57:30 - What kind of organizational structure facilitates the various number of offerings that AWS provides? How is the system kept reliable when there’s so many moving parts that could fail? Being customer obsessed is key.

65:40 - Working on Amazon HoneyCode. The technical challenges that come from designing an application that lets users design applications. It sounds like a fascinating problem.