A former Microsoft bigwig says Amazon's workaholic culture is typical in tech


Steven Sinofsky

As the world debates whether Amazon's work culture is or isn't a white-collar sweat shop, one tech bigwig has an interesting take: the same culture exists at most big companies and can be "used to represent either success or failure," believes Steven Sinofsky.

Sinofsky is best known for his decades spent at Microsoft where he rose to run the Windows business until he and then-CEO Steve Ballmer parted ways in 2012. Today he teaches at Harvard, is a board member at a number of startups, and work as an advisor with high-powered VC Andreessen Horowitz.

Microsoft and Amazon are both children of the Seattle area and they know each other very well.

Sinofsky was at Microsoft since its early days. In response to the scathing New York Times article on Sunday, which described Amazon's culture as "a bruising workplace," Sinofsky tweeted a link to a story about Microsoft's culture that ran in the Seattle Times back in 1989.

That old article described Microsoft as a "velvet sweatshop" where employees were expected to work themselves to exhaustion. (We've heard this about Microsoft many times over the years.)

Sinofsky has defended Microsoft's culture before. In 2005 he wrote a recruiting blog post called "The 100-hour work week" in which he debunked the idea that Microsoft worked its employees that hard.

He said Microsoft cared about work-life balance and employees were encouraged to "pace yourself — like any endeavor you can only run so hard for so long."


@dinabass both of those my points. Anecdotes. And same story for every successful company GE, Disney, Apple and more.

— Steven Sinofsky (@stevesi) August 17, 2015

@Julie188 I feel could be (has been) written about most companies and used to represent either success or failure depending on context/tone.

— Steven Sinofsky (@stevesi) August 17, 2015

If Sinofsky's take is true, that Amazon's culture is far from unique, then maybe it's time for a bigger look what corporate America expects from its workers. 

SEE ALSO: The Stress Of Being A Computer Programmer Is Literally Driving Many Of Them Crazy

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