Two weeks ago, the Principal Engineering Community at Amazon adopted a new tenet that is fundamental to not just our roles as engineers, but also to our lives in general. Empathy is core to how human societies are built and thrive, and necessary for our continued survival. At Amazon, nurturing empathy is core to continuing on our path to foster inclusiveness across our diverse workforce.
Lead with Empathy
Principal Engineers shape an inclusive engineering culture where others are heard, feel respected, and are empowered. We are conscious of how our words, and demeanor impact others, especially those with less influence; we take responsibility for that impact, intentional or otherwise. Our work builds productive relationships across teams and disciplines, and across a wide range of life experiences.
To me, empathy across a diverse group begins with understanding, and understanding comes from first acknowledging that people are inherently different — in terms of upbringing, educational backgrounds, cultures, languages, food, interests, and many others — including the amount of love for Star Wars. Acknowledging differences in personal experiences and interests, affords us the possibility to get a different perspective, and truly understand the resultant differing opinion, given a similar set of facts. When we attempt to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes and understand each other’s perspectives, that is when we grow empathy.
The new tenet embodies this spirit in its three key attributes for our culture — being heard, feeling respected, and being empowered. Building a diverse team is paramount, but even more important is to allow ourselves the time and inquisitiveness to hear each voice in our vicinity and acknowledge different — even contradicting — points of view. Even if such perspectives are inconsequential, taking the time to listen, acknowledge and respond, reflects the respect we share with each other, and empowers everyone to do their part.
If you take one thing from this random rambling, it should be this — listen, to everyone, every view, and every disagreement. Listen, to create to a common understanding, and then go from there.
Few resources to go dive deep
- Principal Engineering Community Tenets at Amazon
- The Oatmeal’s take on acknowledging and accepting differences
- Interesting books- Radical Candor, Trampled by Unicorns, Nonviolent Communication
- And if you’re feeling adventurous- A radical experiment in empathy