Lenny's Newsletter
Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career
Taking control of your career | Ethan Evans (Amazon)

Taking control of your career | Ethan Evans (Amazon)


Brought to you by Sidebar—Accelerate your career by surrounding yourself with extraordinary peers | Sprig—Build a product people love | Arcade Software—Create effortlessly beautiful demos in minutes

Ethan Evans is a writer, career coach, course instructor, and retired VP at Amazon. During his 15 years at Amazon, he helped invent Prime Video, Amazon Video, the Amazon Appstore, Prime Gaming (formerly Twitch Prime), and Twitch Commerce. Prior to Amazon, Ethan spent 12 years in technical leadership roles at several East Coast startups. He writes a newsletter, Level Up, which publishes candid career advice and has a growing community of ambitious professionals to connect with. Ethan also offers a range of Leadership Development Courses via live online classes and on-demand courses. In this episode, we discuss:

  • The Magic Loop framework: a five-step process to grow your career

  • A handful of reasons why people get stuck in their career growth

  • Advice on how to break out of a career plateau

  • How to cultivate inventiveness in your work

  • How to stand out in interviews

  • A personal story of failing Jeff Bezos and lessons learned

  • Contrarian opinions on the return-to-office movement and doing business on a handshake

Some takeaways:

  1. Speed up your career growth by following the Magic Loop: do your current job well, ask your boss how you can help, do what they ask, suggest ways to help that align with your goals, and repeat.

  2. Nail your interviews with a polished appearance and genuine enthusiasm. Emphasize the impact and results of your work instead of just listing tasks to stand out positively.

  3. Recovering from failure is easier than you think. Own the mistake, learn from it, and work relentlessly to regain trust. Even after a failed public launch at Amazon, Ethan regained Jeff Bezos’s trust and got promoted.

  4. Invention is the easy part. The expression and execution of an idea is much more difficult. What matters is bringing an idea to life and iterating it over and over again, so that its value to users increases over time.

  5. Being right is good, but being quick is necessary. Amazon can ship fast and stay ahead of the competition by prioritizing speed—even if that means gambling on an outcome.

  6. True leaders should actively work to challenge their assumptions. Keeping an open mind and demonstrating the ability to change your beliefs broadens your perspective, leading to faster and better decision-making.

Listen now on Apple, Spotify, Overcast, and YouTube.

Where to find Ethan Evans:

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ethanevansvp/

• Substack: https://levelupwithethanevans.substack.com/

Where to find Lenny:

• Newsletter: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com

• X: https://twitter.com/lennysan

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennyrachitsky/

In this episode, we cover:

(00:00) Ethan’s background

(04:25) The Magic Loop

(08:31) The goal of the Magic Loop

(10:59) Clarifications on the framework

(12:46) Success stories

(17:22) The importance and effectiveness of the Magic Loop

(19:01) A quick summary of the steps in the Magic Loop

(21:46) What if you’re not pursuing a promotion?

(23:09) How to break out of a career plateau

(28:52) How to become systematically inventive

(36:04) Interview advice and how to stand out

(40:43) A story of failing Jeff Bezos

(50:31) Lessons learned from that failure

(57:30) What Ethan would have done differently

(01:00:35) Amazon’s leadership principles

(01:08:52) Contrarian corner: Returning to the office vs. staying remote

(01:10:39) Contrarian corner: Doing business on a handshake

(01:11:52) Lightning round


• The Magic Loop: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com/p/the-magic-loop

• SDE levels: https://www.masaischool.com/blog/understanding-sde-levels-sde-1-vs-sde-2-vs-sde-3-differences/

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful: https://www.amazon.com/What-Got-Here-Wont-There/dp/1401301304

• Thomas Edison’s quote: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/thomas_a_edison_109928

• Jeff Bezos: Amazon and Blue Origin | Lex Fridman Podcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcWqzZ3I2cY

• Unpacking Amazon’s unique ways of working | Bill Carr (author of Working Backwards): https://www.lennyspodcast.com/unpacking-amazons-unique-ways-of-working-bill-carr-author-of-working-backwards/

Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Working-Backwards-Insights-Stories-Secrets/dp/1250267595

• Jeff Wilke on X: https://twitter.com/jeffawilke

• Andy Jassy on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andy-jassy-8b1615/

• Werner Vogels on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wernervogels/

• Amazon’s Silk browser explained: https://www.androidpolice.com/amazon-silk-browser-explainer/

• Chickens and pigs: https://www.scrum.org/resources/chickens-and-pigs

• 58% of tech employees experience imposter syndrome. Here’s how to overcome it: https://medium.com/wearefutureworks/58-of-tech-employees-experience-imposter-syndrome-heres-how-to-overcome-it-78172d8a2258

• Jeff Bezos to exec after product totally flopped: ‘You can’t, for one minute, feel bad’: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/22/jeff-bezos-why-you-cant-feel-bad-about-failure.html

• Amazon’s leadership principles: https://www.amazon.jobs/content/en/our-workplace/leadership-principles

• Sam Altman on X: https://twitter.com/sama

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work: https://www.amazon.com/Decisive-Make-Better-Choices-Life/dp/0307956393

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box: https://www.amazon.com/Leadership-Self-Deception-Getting-Out-Box/dp/1523097809

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness: https://www.amazon.com/Almanack-Naval-Ravikant-Wealth-Happiness/dp/1544514212/

• Angel list: https://venture.angellist.com/naval/syndicate

• Naval Ravikant on X: https://twitter.com/naval

1923 on Paramount+: https://www.paramountplus.com/shows/1923/

Yellowstone on Paramount+: https://www.paramountnetwork.com/shows/yellowstone

• Chuckit! dog toys: https://www.chuckit-toys.co.uk/

• Luke 12:48: https://law.utk.edu/2016/05/10/to-whom-much-is-given-much-will-be-required

• The Challenger space shuttle disaster: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster

• Ethan’s popular course on Maven: https://maven.com/ethan-evans/break-through-to-executive

Production and marketing by https://penname.co/. For inquiries about sponsoring the podcast, email podcast@lennyrachitsky.com.

Lenny may be an investor in the companies discussed.

1 Comment
Lenny's Newsletter
Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career
Interviews with world-class product leaders and growth experts to uncover concrete, actionable, and tactical advice to help you build, launch, and grow your own product.