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Amazon's Day 2 2020-06-10

Hey! Before you read the post below, take a breather and acknowledge that there are a lot worse things going on right now. Please support your black friends and neighbors.

Amazonians, know that Amazon is currently matching donations to a series of causes supporting racial equity. Ask your coworkers for the link.

Today is my last day at the 'zon.

I've been writing this post slowly over a month and a half or so. At first I had a lot to say, then I wanted to say nothing at all. But now, I feel like writing something. If only for myself, but maybe also for others to read when they find out I don't work there anymore.

Anywho. This is an opinion piece, and it's my own work experience from my own perspective.


This is a tough question I have to reason about myself.

I suppose it helps to tell you where I did work: I was a senior software developer in our lovely little Open Source Programs Office (OSPO). I really liked working with my team, open source communities, and developers across the company. I liked what I did and the challenges that came up. I was originally not planning on staying in one place for more than a couple years, but here I went and stayed almost five on one team. Nothing really wrong with that, I guess; every time I thought "this will be the last thing we need to solve" -- but of course, there's always more work.

The team's in a healthy shape now. I'm confident they'll survive fine. Why I left has nothing to do with my work, my team, or my management, or even open source at all: It has everything to do with Amazon.

This is where I had a whole bunch of stuff written up. But then, Tim Bray published his own post:

(see The Guardian write-up if unavailable)

I've been thinking strongly of leaving since mid-April, and then I saw that post myself and it really resonated. It wasn't anything new to me (or to others I know at corporate) but it just echoed so many thoughts I've been having. And that's just one aspect of where Amazon has been going lately.

I had been thinking of things that made me stressed at work over the past year. Very few stress factors related to my team; again, I liked the work! Most of the times where I just really had to stop and think "am I really working here" were when executives decided to push things down from the top. There was another one of these recently, and it was pretty closely tied to what's been happening.

And I just had to think to myself: Why do I put up with this? Why do I work for a company that makes me go through all of these mental gymnastics? I guess it's because I was paid decently well and liked my work. But I realized that I can't keep doing this -- I can't keep having these debates in my head about what Amazon's going to try to pull against its employees this month or next.

I'm just done. And once I realized that, I felt so... resolute. It's been a few weeks since that realization and my thoughts haven't wavered. I do feel a little sad, and disappointed, but I don't feel too stressed. Time to close this chapter.

If you still work at Amazon and like your job, by all means keep working there. I'm not taking some big stand, and I won't judge you if you still enjoy your work. It's just no longer for me.

Day 2

So what's Day 2? The Fool has a write-up on it, based on shareholder memo from Jeff.

I want to re-iterate that this is my opinion, but I know others share it:

I don't think I was looking at past years with rose-tinted glasses. I think Amazon was in a state of "day 1" for quite some time. I'm not sure when things moved to day 2, but it's for sure here. It's almost a meme in emails/chats at work: see something bad Amazon's doing? Shake your head and wonder when things slipped; day 2 is here.

On the tiniest chance some executive reads this: Listen to your employees. Your gut reaction to complaints should not be "let's shut this down", it's "how do we fix this". We've got this whole COE process for rooting out technical mistakes and finding a root cause. Halting communication and disciplining employees does not find or fix a root cause, it very poorly attacks a symptom.

Perhaps what's been the most eye-opening for me, is that once I put in my two-week notice and started to tell people about why I was leaving, everyone I spoke to was very understanding and aware of all of the above, and described similar conflicted thoughts.

Last week I was sent my "exit interview", which really was a form of canned responses and drop-downs. Not a text-box in sight. It wanted me to pick my reason for leaving from pre-selected reasons. 2 of the reasons were "personal issues". The rest were structurally set up to reflect badly on someone else, mostly management. None of that applied -- I attempted to escalate that to HR but didn't get a response. So, Amazon HR, this post right here is my exit interview.

Why now?

This wasn't some kind of COVID-19 "snap". COVID sucks and I hate that it happened, but I was actually feeling refreshed by the prospect of working from home. It's peaceful. Amazon's at least getting that aspect right and adapting. Even though I'm leaving, I ordered myself a desk just to work from home in a dedicated room. I'm gonna make that my WFH/remote work place.

I didn't leave a few weeks back because, frankly, I had a stock vest that was financially significant for me and it was only a couple weeks out. That has now completed.

How's open source doing over there?

Pretty good really. Anyone who tells you that Amazon doesn't do open source, inside or outside of the company, is being willfully ignorant and perpetuating an echo chamber.

I'm serious. We weren't as loud as other companies about what we did for a while. We've certainly slipped in places. But if you're a developer at Amazon (or considering Amazon), I hope that you know that you can do open source work there. It's not hard. You don't have to "know" someone or do things in secret. Just talk to the open source team. They wanna help, really. Nobody at the OSPO comes into work and goes "time to ruin some dreams", because they'd burn out real fast.

Won't you miss free Prime?

Hah, good one.

The only thing I'll miss is Chime. (That was another joke.)

Where to?

I don't know yet. I've certainly made a bunch of professional connections and I'll reach out to some folks soon. I do intend on staying in the industry, most likely still in open source (program offices or otherwise). But I do have other interests like Rust, big ol distributed systems, containers, gaming... I like a lot of things.

However, I do plan on taking a month or two off to just do nothing in particular. It's still COVID time, but it'll be nice to have nothing I must do for a short while. I'll go hike, and camp.

I am looking for:

The nice thing about straight-up quitting my job is I have a lot of time to think about these things and really consider the right place. I might find it quickly, or it might take some time. I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate that I had a job that paid well and I don't have to stress about finances for a while. I hope everyone else in tech realizes this, too.

Free time

I'm gonna use this time to try some hobbies I never really got into. More creative stuff. Things I reasonably should have been able to do while working but... always found excuses:

Phone Tool High Score

I feel like the Amazon "phone tool" is basically your collection of your achievements, silly or not, and I'd like to keep mine. I know that profiles get "deactivated" and most of the content is hidden. Here's mine.

phonetool screenshot

Ah, phone tool icons. Some day they'll become AMZN stock, right?

Comments? Tweet at me.