Several people already know this, but in the Web 2.0 world you have to announce these things via the web rather than waiting for the next time I might chat with you. Plus I just made it official 5 minutes ago.
In a month I will close out three years, to the day, working at Amazon and take my capabilities to the evil empire, Microsoft (queue the Star Wars music… hey maybe that would make a good Animoto?). At some level this is “just a job change” but for some reason this seems like a very big deal for me. Maybe because I have matured to the point where I have overcome my own ego and decided to go ahead and leave Amazon, and that itself is something to reflect upon.
Amazon is a strange dichotomy for me. Their formula is very successful, they continue to deliver shareholder value (and I have benefitted greatly from that aspect), they have emerged as the e-commerce and web services powerhouse (besting eBay, Google, and MS in those spaces), and their future is as bright as any tech company, including Google and Apple. I am amazed by what I have learned, the weekly interactions I have at the SVP/CEO level, and the pace with which I am able to move and get things done. My only complaint is the culture fit. By my calculation I spend an average of 10 hours a day, including weekends, in this culture; that’s more time than I end up spending with my family. If that’s the case, then the culture needs to be a fit. And its not. Not even close. And frankly Aaron is getting sick of hearing me gripe about it. He’s threatened to not tell me any more Rockband secrets unless I stop.
My boss joked with me: “it took you three years to figure that out?” Well, no, it didn’t. I knew before I even started the job that culture fit would be an issue, but my ego demanded I prove I could handle it, even thrive in it. And thrive I did (apparently the reason I was offered a position at MS was my strong reputation with the ex-Amazonians who work on that team…ouch just hurt myself patting myself on the back). And each new challenge thrown at me was yet another challenge of my ego. At some point in the last six months the logic bulb went off and asked “why are you doing this?” And I didn’t have a logical answer. Maturity of ego right there.
So a chapter in my life is coming to a close, and I will close that chapter highly confident knowing I handled the best the business world could throw at me. So why is this a big deal for me? Because I don’t know what this next chapter will bring. The question at the back of my mind… “will the same personality type that allowed me to succeed at Amazon be a liability when it comes to working at Microsoft?” I don’t know. Keeping my personality in check will be a challenge.
I don’t regret working at Amazon the last three years; in fact it’s been the best three years of my career. And the number of doors that have creaked open because of my Amazon experience is simply jawdropping to me. As others in the Seattle area have told me: “working at Amazon is like drinking from a firehose… the longer you handle it the more people are amazed.” I prefer to describe it as “business boot camp.” You know you are a much, much better person for the experience. But you can’t do boot camp forever. Or at least I can’t 🙂
So why Microsoft you ask? Work/life balance. If I look at all the things I can get from a new position – higher level (I’ve been headhunted for VP and Director positions), more $$$$ (I am taking a pretty big $ hit to work in Redmond), high-growth companies (there are plenty of those interested in me) – the one thing nobody offered to the degree MS can is a work/life balance which meets what I am looking for. One company would have me traveling internationally for 2 weeks a month, but they would “let me balance that by letting me drive my kids to school a couple days a week when I was here.” No thanks, not even for the $ they were talking. I can sleep at night knowing my soul is not for sale. Although it scares me that there are fathers out there who jump on those opportunities.
Not that I will be trading in for a 40 hour work week; but rather I will figure out how to balance a 60-80 hour work week with my family and community obligations. I know dozens of people that work at MS; none of them complain about work/life balance. And that is what money can’t buy.