I Joined AWS
Sometimes people can see things in you that you do not see yourself. That was the case with my friend Nelson who said the following to me:
“I can see you in the role.”
It was the beginning of February when he shared a link over LinkedIn about an open role at AWS. He had recently joined Amazon Web Services from a bank and seemed pretty happy. While I was grateful for the consideration though, I enjoyed the freedom of startups. What could AWS possibly offer?
Ironically, jumping into the startup world was not something I had expected over a decade ago. I had been comfortable working in bigger, established firms doing management consulting and enterprise sales. I had gotten progressively more senior roles, better salary, and the work was relatively interesting and intellectually stimulating.
Something always gnawed at me though, the desire to experiment and test crazy ideas. I had some of that freedom in my consulting days, crafting several new service offerings and collaborating with customers on new solutions. Even at places like Siebel, thinking big often lead me to better outcomes.
Eventually my quest for more money and bigger roles led me to a “big enterprise tech” company. There was the promise of autonomy, authority, and visibility. What I walked into instead was the relentless and soulless machine of a bureaucracy that crushed all joy from my working life.
Every single thing was a chore. The deal reviews for even the most minimal of deals took forever and always elicited endless rounds of questions. Every decision was second-guessed. Every email was an ongoing chain of CYA* replies and deflections. Every meeting required a busload of people that added nothing to the agenda.
The most frustrating thing to experience though were the endless choruses of no. In my conversations with CTO’s and CIO’s, we would often talk about ways of accelerating value to the business. Out of these discussions emerged many ideas, some tactical and immediately actionable and others audacious in scope and scale. When I brought these back to “big enterprise tech” firm, I would be met with either stone cold silence or “that’s not what we do”.