In 2004, I attended a talk by Margaret Heffernan at a business women’s club in Milan. She was launching her then new book, The Naked Truth, and one of the key lessons she shared was that we all should be striving to earn “walk-away money” – the amount of money you’d need to safely walk away from any job or situation, while still being able to support yourself for as long as needed.
“Walk-away money” is the polite phrase; it’s also called “fuck-you money.”
Another term for it is freedom.
At the time, having walk-away money seemed an impossible dream for me. In 2008 I returned to the US and better employment opportunities, but there the need to maintain steady health insurance was a limiting factor: each time I was ready to leave a job, I had to make damn sure I had a new one lined up before I quit. Finding that next job has never been easy. My career has not been readily understood by employers looking to fill standard roles, so I was rarely actively head-hunted.
That began to change when I joined Amazon. I had heard that having any of the FAANGS on my resumé would be a huge career boost. This turned out to be true: as soon as my LinkedIn profile contained “AWS,” I started to hear from recruiters. They came knocking more often after I became a Senior Product Marketing Manager at AWS: product marketing is a job function that people can get their heads around. I’ve had a steady drumbeat of interest from hirers since we moved to Australia, for both local and remote roles.
But, having finally become someone whom employers pro-actively seek out, I no longer care. Because I recently realized something else: I now live (again) in a country with a good public health system, so I don’t need to stay employed just to have health insurance. And I now have fuck-you money (for which, in part, I must thank Amazon). It’s not all that much, but it’s enough to meet my expenses and obligations for probably the rest of my life. I don’t aspire to great wealth, and right now time is more valuable to me than money.
So I have given notice at AWS. I’m using up vacation days this week and next, then will be available to finish handing off tasks and answering questions until my last day, September 2nd.
I don’t have another job lined up, and I’m not looking for one. For the time being, I’m going to rest, recover, and take time to reflect on the nearly 40 years of my life that I’ve worked in tech – and why I wanted to. I have many stories to tell, and I’m gathering the energy to tell them.
ps After 4+ months off, in January 2022 I became Director of Open Source Community and Evangelism at Intel, a company I have long admired.