As of December I’m working for Amazon. This will be different from my last few gigs; in particular, don’t expect to read about it here.
The preaching and coding around privacy and security I’ve been doing these last few months has been a blast, but it doesn’t seem to be a paying job nor even a coherent organized project, the kind with co-workers. And Amazon is offering me one of those, so here I am with a smile on my face.
What I will and won’t be doing · I’ll be working on AWS. And that’s all I’m saying, because this isn’t an outward-facing job; for the first time in oh-so-long, I’m back in the full-time engineering trenches. So don’t come here looking for opinions about The Cloud.
Why? · Well, the work looks interesting, I found myself in tune with the people I’ve talked to so far, and the pay is decent. But there are big intangibles: It turns out that Amazon is investing in Vancouver, big-time. They’re taking several floors of Telus Garden, one of the more interesting local real-estate build-outs. And they’ve got the go-ahead to build a huge engineering team here. Which touches a couple of my hot buttons.
First, I am totally sick of working remotely. I want to go and work in rooms with other people working on the same things that I am.
Second, I’m a passionate Vancouverite. I was really, really, irritated that I couldn’t go on doing the work that I loved at Google because Google isn’t here and I won’t go there. There’s this long sad history in which anyone who does something surprising and excellent in Vancouver suddenly finds themselves doing it in Cupertino or Mountain View or SoMa.
This town has loads of talent; it needs an anchor tenant offering world-class pay and demanding world-class skills. Amazon’s build-out should attract good people, boost the ecosystem, and spin off startups.
Well then, and cloud tech too! It’s ruthlessly competitive, more or less every developer needs it, and there’s no doubt whatsoever that anything you ship is gonna get used big-time if it’s any good.
My new employer · I’ve already disclosed that I Amazon-tag things I review here and thus haven’t paid for a book there in years. I wonder if I can go on doing that as an employee?
As for Amazon generally? I’ve long been a fan of AWS (and its competitors too) if only because they help entrepreneurs avoid the VC tarpit. As for the rest of the company, I genuinely don’t have an opinion, since I don’t understand retail generally or the book biz in particular. The company’s large-scale strategy is obviously unconventional and nobody knows how it’s going to play out. One of today’s really interesting business stories, I’d say. Fun!
I do seriously like it that there’s no distinction between an Amazon user and an Amazon customer. I remain broadly in sympathy with most of what Google is trying to do, but that user/customer divide is discomforting.
The commute · I walk or bike 8½ blocks to the subway, ride it 4 stops, walk 3 more blocks and I’m at work. With other people. On interesting problems. In my home town. What’s not to like?
Comment feed for ongoing:
From: Geoff Arnold (Nov 30 2014, at 21:40)
Congratulations, Tim. It'll be interesting to see how Amazon works for you, especially being remote. I was there 2006-2009, living in Seattle, and I felt that being remote was a tough gig. And while I'm sure you won't be blogging about your work - that was a VERY strict policy while I was there - it's encouraging to see Amazon opening the [technical] kimono a bit. James Hamilton's re:Invent talk was excellent.
From: Bob Monsour (Nov 30 2014, at 21:51)
Congratulations! I don't know you, but know enough of you from your ramblings here...and I think I can say that Amazon is fortunate and I know that I can say that I'm happy for you.
There are a few people who blog on the weekends and it's always nice to see one of yours show up in my feed. I do hope you'll continue writing (and sharing photos) here, even if you can't talk about work.
From: Bud Gibson (Nov 30 2014, at 22:06)
Great news, Tim. You seem as community focused as ever. Vancouver is a great town. I agree on the user/Customer thing at Google. It's stopped them at times from making great products.
As of tomorrow, I'll have followed your blog through three companies. I wonder how long you'll stick to a purely engineering role.
From: Boris Mann (Nov 30 2014, at 22:15)
Congrats, Tim. Will great to see you local.
From: James Roper (Nov 30 2014, at 22:15)
Since when did becoming a full time engineer equate to losing opinions on things? I certainly hope as you get intimately acquainted with the company that leads the cloud industry, that you publish some insightful opinions here and there to publish about cloud computing.
From: Dominik Schürmann (Nov 30 2014, at 22:41)
Congratulations! I fully understand your desire to work with people face to face. One of the most enjoyable things in my job at the university are heated discussions with students. Working remote eliminates passion.
From: PB (Nov 30 2014, at 23:11)
Congratulations on the gig. I guess I could describe myself as a bit the other way around: In the States, but always enjoying my visits north and the people I meet, and the towns. If it were an option, I'd gladly take such a role in Vancouver, or Montréal, or maybe even the oil patch (maybe...).
Anyway, the purpose of my comment is to take a small advantage of a moment's attention from an Amazon person. Albeit a new one, but one who is fairly well connected in a more general sense.
Amazon needs to deal with "the warehouse situation". Speaking personally (and yes, anecdotally), *many* of my friend are increasingly talking about it, and not positively. Such a tech future, we do not want. Treat the people working for you like human beings, whether they are working for you directly or through contractors. (No one is fooled by the latter, whatever the legal angles.)
If you can't do this, that is a more damning indictment of your business model than anything else.
(That includes such things as running the A/C and heat enough to keep things at least halfway comfortable.)
And AWS was built on retail product sales (and/or the investment dollars used to build them), so I don't give them a pass, either.
Amazon wants to be the future. So, behave like it. Don't go all Gibson dystopia on us.
OK, that got kind of advocate-y. My apology for any annoyance, Tim and readers. But it is, well, I'll call it a Costco moment. You can do better.
Wishing you interesting hours at work in a great town.
From: Joe (Nov 30 2014, at 23:51)
Congratulation on the new job! But I am surprised you chose Amazon, given their questionable business ethics and employee policies. Hope it works out for you.
From: Beth Macknik (Dec 01 2014, at 06:17)
Congratulations on the new position. I'm sorry to hear that you won't be working in a community-facing position because I've really enjoyed the insight you've offered into Sun and Google. Very few people provide a good public face for large companies, and you've always done that very well.
That said, I'm sure getting your hands dirty with real engineering will be a refreshing change of pace. And I'm sure that AWS will be the better for it.
From: Lydia Sugarman (Dec 01 2014, at 09:29)
Congratulations! It's reassuring to know that you and people like you are working at/on AWS
So, why don't you just ride your bike all the way to work and skip the train?
From: Doug K (Dec 01 2014, at 10:23)
best of luck Tim, it should be at least interesting..
unfortunately like PB I am having a Costco moment..
"The cloud promises us complete liberation from the mundane world of hardware and infrastructure. It invites us to soar into an astral plane of pure computation, freed from the weary bonds of earth.
What the cloud is is a big collection of buildings and computers that we actually know very little about, run by a large American company notorious for being pretty terrible to its workers. Who knows what angry sysadmin lurks inside the cloud? "
From: Paul (Dec 01 2014, at 11:08)
Congratulations on the new job! I hope this doesn't mean we'll also miss seeing your photos on here.
From: Brian Edmonds (Dec 01 2014, at 13:23)
I hope the new job turns out to be what you're looking for. If Vancouver can become competitive with the Bay, perhaps we'll move back some day. We remember the Yaletown days fondly.
From: Colin Toal (Dec 01 2014, at 14:18)
I have one more reason to be proud to work for Amazon. Looking forward to seeing the impact you have here! (from Amazon YYZ)
From: John (Dec 01 2014, at 15:51)
Tim, it's great that you've been able to find a tech job in Vancouver but frankly I see no future for the industry there given the insane cost of housing (and I'll bet that you bought your house long before the housing bubble inflated prices). I'm a software developer and lived in Vancouver from 2000 - 2005 but at this point would not consider returning given the absurd cost of housing, especially untenable now that I have 3 kids.
From: Paul Clapham (Dec 01 2014, at 17:19)
I didn't know Amazon was opening an office in Vancouver -- and I live in Vancouver! Why aren't our politicians standing up and taking credit for this?
By the way, how many jobs are involved?
From: Curtis Lassam (Dec 03 2014, at 09:47)
I have high hopes for Vancouver's tech scene, being irrevocably tied to it by geography and family. Maybe in five years we'll start seeing a boom - needless umbrella-sharing co-operative apps and what-have-you.
From: Thomas Eneebo (Dec 04 2014, at 07:35)
When did Vancouver get a subway!?!?! :)
From: len (Dec 18 2014, at 05:33)
Fascinating. Many angles to this that would be worthy of discussion given your history and past positions on the web and web work in general. As Dad said, as a man gets older he tends toward quieter music.
"First, I am totally sick of working remotely. I want to go and work in rooms with other people working on the same things that I am."
And that says a lot. Whatever the web has enabled in terms of access, it has proven to be isolating where human emotions matter and exposing where business affairs matter. I can't articulate that succinctly yet, but there are lessons to be learned worthy of articulation. A virtual glass of wine doesn't afford the pleasure of wine. Lessons learned.
From: Matěj Cepl (Dec 19 2014, at 03:53)
@len in the end your comment made me finally write down what I was thinking about for a long time. See it at https://luther.ceplovi.cz/blog/2014/12/19/third-wave-and-telecommuting/