Recently I made an announcement on LinkedIn about my departure from Amazon so I could go back to being self-employed. This was during a time where all the FAANG companies and many of the fortune 500 companies started to make mass layoffs (tens of thousands) as companies were preparing for another economic recession. As I informed family, friends, and prior coworkers, the most common response I received as was “that is a bold move and a bit risky in today’s economic climate.”
That made me pause and think, I didn’t see this move as risky at all, why would others? That’s when I identified that risk is really a subjective opinion based on what an individual values. Risks are identified when there are unknowns, risks are also identified if something you value can be lost or damaged. This seems like a basic understanding of the definition of risk, but many believe that what they perceive as risk should be universal.
Another great example of universally defined risk comes from Amazon’s Well-Architected Framework. I have conducted over 300 Well-Architected reviews, contributed to the best practices and have memorized the framework so that I can use it in my evaluations, recommendations and plannings around technical solutions. Currently, the Well-Architected Framework has a list of universal High and Medium Risk items along with the best architected recommendations. These universal risks are across all industries and all company types and sizes. So, this contradicts the concept that risk is subjective, can vary greatly from person to person, as well as from company to company. What one person or company may consider to be a high-risk issue, another may view as low-risk. This subjectivity can make it difficult to evaluate risk objectively. Personally, with the 300+ technical workloads I have reviewed or built, I believe many of them had a different priority of risks, based on the organizations context and values. For example, many startups valued the time to market more than reliability. Those startups knew that many of the early adopters of their applications would tolerate downtime and buggy software more than missing the ideal release date.
So risks are different from person to person… back to the original comment, was leaving a huge enterprise company, a steady paycheck and great benefits a risk to me? No! During my career, I have learned to treasure innovation, ambition, education, diversity and responsibility more than a steady paycheck and great benefits and I knew that I would experience those attributes if I went back to being self-employed. It was something I could control and create. So for me, it was less of a risk than staying at Amazon.
I wish I had this response ready when I received those comments about making a risky move in my career. Oh well, now I know how to respond, that for me, being self-employed is a lot less risky than working for a FAANG company.