Why I Quit a $500K Job at Amazon to Work for Myself

Daniel Vassallo on June 29, 2019

Only Intrinsic Motivation Lasts Last February I left my cushy job at Amazon after 8 years. Despite getting rewarded repeatedly with prom... [Read Full]
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Not gonna lie, I would of done the same shit tbh. Why? Because misery leads to depression and ultimately our downfall. But in all honesty since I am a family man, I tend to keep myself motivated and busy by contributing to FOSS projects. 15-20k a month is...I really don’t have any words other than I’m flabbergasted! I wish you the best on your endeavors and hope I can get to that peak myself and find out where it’ll take me in the end. Thank you for sharing your story with us!!


Thank you. To be fair, I wasn’t in a miserable job—which paradoxically made it harder to leave. But at one point I realized that a career as an employee wasn’t the ideal one for me, and I’m happy to sacrifice my income potential for a chance to work for myself. If I can earn enough to cover my expenses while working for myself, this move would have been a great trade off for me, even if I never get to earn the same amount as I did working for a big company.


Here’s my full income progression:

2009: $40K - My first full year as as programmer. Worked for a small company doing GPS vehicle tracking in Europe.
2010: $30K - Left my job in April, moved to Dublin, and joined Amazon in November, as an SDE-1 (entry level) in the AWS CloudWatch team.
2011: $75K - Still at Amazon, same team.
2012: $120K - Moved to Seattle with the same team. Promoted to SDE-2.
2013: $150K - Still at Amazon, same team.
2014: $185K - Promoted to SDE-3 (senior level), same team.
2015: $230K - Still at Amazon, same team.
2016: $390K - In April I got a competing offer from Oracle at $370K and Amazon matched it.
2017: $470K - Still at Amazon. I led the development of CloudWatch Logs Insights: aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-amazo.... Income increase over 2016 was mostly from AMZN stock growth.
2018: $511K - Helped the team launch CWL Insights at re:Invent in November. Income increase over 2016 was again mostly from AMZN stock growth.
2019: Left Amazon last February.

All figures are gross income as shown in my W2. My last 3 year-end (Dec) paystubs here for those curious: imgur.com/a/EgIVQln


Thanks for the response.. What is R.S.U Vest? Does everyone get that at Amazon?

It's a payment in AMZN stock instead of cash. Amazon, like most public companies, has a cap on cash compensation, and pays the rest in stock. Public companies prefer to do this because stock compensation doesn't come out from the company's bank account, but comes out from diluting their total shares. But to the employee, these end up as cash in the bank account, just like regular cash compensation. They are taxed the same as well.

At Amazon the cash cap is $160K. Anything over that amount gets payed in stock (RSUs).


Salaries for juniors (college grads) in Silicon Valley are around $100/120k.

He's clearly a senior and worked at a company whose revenue is 232 billion dollars and pays no federal taxes in the US.

500K a year, if you're really good, is not insane if you put in this perspective.

Still is a lot of money, that's true :D


True. I've heard the same about devs in Silicon Valley. These pay figures are definitely not the same across the world. Many factors to consider there, of course, like cost of living.. In Nairobi, such salaries are reserved for those in management.

I don't think 500k is a normal salary even in SV but it's more likely to be reached in big companies than in startups.

It's a lot of money everywhere!


I'm with Daniel on this one (well, ok not the silly money part - although I'm paid enough that I don't have to worry about short term finance), my career has been through a few of these cycles, and I know friends and colleagues who intentionally avoid interesting things because of where they may end up (the "nobody admits to being a DBA" rule). Right now, I'm planning my exit from commercial work, retiring in fact, to get that independence back. I might come join you just for fun :)


Come on, you can be now indipendent because you probably stockpiled on money and Amazon stocks.

You have the privilege to try to find your way with a huge comfortable pile of money on your bank account.

You’re not trying to make a living. You’re just trying to find a way to not get bored ;-)

I’m not saying it’s wrong, but that’s not really how you write it down ;-)


I think the biggest privilege I have is actually not my savings, but the knowledge that it probably shouldn’t be hard to find a job that covers my expenses if things don’t work out. It’s unlikely that I can get in the same position I left with the same compensation, but I’m okay with that.

I did manage to save about 5.5 years of expenses before leaving. But I’m 35 with 2 small kids (2 and 4), so I definitely need to earn a living. Having a decent amount of savings definitely helped with the change, but I believe I would have still left if I had less or no savings. If that was the case, I would have probably tried to find a part-time remote job (or contracting) that would have allowed me to do something for myself while still paying the bills.


I am younger but I had to leave a job twice, the loses from the last one was 60K Euro in shares if I stayed one more month and 48K Euro salary. A small amount of $$ for west but in Greece is considered a decent one, especially for a 25years old person and for such short time. I feel that both of my decisions were correct. A company must keep the developers motivated on interesting projects and push them to their high potentials otherwise the developer can leave and continue by starting a project of her/his own and be more succeed and competitive. I am lucky because for the past three years I maintain a project of 15k stars on github(you can check it out at: iris-go.com) with very high number of installations per day so I speak from a "safe" place but I really mean it, without risks you can't fill your dreams.


Thank you for sharing your journey! I can definitely relate in some ways. I'll be following your project as I think it has immense value. All the best to you!

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