You get a job with Amazon (or Apple, or Facebook, most of them are horrible places to work for one reason or another—they all love overwork). You work for three to five years like a frantic madperson. Then when you hit your mid- to late twenties you go find a more family friendly job with the nest egg you’ve built up. Especially if you are an employee from overseas. Going back to Iceland, Argentina, or India with a big sack of Amazon/Facebook money gives you freedom to do pretty much whatever you want and the space to discover what that actually is.

It’s destructive. It’s unhealthy. But, if you are young enough to tolerate the self-abuse it involves, it makes sense to try.

Baldur Bjarnason on fishing season.

This is, incidentally, also how the mining industry works in Australia; do your three-to-five years fly-in-fly-out in the Pilbara, assuming the work doesn’t kill you, collect your fat sack of cash then fly back to Perth at the end to try and reconnect with your wife1 and kids.

And, perhaps surprisingly, it’s also how banking works. As my husband discovered, there are three kinds of people who do Harvard EMBAs: aggressively driven government employees; heirs and heiresses of capitalist empires; and burnt-out thirty-something Type-A bankers with young families who’re tired of destroying the world economy and want to do something productive with their lives (startups with vaguely altruistic elevator pitches, basically).


Second anecdote: In my old job, I was responsible for integrating AWS into a legacy virtual/physical IT environment. The technical guy I worked with in our little team of two2 was a orchestration/automation guru. The reason AWS got really popular was basically because of all the backend work this guy had done templating out automated server deployments. So now our internal customers went from:

  1. filling in a paper form (yes, really)
  2. faxing it to the service desk (yes, really), and
  3. waiting 3-12 weeks (yes, really)
  4. for someone in the server team to manually create them a virtual server in HyperV (yes, really)


  1. filling in a form on the intranet
  2. waiting twenty minutes for the orchestration scripts to execute
  3. getting a server in AWS.

And this was all done basically by one guy who got told to play with a “proof of concept” AWS deployment then left alone in a corner until suddenly everyone realised our monthly Amazon bills had started to climb from $60 to $60,000. Talk about internal viral service adoption.

Anyway, point being, this guy is one of those quiet legends, and his skills did not go unnoticed by Amazon itself. He got a headhunting call on the sly from the boss-of-the-boss of our AWS technical consultant, and could very easily have gone and gotten a job with the company.

“I would’ve taken it,” he told me later, “maybe five or ten years ago.” But now the guy’s about my age and has a young family. “I asked if I’d have to travel much,” he said, “and they kinda didn’t answer.” So he’d let the opportunity die.

The technical consultant, incidentally, seems to spend his entire time flying between Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra. He’s good value, a wizard with a whiteboard marker, A++ would hire again… but can also be heard muttering occasionally in a way that indicates he has a different relationship with his family than my internal guy.

Two different people in two different corporate cultures. Go figure, I guess.

  1. It almost always will be a wife. It’s mining. And we don’t have marriage equality in Australia. []
  2. Two people responsible for roughly ten percent of the organisation’s server infrastructure, with something like a 15% month-on-month growth. Yeah, no wonder we were fucking hated. []