- What an AMA is.
- How I ended up hosting an AMA.
- What it’s like hosting an AMA.
- The good, the bad, and the ugly… and more.
I hope you enjoy this peek behind the scenes!
My Blind AMA
The screen capture above is from the intro post for my Blind AMA. It generated a lot of interest, but was also very polarizing. (More about this later.)
You can view the AMA and read the comments without becoming a Blind member. However, if you’d like to leave a comment, you’ll need to register with a company email address.
So, what is an AMA anyway?
AMA stands for Ask Me Anything. In a typical AMA, someone with an interesting background, career or interest volunteers to be the interviewee for the AMA. AMAs typically last one to three hours but can be shorter or much longer.
During the AMA, users log on and ask questions while the interviewee answers in real-time. (The interviewee can also choose to continue answering questions even after the ‘live’ AMA ends.)
AMAs have existed in different forms since the 1990s, but never really took off until Reddit created the IAmA subreddit in 2009. Since then, AMAs have become mainstream and appear on other platforms outside of Reddit (such as Blind).
Here’s an excellent article from The Atlantic for more on the history of AMAs.
Blind is an anonymous network, mostly for tech workers in the US. Here’s the official description from Blind:
Blind is an anonymous workplace network where verified professionals connect to discuss what matters most. Professionals anonymously communicate in private company channels and openly with users across industries. Blind is a place where 4 million professionals worldwide share advice, provide honest perspectives, discuss company culture, and discover relevant career information.
Blind is a platform for change. Our mission towards transparency breaks down professional barriers, empowering informed decisions, and inspiring productive change in the workplace.
How did I end up hosting an AMA?
Recently, another FIRE blogger, Engineer Seeking FIRE, did an AMA on Blind and blogged about it. I thought this was a cool idea. (If you’re in the high-tech space and interested in career advice or how to optimize your path to FIRE, take a look at the AMA post from Engineer Seeking FIRE.)
I reached out to the Blind team to ask if they’d be interested in having me host an AMA on FIRE. After some back and forth, they agreed!
How does it work?
At 3 pm on the agreed-upon date, I posted my pre-approved AMA intro post. In it, I gave a brief intro to FIRE and listed the topics I was happy to discuss. Users slowly trickled in and posted their questions.
I answered them as quickly as I could (while still trying to be detailed and helpful). Eventually, keeping up with questions in real-time became impossible. It wasn’t easy, but I had to try and ignore the flood of new questions that kept coming in.
I focused on answering the oldest questions first, working my way up. I didn’t stop until around midnight—even though there was still a huge pile of questions to answer! I returned to it the next day for another seven hours, then for an hour or so the next couple of days.
After about four days, the questions stopped and the AMA was basically over.
Was it stressful?
To be honest, most of my stress happened in the lead-up to the AMA. I’ve never done anything like this, and I worried I wouldn’t do a good job or that I’d fail the Blind team.
During the AMA, it was more exciting and fun than it was stressful. In fact, I was so busy and engaged that I didn’t feel hungry, and skipped dinner. (Probably a good thing anyway, since there wasn’t time to stop and eat!)
It also helped that my family was supportive and gave me time to do the AMA, even though it took me away for a total of over 16 hours!
Why even do an AMA?
Someone asked me this on the AMA, and this was my reply:
Because I LOVE FIRE! I love talking about it and helping others to discover it. The freedom it can give you is so amazing, and I want others to have that freedom.
I genuinely enjoy conversing with those who might be interested in FIRE, are curious and open to learning. I hoped to have some meaningful discussions through my AMA, and I did. 🙂
Of course, a likely side benefit was that some of those users might visit my blog and/or share it with others. However (despite what some angry commenters believed) that was truly just a side benefit and not my driving motivation for the AMA.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
Now that the AMA is done and the questions have stopped coming in, I’ve had time to reflect on the crazy, whirlwind experience that it was. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from my AMA:
There was a lot of good that came from my AMA, including some interesting things I realized:
Blind users are financially and FIRE savvy
Before my AMA, I assumed that tech workers would be similar to the general population—fairly average in financial knowledge with some knowledge about FIRE, but little or no interest in pursuing it. Happily, I was proven wrong.
I found most commenters to be very savvy and already on a strong financial path. Many have been working towards FIRE for years and had lots of helpful information (and corrections) to share.
As a personal finance blogger, it thrills me that so many young, successful people are managing their money well and have solid plans for their future.
There’s a lot of potential in tech
My AMA gave me a peek into the salaries and benefits that tech workers receive. I was stunned by the TC (total compensation) numbers being discussed—even for young workers just starting out.
It also sounds like there are many opportunities to move up and around. Additionally, each move is an opportunity to negotiate for more compensation. While tech jobs can be stressful and aren’t a great fit for everyone, the high pay can lead to a fast track to FIRE.
I deepened my knowledge
I’ve been fully immersed in the US FIRE scene since 2014, so am very familiar with US retirement accounts and tax strategies. However, I still took some time to refresh my knowledge by reading up on the basics and more advanced strategies.
This helped deepen my understanding of US taxation and accounts, which also helped me to better-understand Canadian taxation and accounts.
I also learned from commenters through their stories, questions, suggestions and corrections. Thank you to all who took the time to converse with me on my AMA.
I ventured out of my comfort zone
To be honest, it was scary doing the AMA. I had to push myself out of my comfort zone when volunteering to do the AMA, then again when answering complex questions during the AMA.
It wasn’t easy, but in uncomfortable moments like these, I try to remember this quote from Ray Kroc: “Are you green and growing or ripe and rotting?” I prefer to grow—and frequently getting out of my comfort zone is one of the best ways to do that.
I truly enjoyed the conversations with those who were interested, curious, and wanting to learn (and teach). That’s what I was hoping for from the AMA, and I got it in spades.
It was incredibly heartwarming and inspiring to hear of the hard work and progress so many of the commenters were making. Discussions like these are what keep me interested and engaged in the FIRE community.
The Blind team
I was so impressed with the team I worked with at Blind. They’re fiercely protective of their users and platform and were very careful when vetting me. They’re also uber-organized, and have the AMA process down to a science!
They were so supportive and provided me with an abundance of feedback and encouragement throughout the AMA process. Thank you, Blind team—you know who you are!
Thankfully, there was very little that was bad (and it’s all quite minor):
The lead-up was stressful
As I’ve already mentioned, the days leading up the AMA were very stressful. I was not only worried about the AMA itself, but I also worked furiously to finish my Ultimate Guide to ESPPs and RSUs.
(Many tech workers receive ESPPs and RSUs as part of their compensation, so I wanted to publish the guide in time for the Blind AMA… and I just made it!)
The Blind interface slowed me down
This is my only complaint about Blind—the UX (user experience) could use some improvement. The biggest issue was every time I posted a reply, the page would refresh and jump down to the bottom of the page.
I’d then have to scroll back up, re-expand the collapsed comment trees, scroll back to where I was, then reply to the next comment. Having to do this hundreds of times really slowed me down!
The interface is otherwise very clean and easy to use, so I can’t really fault Blind for this. The UX was probably designed for a normal user and not an AMA host who’s answering hundreds of questions over many hours!
It took over my life for two days
This wasn’t bad in the sense that I was happy to spend my time this way. (I enjoyed it very much!) But with a husband, two kids and a dog, it’s not easy to come by this kind of time!
Fortunately, as mentioned, my husband M was very supportive and helped to clear the schedule and take care of everything while I was occupied.
Fortunately, there was only one ugly thing… and that was the negative comments (of which I received plenty.) They were unexpected and such a departure from what I’m used to in the personal finance community.
Truth be told, the negativity was a little overwhelming and some of it really stung.
I’m always open to being told I’m wrong and having a polite discussion about it. (That’s how we all learn.) But I couldn’t understand the rudeness, insults and condescending attacks. There are better, more constructive ways to disagree with others.
It doesn’t have to be so hurtful and negative! 😢
My final takeaways
Despite the negativity, the AMA was wonderful—in large part because it was such an amazing learning experience. To wrap up this post, here are some of the interesting things I took away from the experience:
- FIRE was nothing new to most of the commenters. (This is great news—it means the FIRE is indeed spreading!)
- Unfortunately, FIRE myths persist amongst the doubters: it’s a scam; it’s for people who don’t want to spend money; no one who FIREs actually retires; FIRE bloggers only reach FIRE because of the income from their blogs.
- AMAs are a fun, unique way to connect.
- You’ll be asked questions that’ll make you think.
- You’ll learn new things.
- You’ll see the best and worst of people.
- Blind is designed so that users are completely safe to be honest and open.
- This makes it an amazing resource if you’re in the tech industry (particularly in the US).
- It’s a treasure trove of insider information.
- If I worked in the US tech industry, I would be on Blind all the time—it’s that useful.
About negative comments
- Don’t take it personally.
- Ignoring doesn’t always work, but it often does. (I should’ve done more of this. The naysayers don’t want to listen anyway and can’t be convinced.)
- Learn from them—sometimes there’s a grain of truth buried in the negativity.
- Focus on the positive comments and those that come to your defence.
So, would I do it again? Yes, definitely. The AMA was a fun, new challenge for me. Even though the negativity was hard to deal with, it became an important learning experience. If you ever have an opportunity to do an AMA, I say go for it! (But go in with a thick skin.)
Let’s continue the AMA here in the comments—go ahead and AMA about my AMA experience (or my thoughts on FIRE). I’d be happy to answer your questions!
My interview with Blind
After my AMA, Blind reached out to ask if was interested in doing an interview with them about my AMA, FIRE, and blogging. I was thrilled to be asked and eagerly agreed. You can find my interview on the Blind Blog. Thanks again for everything, Blind!
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