Beloved Jeopardy! contestant Amy Schneider achieved an historic 40-game winning streak, the second-longest consecutive win streak in the show's 38-season history, before losing to Rhone Talsma, a librarian from Chicago. Still, there's much to celebrate: Schneider made history as the first woman on the show to win more than $1 million (in total, she won $1,382,800) and the first trans person to qualify for the Tournament of Champions. On February 8, 2022, less than two weeks after her final episode aired, Schneider announced on Twitter that she quit her day job as a software engineer and will focus on her new life as a public figure. Here, in her own words, Schneider tells Marie Claire how she came to this decision, and what fans can expect from her in the months ahead.
Life has been pretty nonstop since I ended my Jeopardy! run. I thought things would calm down a little bit. They really haven't. A lot of people want to meet with me and see if there are ways I can work with them. It's just been a crazy time. I never thought I would go as far as I did in Jeopardy!. I told everybody in the beginning, “I feel like I could win three or four games if things go my way,” and that was pretty much about as much as I was expecting.
I was certainly sad when my 40-win Jeopardy! streak ended. I'd been having a lot of fun and I really hated to see that end, but there was a certain relief as well. I had a feeling I was getting towards the end. It was just really tiring and I could just feel that I was kind of losing a bit of an edge that I had. So I wasn't really that shocked when it happened.
In early February, I decided to quit my day job as a software engineer at Fieldwire, which makes software for construction projects. I'd been dissatisfied with my career for a bit. Like a lot of people during COVID, it was a time to think, is this really what I want to be doing with my life? So my intent was to quit at some point when I had the flexibility to do that. After my Jeopardy! episodes stopped airing, I was planning to stick around for a bit longer and figure out whether quitting was sustainable. That plan was based on the idea that there was going to be a bit of a lull after the episodes stopped airing. That turned out not to be the case.
One day, I had all of these meetings with producers and stuff. But also, I really needed to finish something for my day job. And I was just like, I'm not going to do that. I have no interest in it whatsoever. It's so much less interesting than everything else I have going on. So I said to myself, well, then, that's it. This is the time. And I set up a meeting with my manager.
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When my episodes started airing, I was a software manager. I was leading a team of engineers and we were working on the backend, which is basically all of the stuff the user can't see that keeps everything else running. That's always what I've been most interested in. I liked getting into the weeds of how things work. Keeping everything else afloat. Over the course of my Jeopardy! run, with missing that much time, I felt like I just wasn't able to give my team the attention they deserve. So, at that point, I stepped back into an individual contributor role, which means I was fixing bugs, creating new features, and working on whatever tasks were coming up on a given day.
My bosses at the time knew I was going to be on Jeopardy! I couldn't explicitly tell them the results and that I was winning, but I kept going down to the studio so if they wanted to figure it out, they could. I used my PTO, but then I ran out of that and used some unpaid days. I actually had originally been scheduled to be on Jeopardy! a year previously—before I had started at this job—so they knew this was something I was going to be doing at some point. It had gotten long enough where I was like, "Did people think I was making that up?" They were pretty excited that the call had finally come.
The pivot from software engineer to public figure has made a big difference in my life thus far. One of the biggest things has been time management. I'm sort of my own boss now. I've got more work to do than there are hours in the day, so I've been figuring out how to do that, when I can delegate things, how to manage, how to do work-life balance and not neglect my other relationships, and just not lose track of the many, many email threads that I'm involved in. That's all been an interesting challenge.
I don't want to ever go back to a day job. I just finished a proposal for a book. The book is closest to a memoir, but I'm thinking of it more as a collection of essays. I want to be able to explore ideas I'm interested in that don't necessarily have a direct relationship to my life—various ideas I've often wondered about. One of them is going to be about what money is. It's sort of a weird concept. What gives a dollar bill its value? That sort of thing is something I've thought about a lot over the years. It’s also kind of related to being trans, but more generally questions of language and identity are also things that I'm interested in. The book is a hybrid essay collection and memoir as I have it now, but we'll see how it evolves.
I'm also having a lot of other meetings. There are people talking to me about other game show-type things, talking about more general educational, informational-type stuff, possibly on TV. Podcasting. A lot of stuff that's all still very early and tentative, but there are a lot of interesting possibilities. [Editor’s note: Schneider recently signed with talent agency CAA.] A year from now, I hope to have some sort of project, whether it's a podcast, a television show, who knows what, that's an ongoing thing which is my steady job, if you will. And I'd like to have other things going on around that potentially. But my goal is to get to a point where I say, "This is what I do. There may be other projects I have on the side, but this is my thing."
As for how I’m spending the $1.38 million I won on Jeopardy!, I'm definitely figuring out what charities I want to support. That's on the priority list. Otherwise, I think for the most part, my partner and I are just going to sit on it for the time being, let it grow a little bit, and wait until I can have a better idea of what my financial future really looks like.
I'm looking forward to, in a way, being a grown up. Working as an engineer in tech, once you know how to write software, it really doesn't demand that much of you. It's pretty easy money, to be honest. So now I'm going to have to really learn how to manage myself, how to be more productive, how to be more organized, how to take things more seriously. I think the other thing is to really learn what I want as I go through this process. To learn what it is that I'm really responding to. What is it that I'm looking for? What would drive me to really dedicate myself to a project? And also looking at being more assertive as my own boss. It's taken me a bit to realize that all of these people who are reaching out to me, they're not doing me favors. I have something they want. It doesn't come naturally to me to feel that way, so I’m trying to own my power.
The positive reception from the show has been great and surprising. I expected a lot of negativity, a lot of transphobic people coming out of the woodwork and attacking me because I've seen it happen online to other people. So I was really bracing myself for that, and then it really didn't happen. It’s just good to remember some of my skepticism about how people would be, and that people are better than I thought they were.
One of my fondest memories on the show was after I lost on that last day, and then I hung around until the end of the day to do some promotional stuff for the show. When I was basically wrapped for the day, the crew gave me a round of applause. It's only the people who are in the studio who really know what the process is like and how intense it is, what a grind it is. For them to show me that respect and to feel like I'd earned it, it really meant a lot to me.
I just want fans to know that there is going to be another chapter. You haven't seen the last of me. I'm definitely going to still be out there. I don't know what it's going to be like beyond that, but I'm excited for people to follow me as it goes.
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