You Be You – I’ll Be Me.

I recently had the opportunity of a lifetime (at least, for some it would be).  I was offered a role with the world’s largest social media company, working in a special business unit within the company, to be a part of a team that is building a suite of products that one day soon are going to be available and truly amazing to all.

I took their offer, and on my first day of employment found myself on a plane headed to Hong Kong to meet with other members of my global team.  It was a real head spinner, and the trip was only a week.  Week number two was spent on campus in Menlo Park, getting acquainted with more of the team and acclimated to the product, the product plans and the current status, partnerships and challenges.  For the next three months, there were meetings, trips, lots of planning and strategy sessions, cross functional discussions with key partnerships, lots of legal documents to review, rewrite and refine, and defining of yet-to-be-created processes.  All good stuff, working alongside some very bright, energetic and talented people.  And then I decided to leave the company.

Why?  Why walk away from something this spectacular?  This could have easily been the pinnacle of my career.  It was the largest employer I’ve ever worked for- in a very desirable work environment- surrounded by intelligent, motivated and enthusiastic coworkers- so what’s wrong with that?

Probably the best way I could phrase my response to these questions would be to answer with something simple- “it wasn’t right for me”.  Here’s the thing- to use an analogy, let’s talk about watches.  Yes, wrist watches.

Brands such as Rolex, Breitling, or Patek Philippe,  are known for their craftsmanship, and they are known throughout the world for making some of the finest and most expensive timepieces on the planet.  If I were in the market, and decided to buy a watch (I have too many watches as it is)- would I buy a Rolex?  A Breitling?  Maybe, or maybe not.  Suppose I did- knowing me, I’d probably not wear it.  It just wouldn’t be me.  Nothing wrong with the watch- it just wouldn’t suit my needs.  It wouldn’t feel right for me personally.   And I’m okay with that.

Same thing is true here as well.  Being a part of a mega company is a great opportunity for the right person.  The work could be rewarding, there’s a spirit of high energy all around, and the perks- chefs cook meals for you throughout the day (free), there’s a fully stocked “microkitchen” in every building with everything imaginable in it (free again), there are even free vending machines that dispense keyboards, mice, smart phone cables, power cords, ear buds, whatever you need- and on the main campus, it’s literally Disney-like in it’s layout and food and services offerings.  A couple of my older kids would probably love to work here.  We even had our own version of a free Uber-like service, where a car would pick you up at your building lobby and take you over to another building on campus whenever needed.  I could go on and on, but you get it.

So what’s my deal?  I‘m a true start-up guy at heart.  I’m underway now with another great opportunity with a small company that’s just starting to get off the ground and needs someone like me, with my experience and background, to help them grow and scale and get to the next levels of success in their particular industry.  I’ve been fortunate to work in several different industries, which, as it turns out, provides me with a great platform to help lots of different companies with their strategy, their partnerships and leverage my own network to help move them towards success.  I love what I do, and I enjoy the sense of reward and camaraderie that comes with working with start-up companies.  I’ve been fortunate in Silicon Valley, to have been a part of several successful teams and companies, all of which are still thriving here in northern California and abroad.  The “social media mega company” was a good experience for me, as it taught me more about myself and my values.  Although it didn’t work out as anticipated, I’m sure great things are ahead for the team I was fortunate to have been a part of – even briefly.  I’m anticipating great things next year as they get closer to launch with their new products (some very cool things in the works).

For me, I’ll continue to cultivate my passion for Operations and Supply Chain excellence, working closely with my new team- and injecting my experiences, my skill set and my personality into our business plans and future goals- we have some lofty ambitions here for the months ahead!

Hamster wheels and Marathons.

hamster-wheel-03.600If you read any of my blog posts and have wondered why I disappeared, I apologize.

I enjoy writing as it allows me to express myself and put “on paper” a fair amount of stuff floating around in my head (and heart) at various points in time.  But over the last couple of months (since January, really) I’ve been busy…too busy at times even to write.  And it seems, each time I try to carve out some space to be alone with my writings, I have been either interrupted or mentally challenged and unable to focus.  I know you know exactly what I am talking about…we’ve all been there.

Work and life in general can get to a crazy level of busyness at times.  I transitioned in my work life from a smaller, consumer goods start-up that I had been with the last three years, to a high-tech, “Internet of Things” company on a fast track with a major corporate parent company this past January….and life’s been a little crazy in the process.  I’m working with some genius level people with great ideas (product ideas) that will make life as we know it change dramatically over the next few years.  It’s pretty cool tech and some forward (almost Orwellian) thinking about our quality of life, what we do and how we live life.  In the not too distant future (aka this year) you’ll likely see products that I’ve had a hand in bringing to market appear on your television sets and in your local electronics retailers…very cool stuff that can improve your life, ease some every day stresses and will merge technology with your physical world.  Enough said–it’s exciting stuff.

At times, life in a start-up can feel very much like a perpetual hamster wheel...a lot of movement, without necessarily getting from point A to point B.   There are many (too many at times) “cooks in the kitchen”  and everyone offers their take on the latest project you are working on.  The office environment is wide open, and at times the noise level, given the activity level, can get downright crazy (thank God for noise canceling headphones).  In my particular case, I work in a renovated old school theater from the 1930’s (I’m guessing), in a downtown area about 3 or 4 blocks from the Stanford University campus.  It’s a busy place, to be sure, and the demand and pace of such an enterprise isn’t for the faint of heart.  I’ve done this kind of thing now for almost more than 25 years and plan to write a book about my experiences, all of which have been in Silicon Valley.

Given this pace of recent months, I have had to learn (anew) how to “gear down”, slow my own pace during my off hours, to try to balance life a little.  In my younger days, I’d just continue to run, but now, at this stage in life, I’m starting to appreciate more the journey than the arrival destination.  That’s important for me, personally and professionally, as it should be to you also.

Learning to appreciate and embrace where you are while you are there can tremendously improve your outlook on life.  I had this thought recently as I arrived home to find my wife attempting to build a security gate for our dog (something to keep Jazmine further in the back area of our home with less access to the front gates of the house).  I jumped on this project to relieve her struggle (my wife will take on just about anything–she’s pretty handy with most power tools) and because it provided me with a complete diversion from my day-to-day duties in the high-tech world.  I thoroughly enjoyed the project and the gate worked out well (great design by my wife, and I’ll take credit for the installation and locking mechanism)…and I can incorporate a piece of my company’s tech into it as well, just for fun and to keep tabs on Jazmine (sorry Jazzy–really, I do trust you).  And the life lesson is simple–find ways to keep a balance in your life.  Busy is fine and needed at times (busy and productive, not just busy, by the way, but that’s another topic)–but it’s good to balance life, to enjoy the journey and to pace yourself.  The longer I am here the more convinced I am that we are all in a long distance marathon, not a sprint race.