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Thursday, February 14, 2008

On Leaving Yahoo…

Leaving Yahoo.

Yes, it's true. I've left Yahoo.

It was somewhat overwhelming sifting through the barrage of reactions over the last 48 hours: "Thanks for all you've done", "How could you?!", "Congrats!", etc. It's fascinating to watch people react. I've been taking it all in.

I want to use this post to explain some of the circumstances around my departure.

I came to Yahoo out of a startup that I helped found, and it was my first "real job." I literally expected to stay there one year. I thought it would be a good life experience to see first-hand how a successful, multi-billion dollar corporation operated. But I never expected to build a career there... to retire from Yahoo... or frankly to stay for a multi-year stint.

But this "park there for a year and learn" strategy was out the window in a day. There was such an excitement at Yahoo, and I was taken aback by the level of passion and talent there. This was no place to "park". And not aspiring to climb the corporate ladder there made it easy for me to be cavalier, call shit on stuff I thought was broken, and generally do what I thought was right.

What was most delightful is that I never got the expected "pushback" from management. Instead they were the wind at my back, pouring gas on the fire, inviting me and challenging me to do more and more provocative things. So in this manner, nearly four years flew by. I had a dream job that I had the luxury of creating for myself. It was a perfect fit between my inclinations and abilities, and Yahoo's needs at the time.

The name of the group I created at Yahoo is the Advanced Development Division, or ADD for short. I wanted to be VP of ADD. I was able to retrofit a reasonable acronym back onto the letters and got away with it. I'd generally say, "I head up the ADD group at Yahoo... We work on lots of things, for a little while..." That was generally good for a chuckle... but it's true, that's how the group was designed. (By the way, I don't know a lot about the actual syndrome ADD, and I don't mean to make light of it. Apologies if I am being crass or inappropriate... not my intention.) The point of this paragraph is simply that as VP of ADD, four years is a very long time for me to focus on anything! I am amazed and grateful that Yahoo continued to create circumstances for me that held my full interest and engagement... and hopefully allowed me to make the place a little bit better.

The question should not be "Why are you leaving?", but rather the rhetorical "Isn't it amazing and wonderful that Yahoo created circumstances that allowed you to stay for so long?!"

Starting to thank people is a very slippery slope. Apologies to everyone that I'm surely going to omit, and if you ping me I'll edit the post to try to atone for egregious errors. These are some of the folks that I feel compelled to call out and thank for making my experience at Yahoo so wonderful:

My heartfelt thanks to Eckart Walther, Jeff Weiner, Qi Lu, Raymie Stata, Prabhakar Raghavan, Kiersten Hollars, Dan Rosensweig, Chad Dickerson, Cindy, Kaigene Jau, Ethan Fasset, Joe Hyrkin, Ellen Salisbury, Marc Davis, Joshua Shachter, Wendy Pfeiffer, Doug Crockford, Tim Mayer, Joff Redfern, Meg Garlinghouse, Randy Farmer, Susan Mernit, Marco Boerries, Paul Levine, Jen Dulski, Lorna Borenstein, Scott Gatz, Gary Clayton, Caterina Fake, Salim Ismail, Ian Rogers, Larry Tesler, Joy Mountford, Irene Au, Zod, Phu, Venkat, Terry Semel, Brad Garlinghouse, Toby Coppel, Stewart Butterfield, Libby Sartain, Andrew Braccia, Mor Naaman, Tim Cadogan, Sam Pullara, Tom Coates, Jeremy Zawodny, Mike Marquez, Jeff Karnes, Pasha Sadri & the Pipes team, MyBlogLog team, Andy Baio & Upcoming, Arlo Rose, Sue Decker, Ash Patel, Jerry & Filo.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Yahoo is filled with brilliant, dedicated folks that have inspired me and been incredibly generous to me. Thank you.

FAQ:

Were you laid off?
Ha, I wish. Yahoo provided very humane (even generous) packages and accommodations for those folks. See next question...

Why now?
The timing is a bit unfortunate. I wish I were leaving with Yahoo on top of the world... it'd still be the right thing for me personally. So while the timing may look "suspicious", please don't project your own assumptions onto my decisions. I thought that since so many people were leaving on Tuesday, it'd be a good day for me to slip out unnoticed too.

What about your teams? What happens to Brickhouse?
The teams are in great shape. Salim is also gone, and I arranged to fold the Advanced Product and Brickhouse teams under the leadership of Chad Dickerson. They recently launched Yahoo Live! to much fanfare, and have several more fantastic products in the pipeline. Chad is the man. I have every confidence that the team will thrive under his tenure.

Part of why I feel able to leave is that the teams are rocking, and much of the change I aspired to bring to Yahoo is now baked into the culture. Yahoo has no single-point-of-failure, and I've thought a lot about succession planning. Yahoo and the initiatives I started (or care about) are gonna be just fine without me.

So you've lost faith in Yahoo's strategy, leadership, etc.?
Not in the least. I have been incredibly impressed by (and reasonably close to) the improvements and changes that Sue and Jerry have instituted in the past 6 months. While the search for a "silver bullet" came up short (hey, it was worth looking), I believe the management is doing all the right work to align the team to execute on the new strategy. And the strategy itself? I think it's spot-on, and has already made a huge impact on how the company identifies itself. When I joined 4 years ago, Yahoo was all about what transpired on "*.yahoo.com". That part of Yahoo now self-identifies as our "O&O" (owned and operated) division... In the context of Yahoo's larger ambitions, it's extremely helpful to be a principal in the publishing space (and not just a principal, but amongst the web's largest)... but Yahoo has transformed itself into a company that participates and embraces the open internet ecosystem at large. Yahoo "gets it."

So you don't want to work for Steve Ballmer, eh?
I have no more insight into the current MSFT / YHOO discussions than any avid reader of the NYT, WSJ, etc. Given my trajectory, I honestly haven't invested a lot of time or energy wondering which scenarios would play out best for Yahoo. I have faith that Yahoo's board and management will optimize for the best possible outcome.

What will you be doing at Google?
We'll save that for another post. What's unfolded for me over the last few months while thinking about my next steps has been amazing and surprising... I'm excited about the my next step, and thrilled I'll be working with a stellar team that I'm sure will teach me a lot.

Thank you Yahoo!
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