Moving on

After 8 years, September 30th 2016 was my last day at Microsoft. I wrote a post on Facebook to share my thoughts and feelings and was touched by so many warm responses from friends and colleagues. Anyway, thought it was worth sharing here too — so here’s the post, a couple of weeks on:

“Today was a big week for Microsoft. Qi Lu, friend and inspiration to so many including myself, made a courageous and important decision to focus on his recuperation. Harry Shum, who has already achieved so much for the company, agreed to take on a critical new role for the company and will bring Microsoft into the era of AI.

For me, this week was also of personal note — today was my last day at Microsoft.

It was 8 years ago that Sev and I sold Kikker and moved here with our families and our team. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to have worked for, and alongside, some of the smartest people in the industry. When I first started my career in the 90’s, I thought the PM’s at Microsoft were the savants of tech. I never imagined that I’d not only end up working there some day, but also having a hand in shaping so many interesting products. In the past decade, I’ve had the good fortune to run UX for a search engine, help launch a personal / digital assistant, run a design studio, start a mindfulness practice, release a launcher for Android (yes, at Microsoft!), become a full stack javascript developer and build a brand new developer platform. The number of companies that offer that breadth of opportunity can be counted on one hand. Maybe even just two fingers.

Arriving at this decision was a difficult one. The last two years have been some of the best of my career and in some ways, it feels premature to step away. But sometimes in life, you find yourself at a fork in the road and it’s awfully tempting to just pull up a chair and wait a while. Before long however, years can pass by and it’s possible to forget there was ever even a decision to be made. For me, that fork in the road has arrived and I’ve realized that I have to pursue a new calling. My twenties were all about startups. My thirties were all about Microsoft. My forties? Right now, I have no idea. It’s that uncertainty that I’m planning to lean into. While I’m sad to say goodbye to so many great people, I’m excited to carry those relationships forwards while I go find out the answer to that question.

Along the way, I’ve had the chance to form friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I won’t list all the names here — the list is long and you all know who you are and what you mean to me. Thank you to everyone who believed in me. Irregardless of reporting line, I always believed that I was working _for you_ and I hope that came across in some way. The one person I can’t not thank explicitly is Akuri. Your patience, understanding and capacity to heal knows no bounds and without those I’d have been toast.

My next 2–3 months will involve a lot of open source (jam with me on GitHub!), networking with startups and VC’s (see you on Linked In!) advising and mentoring (see you in person!) and travel and photography (see you on here!). There’s a road trip across the US that will likely make it in there too. My plan is to try to not commit but instead explore, experiment and experience. By the time the new year rolls around, I think I’ll have a better sense of next steps although I could just as likely be addicted to travel as I’ll be ready to kick off a new startup or join a new cause.

Last week I was asked to be the guest speaker at NEO (New Employee Orientation for non-microsoftees). It was a poetic closing-of-the-loop for me, being able to welcome a hundred new recruits to the company in my last two weeks. When I joined, I believed this was one of the best companies in the world and I stand by that just as vigorously today. As is customary at these events, you’re supposed to offer a few pieces of advice that you hope might stick. It was interesting for me to reflect on those again tonight as I think about my next steps. My three offerings were:

1. Work on what you love. Life is too short to pursue someone else’s dreams for too long. Wherever possible, work on what resonates with you, what you’re passionate about and what makes your heart throb. While good for the soul, it’s also good for building products as it’s only in solving for problems that you can relate to that you’ll find the necessary passion and insights to truly innovate

2. Don’t be a perfectionist. In tech, this means whatever it is that you’re working on, get started something working end to end first, then figure out how to make it look nice. Find a way to get actionable feedback from others as soon as possible — and just keep iterating. In life, this means shedding procrastination. Don’t wait for the perfect beginning or plan for some grand unveiling but instead just fall forwards. Don’t let great be the enemy of good.

3. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. This is as true in life as it is in work. When you pursue something with the right tone or intention, mistakes are not only ok but very often necessary. Right now, we are all waiting for permission from someone to do something we believe is the right thing to do. Lets instead shed that hesitation and do it anyway (and maybe practice a good apology just in case :)

I don’t know if these were the right three to share, but they resonated with me at the time and in rereading them back, i find them just as relevant for my next steps as they might have been for someone starting out their career.

Anyway, this is the end of my rambling thoughts and thank you’s. More soon. Until then…

‘The mountains are calling, and I must go’”