The best professional life experiences are those that enable you to grow not just as a manager, but as a person. A great job allows you to tackle big challenges, to have the freedom to experiment and innovate and to learn from both your successes and failures. But a job that also allows you to learn from unique leaders, to work with diverse and talented minds, as well as manage brilliant entrepreneurial people — those jobs are few and far between. Add to that the ability to impact directly on advancing a mission that you believe is vital to the world, then that is not just a job, it becomes a life-enriching experience. And that’s why I’m so grateful to have worked at and for Twitter over the last nearly five years.
Some stereotypes depict silicon valley folk as arrogant, over-pampered, hoodie clad, young nerds. When it comes to Twitter as I experienced it, it couldn’t be further from the truth (…well, except the hoodie part). Twitter isn’t some monolithic valley company, it’s a dynamic melting pot of diverse, talented and hard-working idealists united across the world by a common mission.
I will always remember walking into the old Folsom street office in February 2012 and feeling this incredible atmosphere engulf me for the first time. There was an electric buzz in the air. Ask anyone why they were there, they would all express a genuine desire to want to help make the world a better place by giving everyone on the planet a microphone and the ability to access and share information without barriers.
During that first visit I was blown away by how smart and passionate everyone was, meeting one great mind after another, not least @katies, who had invited me. Initially, I had reluctantly been set on turning down the opportunity, as I was about to start my own venture in the live-streaming space. But as I touched back down in Berlin after a long flight of reflection to find emails from @Jack and @DickC telling me how “excited we all are at the prospect of having you join Twitter”, I was now ready to tear up that term sheet.
I opened the Berlin office, the first EMEA office outside of London, in May 2012, charged with the not small task of taking Twitter from a niche platform into the mainstream — with all the unique challenges the country posed. And so the whirlwind began. It went from onboarding the likes of @FCBayern and @Beckenbauer (two of my first meetings), evangelising and educating editors and newsrooms, to working with leading politicians and parties, and building partnerships with TV stations and shows, top artists and influencers. Together with my passionate team of very smart, talented, gracious, fun and witty people, we helped our partners build comprehensive and successful Twitter strategies, grow their reach and monetise their audience.
The fruits of our intense labour led to Twitter receiving unprecedented awareness and coverage in the mainstream media, from the German election in 2013 to that moment at the World Cup 2014, to strong and creative Twitter integrations on TV. Over the next couple of years as the team grew, it was great to see our combined efforts come to further fruition and I was proud to communicate on the eve of Twitter’s tenth birthday that over 12 million people come monthly to Twitter in Germany (a strong increase from the irrelevant figures when I started).
During that time, I also took on responsibility for growing our audience and partnerships in other markets. I led our efforts in Benelux and Russia — again blessed with a multi-talented rockstar team — and built a strategy to enable us to scale audience growth in new and emerging ones such as Israel, Turkey and beyond.
There are so many highlights of my time at Twitter. Holding Q&As with both the Prime Minister and President of Israel were certainly a couple of personal ones. (As were beating our head of sports at Sumo and playing cricket on the San Francisco HQ rooftop). But two things always stood out above the rest: The people. And the platform.
I can’t speak highly enough of the people that I have had the pleasure of working with at Twitter. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to learn from so many, particularly my inspirational managers, Katie Stanton, an incredible leader, a friend and mentor, who built an absolutely world class Media organisation with some of the smartest, savviest and kindest experts in the business, and Mark Little, a source of innovation, creativity and drive, and the best person with which to debate the future of the news industry over a pint of Guinness (…or two).
As for the platform — I’d always been an avid Twitter user since the early days and was quick to understand its importance. But I felt constantly reminded of how privileged I was to work at the company every time people took to Twitter’s microphone to share thoughts and feelings with the world, such as with #blacklivesmatter, #jesuischarlie, or #aufschrei in early 2013, which subsequently led to an important public debate in Germany about sexism.
Standing for freedom of expression, for speaking truth to power and for empowering dialogue by giving everyone a voice is a big and bold mission and there is no easy or quick road to achieving that. Undoubtedly mistakes have been made, which has ultimately led to losing a number of very talented people and execs along the way. But — Twitter has also achieved an incredible amount it can be proud of. And importantly: Twitter today is a small fraction of what we all know it can be. If it gets it right, it can be a vital platform for generations to come and continue to have a positive impact on the world.
But, while part of me would have loved to be there for that next chapter, and I gave much consideration to taking on a very interesting new role within it, after almost 5 years at the company, I was beginning to feel ready for a new challenge.
So what’s next? While I can’t reveal the details just yet, I’m really looking forward to my next venture, continuing to work at the intersection of media, social and tech, with a mission I strongly believe in as being critical to the future of our society.
First of all though, I’m looking forward to taking a short break travelling with my wife and three kids. I’m extremely grateful to them for being so patient with my high tempo work and travel schedule these last years, it’s now time for some more quality family time.
I wish everyone at Twitter all the very best and just want to say: #thankyou.
[Respectfully puts mic down]