Stepping Back, Looking Forward

After five years, an acquisition and a buy-back, tomorrow will be my final day as the Chief Product Officer of I’ll be taking some time off, and looking for some new problems to solve. This is the (short) story of why everything is going to be amazing.

When we successfully re-acquired from AOL in January of 2013, my co-founder Tony Conrad and I naturally had many long conversations about the future of the company. We discussed what we hoped could become and the impact it could have on the of millions of individuals who need to represent themselves online.

Last summer, the time came to raise additional funding. Making great strides towards achieving the vision we'd sketched out more than a year before, there was an opportunity for some reflection on what we'd built. I had reason to be happy with what we'd achieved. Although I generally resist feeling self-satisfied, I recognized that we were at an inflection point. I want the best thing for the product and its users; being honest meant admitting my eyes weren’t as fresh as when we’d begun. After five years of building the product, I was eager for more diversity in my work, and different challenges to go along with it. Tony and I agreed that it was time to make a change.

We discussed my responsibilities, and how to delegate them. We identified some key hires to make, and some necessary process improvements that would strengthen the team’s ability to execute on our shared vision. One issue remained — who would lead the product team after I was gone? While we hunted for a candidate, we knew we should avoid an interregnum. Someone would need to take the reins for a few months while a permanent solution could be found. “If you could ask anyone to step in and help the team through this transition, who would it be?,” Tony asked. Without hesitation I replied, “Veen.”

My professional career as an interaction designer began nearly 15 years ago, but it didn't really hit its stride til I went to Adaptive Path to work with Jeff Veen. He has been a friend and mentor for a decade, and I (like many other people) trust his instincts for product, and running a product organization, implicitly. If there was anyone I'd want in the role, it would be him. I had complete confidence that Veen taking a temporary position with would set up the product team for huge success in the future.

It is a rare thing for such a need to emerge at a time when the right person becomes available. But has always had a unique story, and as such it shouldn’t really surprise me what happened next. Jeff has written about his own journey at Adobe, after the Typekit acquisition. Tony and I, a bit startled at his potential availability (and our good fortune), worked together to recruit Jeff. We made our case for the opportunity we believe is in front of the company and our certainty that his leadership would be essential to the success of the team.

Sometimes things just work out exactly the way they are supposed to.

More than the products we’ve built or the enormously supportive community of users we’ve been able to engage, I have always been most proud of the team that brought (and kept!) together. My 10 year partnership with Tony Conrad has shaped me personally and professionally. I could not step back from the team or Tony without some assurance that they would have everything they needed to be successful. I owe them far too much to do anything less.

The last five years has been an incredible experience for me. I remain confident in the vision that has guided us from the beginning: everybody on Earth deserves a simple tool to help them represent themselves online. With Jeff Veen at the helm for now, I can step away from with certainty that the product and the team could not be in better hands.