Transitions

William Hockey
Jun 18 · 4 min read

A couple of weeks ago I shared the following message (with some internal logistics redacted) to our team at Plaid:

Plaids,

As most of you heard today during our team meeting, I announced that I’ll be transitioning from my day-to-day role at Plaid to a solely board position.

Plaid has been the central guiding force for what has now been the entirety of my adult life. I was immensely lucky to start Plaid with one of my best friends (👋Zach), write its first lines of code my senior year of college, learn how to maintain conviction and keep pushing despite seemingly infinite challenges, and even meet my wife through friends at a Plaid party!

As Plaid has grown I, too, have had the immense privilege of growing and maturing as an adult, manager, and leader. With this growth has come introspection — introspection as to what brings me joy, and where I believe I can create the most value and ultimately have the most significant impact. I am now at a place where I have a personal desire to take a step back and breathe, taking comfort in the fact that we have hired leaders at Plaid that can and are currently doing that which I’ve historically been responsible for, just now in a more scalable way!

This conclusion was neither a rash nor a recent decision. Over the past couple of years I have known that there would come a point at which I would choose to move to a purely strategic and advisorial role. And during the past year, I have started to work towards this goal. As many of you may have noticed, I have been working up to my transition by slowly removing myself from day to day projects and teams where I was the responsible party, seeing how it fared, and stepping in when necessary to guide and level up. I’ve decided to announce my transition to a new role now because I finally feel that this passage is complete. At the end of the quarter I will officially transition to a solely board role. However, if I’ve done my job well, the following weeks, months, and quarters shouldn’t feel any different for anyone.

Seven years ago I was lucky enough to be able to start Plaid with one of my best and smartest friends. Since then its been inspiring to see Zach evolve as a leader and CEO. His product sense is unparalleled and I trust his guidance more than anyone else’s. I have nothing but the utmost confidence that he will continue to effectively help guide the product and engineering teams — just now in a more direct way.

With Eric now up and running as COO, Zach will take over the Engineering and Product reports. JDG will be focused on our builder teams by managing Engineering and Design and Baker will begin managing the Product and Product Support teams.

I am regularly asked what has been my proudest moment at Plaid. My new answer is Now. It is a testament to what we’ve all built together that I’m able to transition out of direct management without doubting for a moment the certainty of Plaid’s future. I believe it is every leader’s job to constantly focus on hiring people better than his or herself, empowering them to constantly push above their current role. I have the opportunity to do so now.

The team at Plaid is unparalleled; I doubt that I’ll ever again have the opportunity to work so closely with such humble and brilliant friends. For the rest of your careers, I promise to always make time for you. That may be a lunch to bounce around ideas, a quick meeting when you need another perspective, or perhaps a trail run to discuss how we really came up with the name Plaid… I will never be a stranger and I truly hope none of you will be as well.

Seven years ago we set out to change financial services — with a platform that puts the consumer and builder first, one that empowers the smallest of developers or the largest of companies to build a better financial future for all people. We have made more of an impact on this mission than I ever could have imagined — and it’s incredible to think that all we’ve done will only be a small chapter in the long story of Plaid.

Plaid out,

William

So, what does this mean…? In reality it changes and means very little.

In tech, it has historically been taboo to talk about founders or executives transitioning to different roles inside companies. Leadership transitions need to become a bedrock of any company that desires to endure across decades. I’ve simply decided to be more public about my own transition than perhaps other founders have in the past, and in doing so I hope to set a precedent that leaders too should have the space to evolve in the ways in which they deliver the most impact.

As a founder, I believe it is my job to empower everyone who works at the company — sometimes this means holding multiple roles throughout the lifecycle of one’s company. For the first seven years of Plaid, I found the most effective way to add value was as a hands on builder and manager. Today, I think Plaid is mature enough that I’ll be most effective providing strategic guidance and mentorship vis-a-vis a board role.

At Plaid, we have maintained a pragmatic yet inspirational culture that emphasizes the importance of allowing each person to evolve into their best selves. I have never been more confident in the future at Plaid, and the ability of our team to conquer what have always been our radically ambitious goals.

-William

    William Hockey

    Written by

    tinker, tailor, semicolon aficionado @plaidhq