discussed, throughout the year 2011, I had come to the conclusion that
I was simply not really happy at Yahoo! anymore. Without having had a
single "This is it!" incident, my own reasons for ultimately leaving have
really only become more clear to me in the actual process of interviewing
with other places. The question "So, why leave Yahoo!?" had to be
answered a couple of times, and in a rather therapeutic way I found the
answers for myself while responding.
Some people have asked me (or hesitated to do so) for my reasons, and
I've always appreciated when people who decided to leave were open about
how they came to the conclusion, so for whatever it's worth, here is what
led to my decision:
I didn't get my 5-year
Gumball machine! (Alright, alright, that was not actually a reason.
I wouldn't have had space for this thing anyway - remember, I live in NY.
Apartment space is precious.)
Company Direction -- the obvious reason.
The company has
been stumbling about the internet for a while, trying to figure out just
what exactly it is (the latest idea: the
Premier Digital Media Company, which I still can't figure out what
that actually means). Executive leadership is... missing and/or not
translated into actions. The vultures are circling, and it seems entirely
possible that the company is bought or bits
and pieces are sold off.
Remember the Peanut
Butter Manifesto? Not a whole lot has changed, really.
Talent Exodus -- a lot of people have left Yahoo!
A lot of really smart people that I enjoyed working with are no longer
with the company. Filling the positions is hard, because due to the
previous point and the generally unfavorable impression of the company in
the media many smart people do not even apply at Yahoo! and instead go to
one of the 5000 other companies in a 10 block radius. (Yes, I'm aware
that by leaving I'm exacerbating this problem myself. I regret
Personal Direction -- I've been bumbling around Yahoo! for
about a year. The team I used to tremendously enjoy working on was
dissolved "embedded" into other teams; I felt rather
strongly that the team's mission was still needed and could not be
fulfilled without commitment by the company to make the team work. That
did not happen. After entering the "fatigue and resignation" phase, I
then moved on to "trying to make things work", transferring to another
team. Unfortunately, the previous point hit that team particularly hard
and it was immediately (and is still continuously) "under construction".
In the last 12 months I've had 5 different managers, and I have not seen
any positive action pointing towards a turnaround in any way.
New Team Direction -- the team I joined was, basically,
completely reorganized. What could have been a chance to impact great
unfortunately took a direction that I did not happen to agree with.
Workflows and (program, people, resource) management changed in a way
that did not jell with me. Different priorities, backgrounds
and communication methods than I would have preferred were added.
Personal Development -- looking back over the last year,
realized that I have not learned anything new, done anything particularly
exciting or interesting or have had a profound impact in any one
significant area. I have stagnated in my professional
This last reason is the one thing that I could not get past. It is
also the one reason that has been the least obvious to me and took active
reflecting to discover. I have not
felt challenged, nor my skills suitably applied. Instead, I've spent
countless hours arguing about this and that, frequently feeling like my
own sense of where to take things was at odds with where the company at
large or individual teams were going.
I've come to realize -- and talking endlessly about yourself as you do
in interviews with prospective employers is wonderful therapy in this
regard, much like writing a rather verbose blog -- that I am more of a
generalist than a specialist. (Oh, look, there's a related
summary on this, how convenient.) I'm not particularly gifted in any
area, but I think I'm doing pretty ok in some that require some more
contextual oversight and background knowledge, more of a connect-the-dots
kind of expertise. But Yahoo! is a company of specialists working largely
in silos. Some of that is by necessity -- if you are the size of
Yahoo!,then you need specific subject matter experts for every single task
at the risk of pigeon-holing them). But that is not what I am either
particularly good at nor do I enjoy that. Breaking out of the silos and
being (en)able(d) to work across domains requires strong management and
support, which... see above.
And there you have it. To all the current Yahoos reading this: this is
just how I perceived my current situation. I wish you and the company all
the best, and if you come to New York some time, let me know -- odds are,
we owe each other a few beers, and I'm ever so much more fun to be around
in person and in close vicinity of a few cervezas. I might even shut up
every now and then.
December 22, 2011