Why Intel president's resignation to find her inner CEO is a much more genuine "I quit" reason than some tendered by more narcissistic counterparts in tech world.
A week ago, when the news hit the wire that Renée James, Intel's president, is stepping down, the first question that popped into everyone’s head, including mine, was — Why?
A flood of questions came to mind. Even though I really didn’t know her, I was suddenly worried about her.
Was she forced out in an executive reshuffle at Intel? What went wrong? How long was she the No. 2 executive at the world’s largest chip company? Isn’t two years an awfully short time for any top executive to really leave a mark on her company?
Then I read memo she sent to Intel’s employees. She started out saying:
As all of you have heard from Brian, I have made the very difficult decision to step down as President of Intel in order to pursue an external CEO role. When Brian and I were appointed to our current roles, I knew then that being the leader of a company was something that I desired as part of my own leadership journey. Now is the right time for me to take that next step.
“Wow,” I said to myself.
Seriously, she’s saying that it’s her own naked ambition [to become a CEO elsewhere] that made her decide to leave.
I love her straightforwardness. I also love the way she unapologetically disclosed her hopes, ambition and self-confidence.
She fell back on none of the usual excuses, like “I want to spend more time with my family.” Had she done that, most of us would have just assumed, whether true or not, she’d been squeezed out by the boys’ club.
More important, though, she sidestepped the trap faced by any female executive who says, in parting, that she wants to spend more time with her kids and husband.
Any such female executive is immediately judged negatively, labeled as a failure. A quitter. “Oh, she just wants to be a mom again.” Worse, “That’s why we can’t depend on a woman to lead a company.”
In contrast, when a male executive says that he’s leaving “to spend more time with my family,” we say he’s sensitive, reasonable, “authentic.”
Talk about double standards.
I couldn’t help but recall what ex-Google executive Patrick Pichette wrote this year in his “I quit” letter, posted on Google+.
He famously resigned as Google’s CFO to go backpacking with his wife.
He started out his note by saying:
After nearly 7 years as CFO, I will be retiring from Google to spend more time with my family. Yeah, I know you’ve heard that line before. We give a lot to our jobs. I certainly did. And while I am not looking for sympathy, I want to share my thought process because so many people struggle to strike the right balance between work and personal life.
OK. This is fairly mundane, although bringing up the work-life balance thing is a little disingenuous. I mean, really, has any Silicon Valley hotshot ever thought about striking this balance?
What really got me, though, is when the letter turns into shmaltz, climaxing with a sunrise epiphany, beside his wife, atop Mount Kilimanjaro. He suddenly realizes that there is much more to life than work.
Still, he didn’t decide to quit Google right away. A few weeks later, back at the salt mine, he thinks about Tamar — his wife — and he’s like,
…I could not find a good argument to tell [my wife] we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road.
…many great memories we already have together . . . I want more. And she deserves more. Lots more.
Predictably, this letter made its rounds on the Internet. To my dismay, it got tons of raves from the denizens of cyberspace. While many saw in Pichette’s letter his “authenticity,” as he finally grasped the pain of all those regular hard working slobs in Silicon Valley, I saw a sort of narcissistic re-set. Here was a tycoon making millions of bucks. He can afford to retire on any terms he dictates. His “thought process” for walking into the Hemingway sunset with a backpacking trophy wife taught real people nothing valuable.
In the same month that Pichette posted his resignation psalm, Uber CFO Brent Callinicos quit. He also sent out his own benediction, in which he wrote:
Time has a way of passing quickly, easily leaving your heart’s desire to “maybe happen later.” For me, there is no later. It is now. It is time to do what I have desired for a very long time; time to keep a promise to my wife of not missing another school play, swim meet, or academic achievement of our daughter’s childhood. Time; time; time, to encapsulate what matters most to me; time, to admit that every day I work, I lose time with my family; time, to help my daughter understand how important time is before time becomes a blur to her too. It is simply time.
What’s up with these pussies?
Where is it written that quitting a job requires bathos and melodrama. Especially when you’ve built up nest eggs big enough for a hundred lifetimes? Why not just go quietly, instead of rubbing it into all those people who can’t afford to chuck it all in favor of junior high school swim meets?
When I think about it, if a female executive had written a letter that contained drivel like, “time; time, to encapsulate what matters most to me,” we wouldn’t have called her “authentic.” She’d just be another broad who lost the rat race. A woman today still can’t afford to use her family as a reason to leave her job.
So, I’m pulling for Renée. Naked ambition looks good on a woman.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times