A New Way

There's a feeling I get
When I look to the West
And my spirit is crying for leaving

After months of very hard, conflicted consideration I submitted my resignation to Poken on July 13th.
In this blog entry I will lay out the reasons behind my decision and present what comes next.

First, let me be clear: I love Poken. I believe in its success. I especially love the team, including the awesome, incredibly dedicated people we have on staff AND the amazing extended team of resellers, evangelists, and users around the world. I've never been part of something before that has elicited so much passion so quickly from so many. So why leave? There are many reasons, but they fall broadly into three categories:

1. As many of you know, my real desire post-IMD was to make a positive impact on the global energy challenge. I tried to tell myself that Poken would be a learning opportunity (and it has been!) that would better prepare me for a green career later on (and it has done!) but, at the end of the day, I'm just not buying my own rhetoric. Every movie I watch, every book I read, and most of the news articles I read remind me that energy presents THE challenge of this generation and I simply don't feel fulfilled professionally if I'm not contributing to the solution. Looking back through my IMD application essays and even my very first blog entry reminds me that developing the skills and tools to help address this challenge was my major motivation to come to IMD in the first place. 250 blog posts later, sitting in the Poken office, I began feeling that I had lost my way--time to get back on track.

2. I need to be closer to Katie. I love her, I need her, my life is more complete when I'm around her, and she deserves better than a partner who is halfway around the world. After 18 months of trying to make a commuter relationship work, I have a lot of airline frequent flier miles (Woohoo!) but that is little compensation for the heartache during the times apart. It was hard at IMD but we always had the light at the end of the tunnel of graduation. Now there is no light other than one that we make for ourselves. My prospects in the US are much more favorable than are hers in Europe, so I will return to the US.

3. There is another reason to return to the US as well: my country needs me. Oh wow, that looks even more arrogant on my screen than it sounded in my head. Let me explain. We spent a lot of time last year--especially in Jean-Pierre Lehmann's International Political Economy class--revealing the faults of the US and the mistakes my country has made. I learned a lot from the 44 nations represented in our auditorium about collective psychology and about attitudes toward the US--both positive and negative. Perhaps nowhere did I learn more, though, than in study room 007. I will never forget a heated debate with my Chinese groupmate, Gong Ping, regarding with whom lay the responsibility for changing the world's course on energy. Over time it sunk in that the world may never correct its path unless we gluttons who steered it wrongly in the first place lead by example. And so I believe that a better energy future has to begin with the US. Thank you, Chairman, for helping me see the way.

Over the past several years I spent a lot of time apologizing for the US--it was hard not to, given the administration. I moved to Europe. I even applied for dual citizenship in Italy. I'm ashamed to say it but I may have lost my national identity somewhat. But discussions in class that made my blood boil, the rhetoric of a new administration, and a lot of self reflection have jolted me back to my senses.

For all her faults, I love my country. I still get chills when I hear the Star-Spangled Banner. I still cry when I think of those who have given their lives in her service. I'm still a patriot. I've never taken the opportunity to serve my country as valiantly as have some of my noble friends and family in the forces, but now perhaps I can do my part. She needs devoted leaders to support a sea change in energy and I will answer the call.

Leaving something that is very successful and gaining momentum is hard to do so I spent a lot of time toiling with the rational pros and cons of my decision. At the end of the day, though, I made the decision for exactly one very irrational, very compelling reason: this new direction just feels right. Trusting my feelings is something I still have a hard time doing but I had a much harder time with it before IMD. Many thanks to all of my professors, classmates, and especially loved ones for helping me develop both the awareness of and trust in those feelings last year.

So what now? I will stay with Poken until the end of August to ensure a smooth transition of my responsibilities and not leave Poken hanging. I will remain in Lausanne until the end of September to tie up loose ends and begin work on identifying whatever comes next. I have an offer to be the CEO of a US green technology startup. It's a really good fit for my background (IT-based, B2B, based in Houston) so I may take it, but I am still vetting the opportunity and identifying others. I feel actually somewhat as I did at this point last year: with a universe of possibilities out there and not really knowing where to start. With the benefit of 8 months of work behind me, though, I am now much more focused on exactly what I want to be doing and where/how I can contribute the most.

Whatever I wind up doing, I will miss my classmates and Poken colleagues on this side of the Pond very dearly. I emailed this blog post out to my classmates yesterday and the tremendous outpouring of support I have received from them has been nothing short of moving. In the language of George Kohlrieser, my family, friends, and classmates are secure bases that give me the strength for tough decisions and I am truly blessed to have them in my life. This move will be a step toward living up to all the blessings I have been given. There is no certainty in this path and I don't know where it will lead. However, in a blog entry just over a year ago, upon my return from Kenya, I committed to give responsible leadership all I've got. Well, here it is. Here I am. Bring it on.


Back in Lausanne

After a HOT week in Houston (albeit one that was bookended by gorgeous weather in Minnesota and Virginia), it feels great to be back in Lausanne. It is also very nice to be reunited with my team at Poken, although half the team is in San Francisco right now so I won't catch up with them until next week.

My time in the US was very productive. Although I spent all of my days working for Poken, I also managed to catch up with family/friends in the evenings and coordinate some major renovations to my house. I'm very excited about these renovations as they are expected to reduce my energy consumption by almost 50%. This includes installation of a solar-powered attic fan, creating a better, insulated seal between the attic and the rest of the house, sealing all of the house's air leaks (around doors, windows, and exterior wall power outlets, for example), servicing the HVAC system, solar film on all the windows, installation of switches to shut off power to standby equipment "vampires," and replacement of all light bulbs with low-energy CFLs. This is a full-system approach that addresses not just the efficiency of equipment itself but also the efficiency of the way that air moves throughout the house and reduces the load on that equipment. In fact, when I replace my A/C unit next year, instead of just getting a more efficient version of the same cooling power, I should actually get a lower-power version--although still more efficient too!

Even with the rising cost of energy in the US, these renovations aren't likely to pay for themselves for several years. However, as most of you know, I try to live my life with at least a double bottom line and I believe the cost of energy inefficiency is much greater than just the price I pay per kilowatt-hour on my monthly electric bill.

My flight trip back to Lausanne was good for a couple of reasons. First, I achieved Gold Elite status on Continental. This is the first time I have broken the gold barrier and, with only 20k more miles this year, I may even arrive at Platinum. Hooray! Also, Matthew McConaughey was on my flight from Newark to Geneva, two seats in front of me. He was coming in to support Lance Armstrong at the end of the Tour de France. He seemed really laid back (as one would expect) and pleasant to everyone who came up to talk with him. I also give him major props for being so ripped at 39--almost 40.

Since I've been back I've been filling my non-Poken time with catching up with those whom I've missed--both IMD classmates and Poken coworkers. Friday night I went to see Bruno with some friends--outrageous as expected. Tonight I will attend my first Swiss music festival at Paleo, which I'm looking forward to. It probably won't be the typical massive-crowd-drunk-mosh-pit scene during Beethoven's 5th Piano Conerto, which is just fine by me. :-)


We Choose To Go To The Moon!

Last night my extended family and I attended the annual John Glenn lecture at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air & Space Museum. This year was a special occasion as the lecture was jointly given by the original Apollo 11 crew and was a real treat. Each of the astronauts is almost 80 now but they all are as sharp as ever. Their talks were entertaining, informative, and inspiring.

July 20, 1969 we (Americans, humans, living organisms) first set foot on an extraterrestrial body. Wow. Perhaps I am jaded by my life around the perimeter of the space industry, but 40 years later I still find our quest for the Moon to be incredibly inspiring.

If you haven't watched US President John F. Kennedy's "to the Moon" speech, I encourage you to take 9 minutes to do so. Again, perhaps I am jaded because it was delivered in Rice Stadium, a place where I shed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears during my time as a Rice football player, but it still gives me chills every time I watch it. Some of my favorite quotes from this short speech:

"But this city of Houston, this state of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them."

"All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties."

"Man and his quest for knowledge and progress is determined and cannot be deterred."

"But 'Why,' some say, 'the Moon? Why choose this as our goal?' And they may well ask, 'Why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills. Because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win--and the others too."

I find this to be the essence of leadership. Kennedy mobilized an entire nation in pursuit of a common, peaceful goal. He empowered our best scientists and engineers to over perform and he supported them with the resources necessary to realize a seemingly impossible dream. Less than eight years after this speech was given, hundreds of thousands of Americans (and some key Germans!) had come together to develop the myriad diverse systems to launch humans into space from Earth, escape Earth's gravitational pull, arrive precisely at the Moon, maintain orbit around the Moon, jettison a vehicle to land on the Moon, sustain human life both inside and outside the vehicle, launch humans into space from the Moon, rendezvous with an orbiting space craft, escape the Moon's gravitational pull, re-enter Earth's atmosphere, and land safely in the ocean. Wow. It is a true testament to what humans are capable of when they are motivated and unified around a common goal. Wow.

As many of you know, I believe that humans--not just Americans, but all humans--must unify around a new common goal: addressing the global energy challenge. The myriad diverse systems necessary for us to revolutionize energy production, transmission, storage, and consumption will require an even more Herculean effort than did the quest for the Moon. However, looking back at what we did 40 years ago, I am filled with confidence that we can do it--and the resolve that we must!



This weekend in London was awesome. After a week of being sick enough to keep me out of the office (The doctor was positive I had malaria--yikes!) I managed to shape up enough to travel on Friday without incident. Friday evening itself was uneventful and I just settled into my hotel in Westminster.

Saturday I met up with an IMD alum from 2007 who had helped me with my job search last year. It was good to meet him in person and we spent a few hours just walking around the city. "Impressive" is the word I would use to describe London's architecture. It is full of very impressive classical buildings. I didn't recall it having quite as much Gothic architecture as I noticed this time but hey, I love Gothic architecture, so no complaints there!

In the evening I met friends from the Petroleum Club of Houston, who happened also to be in town, at The Orrery, a fantastic little restaurant with a lovely terrace for dining. The lobster, lobster, lobster appetizer was exquisite and the dark truffle risotto incredibly rich. The latter paired especially well with the Paolo Scavino Barolo Carobric 2000 (WS 94 points), which opened up into an excellent, beautifully textured wine. I had no room left at the end but managed to finish the chocolate fondant anyway. :-) What a meal and what an evening!

Sunday I spent more time walking around. This time I made for King's Cross Station to pay homage to Harry Potter. After that I spent some time at the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, both of which were very cool. For lunch I met the former president of Wiess College at an Indian restaurant before heading back to catch some Wimbledon.

It's too bad that Andy Roddick couldn't quite pull it off; what a coup that would have been for an American on Independence Day weekend! US men's volleyball also didn't quite come through, finishing 3rd in the beach world championships. American women, though, had a much better weekend, with Serena and Venus dominating Wimbledon and our women winning the beach world championships.

During the marathon 5th set between Roddick and Federer, I met up with an old friend from Lovett College who is currently finishing his MBA at Oxford. We watched the end of the match and then made our way to Shepherd's Bush Empire for a Jimmy Buffett concert. This venue was excellent! Although it was larger than The New Morning Jazz Cafe, where he played in Paris last year, it still seated <>

My friend and I were standing down near the front--maybe 30' from Jimmy--and having a great time singing at the tops of our lungs, meeting other Parrotheads, and drinking Guinness. The concert was great and I'm so glad I could make it. Unfortunately, while I was videoing "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw" a rogue beachball jarred my phone from my hand and now my picture-taking capabilities are defunct. Oh well, if you're going to break your camera, that's not a bad way to do it!

Now it's back to work in Lausanne, where I have a tremendous amount to accomplish this week. Because of my sickness last week this will be my first time in the office in a while--bring it on!