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.
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.