The End of a Seven-Year Cycle: Leaving LinkedIn

Gentle readers, the time has come to pause my usual sarcasm and dry humor until my next post. Hope you’ll understand!

Warning: this post is very personal. It may be very uninteresting to others 🙂

In 2005 I started a search consulting business named Flaptor, which would later become known as IndexTank. Needless to say, we were not an overnight success. Like every small company we had our rough patches. These seven years have been the most intense of my life, and the intensity did not stop when we joined LinkedIn. Transitioning from a small startup into a successful, rapidly-growing public company without missing a beat is not for the faint of heart!

Before I go into the reasons I’m leaving, I would like to talk about what made this decision really hard. For starters, I have an immense amount of respect for Reid Hoffman despite not having interacted much with him. Having experienced the company from the inside, I know how much determination and drive it would take to build something of LinkedIn’s magnitude. Ditto for Jeff Weiner; my interactions with him have been spirited and thought-provoking. I have met several CEOs throughout my career; none of them were as persuasive and charismatic as Jeff. I am usually a very skeptical guy, so that speaks volumes about his ability to challenge points of view. He’s a phenomenal leader.

Unlike many other companies, LinkedIn is in a position to have a huge positive impact on the world. I was a teenager in a middle-class family at the dawn of the PC era. During that time companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Apple made my life better. Affordable hardware and software made it possible for me to learn about computers, and to develop a career in software. I believe LinkedIn can go beyond that, and improve the lives of people who were born much less fortunate than I (and most of my fellow nerds reading this).

Speaking of fortunate, I’ve been lucky to work with amazing people over the past few years. I greatly enjoyed my time with the Search team at LinkedIn; not only are they extremely smart folks, but they are also caring and fun to be around. I’ll miss them, and I hope we’ll remain in touch. Leaving this team was the most difficult part.

So, why am I leaving? I abhor clichés, so I’ll get to the point: I am exhausted from seven years of almost nonstop work, and I need a break. Over the years I’ve become accustomed to performing while tired, and I keep plowing through it while my body suffers. It’s a matter of time before that catches up with you.

It should be noted that LinkedIn is a great workplace: fast-paced work, cool products, tons of open-source software, great vision, meaningful mission (and even fantastic food!). While some may think it’s boring when compared to Facebook or Twitter, that’s just false. I wasn’t bored for a second at LinkedIn, and I have the attention span of Guy Pearce’s character in Memento. For example, LinkedIn has unique data about the world of work; one of the best teams of data scientists on the planet (led by my friend Daniel Tunkelang) is doing awesome stuff with it. I look forward to learning from their public work, as well as to seeing them at industry conferences.

I am very bullish on LinkedIn, and I will definitely remain a cheerleader as well as a shareholder. Of course the company has room for improvements, like any other workplace. As Jeff has said, there are tons of challenges that come with hypergrowth. LinkedIn has a strong set of core values that guide people’s decisions. Having read Tribal Leadership, I know how fundamental this is for any company. Zappos is an example, LinkedIn is another.

Change is always a mixed bag. I really liked managing an awesome group of people, but I know I need to take a break before thinking about the future. My plan for the coming weeks is simple: I’ll take a few naps, listen to music, eat well, catch up with my reading. I’ll try to keep writing interesting stuff here.

One final thought: my time at LinkedIn has inspired me to try to improve this world. I’m a cynical guy, so I don’t say that lightly; LinkedIn has a humanitarian side which is not common in the  corporate world, or even in the tech industry. I’d never worked at a company like that before. Technology has improved my life in countless ways, and I’m inspired by its potential to improve the lives of others. Here are a couple of videos that touched me recently:

Or I may end up working on a Google Killer someday, assuming they don’t kill themselves first. You never know 🙂


8 Replies to “The End of a Seven-Year Cycle: Leaving LinkedIn”

  1. Diego, Congrats–it sounds like you’ve earned a break. I’m very much enjoying your blog. It’s funny, I have a recruiter from LinkedIn trying to get me to look, and I was thinking “Well, if Diego works there, it must be a cool place.”…

  2. Thanks! LinkedIn is indeed a cool place, and you should check it out if you get a chance. Compared to bigger companies like next-door neighbor Google, LinkedIn is just getting started. There are tons of opportunities to do cool new stuff.

  3. “Compared to bigger companies like next-door neighbor Google, LinkedIn is just getting started. There are tons of opportunities to do cool new stuff.”Yeah, why go to Google and work on driverless cars and Google Glasses when you can think of new and exciting ways for people to put their resumes online? Great insights Diego.

  4. @sbazerque: I plan to stay in the Bay Area, although I want to visit Buenos Aires in the coming months.@sonnen: Do you know anyone working on driverless cars or Google Glasses? Genuinely curious. Everyone I know at Google is working on relatively mundane stuff. Of course Google does have awe-inspiring initiatives like those and others. However, I suspect those jobs are highly coveted internally, and mostly reserved for old-timers who would leave if they couldn’t work on something awesome. Of course that is pure speculation on my part.Also, LinkedIn is about much more than resumes. Without going into detail, I can tell you that the Search team is solving very unique problems that could be applied to many domains. BTW, have you heard of Voldemort or Apache Kafka? Also, check out the link to Daniel’s team.

  5. This post was inspiring. I got an email from a recruiter at linkedin and I was cautious, after reading this I’m a lot more likely to continue a conversation with him.

  6. Diego, it’s been a pleasure and an honor to work with you. Enjoy your well-deserved break! Good luck in your next play, and I hope we have the opportunity to work together again someday.

  7. Thanks Daniel, and likewise! You have a world-class team there, and what you’re doing is inspiring. Like I said in the post, I’ll be following your public output.

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