Earlier this week, Max Schireson, the CEO of MongoDB, shocked the tech world. He resigned from the CEO role, staying on as vice chairman, because he wanted to spend more time with his kids. He said it all in an impassioned resignation letter.
“I love my job, I just wished there was less of it,” he told Business Insider.
MongoDB is the kind of startup most people in the tech industry dream of running. It makes a popular database, is valued at over $US1 billion and growing fast, on track for an IPO.
His decision to leave the job is like a rallying cry for men in the tech industry, who are often pressured to work non-stop.
“A lot of struggles we hear publicly from women in workplace are actually felt by everyone in workplace. We haven’t heard as visibly from men,” he told us.
Schireson, his wife and three kids (ages 14, 12 and 9) live in Palo Alto, California, where his wife is a professor and doctor at Stanford University. MongoDB is based in New York. Instead of asking her to leave her career when he joined MongoDB three years ago, he commuted to New York. Between that and the heavy travel schedule required as a CEO, Schireson was on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year.
“During that travel, I have missed a lot of family fun, perhaps more importantly, I was not with my kids when our puppy was hit by a car or when my son had (minor and successful, and of course unexpected) emergency surgery,” he wrote in his resignation letter,
We caught up with Schireson to ask him how attitudes need to change in the workplace for working dads.
Business Insider: What did you hope to accomplish by publishing your resignation letter?
Max Schireson: I wanted to publicly talk about the challenges of work/life balance I think many people face, not only women. I hope it will help in a couple of ways, to help men feel more comfortable talking about these issues.
BI: Financially, was this a difficult decision?
MS: I didn’t make a decision to stop working entirely, just to stop being CEO. Financially, no one needs to be CEO. I think people can get attracted to having more and more money. I was in the fortunate situation where my wife does well. And I can stay on at MongoDB and work less and still be paid well.
BI: The pressure to work long hours is particularly intense in the tech industry. What do you think the industry should do about it?
MS: More effort doesn’t always lead to more output. I’ve tried to encourage employees not to burn themselves out, not to work so hard that they can’t work smart and efficiently.
I hope that in many roles, even senior roles, we’ll get smart as a society about how to make the most of people’s brains and their capabilities without having to suck up all their time.
BI: This seems like the opposite of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In.” It’s like “Lean Out for Men” isn’t it?
MS: Sheryl actually posted on Facebook about my post and was very supportive. What we’re both saying is that these aren’t just issues for one gender or the other. I’m very grateful to have an incredibly rewarding career and I hope that lots of women have that opportunity.
But it’s not just women. If all executives think about that balance, I hope it will make it easier for women to be in the workplace, as well as men.
[Note: Sandberg wrote on Facebook, “Max Schireson gets the Lean In award of the day for speaking out for fathers and husbands everywhere who want to do more for their families.”]
Disclosure: Dwight Merriman and Kevin Ryan, the founders of MongoDB, are investors in Business Insider.
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