An Airbnb exec explains how the startup life damaged his health -- and what he should have done

Joe Zadeh joined Airbnb as its third engineer, and as its current VP of product, he’s helped the startup become the industry-changing giant it is today.

Zadeh doesn’t have the typical Silicon Valley backstory. He spent six and a half years studying the intersection of biology and computer science, he told Business Insider in an interview earlier this year.

His goal was to use programming to help find the cure for diseases, but he felt the science industry moved too slowly for him.

So he decided to move to Silicon Valley where Airbnb gave him the pace of change he was after. But sometimes that pace can come at a price.

Zadeh was recently selected for Fortune’s 40 under 40 list, and in an interview he talked about the lowest point in his career. And it’s a good reminder that when you move fast, your health can take a backseat.

“A few years ago there were a ton of things going on at Airbnb, we were growing much faster than expected, and I felt as though I was in over my head. I wanted to control it all, so I worked myself into the ground. I neglected to take care of myself and ended up getting pneumonia. That forced me to stop work completely for a couple of weeks. I think that was a valuable lesson in the obvious: I have real limits. When I look back I realise I could have trusted my team more to help. Not only would they have been willing, they would have loved the opportunity. It’s unfortunate I had to jeopardize my health to learn that lesson.”

Read the rest of the Fortune piece here, and Business Insider’s profile of Zadeh here.

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