Adam Herscher’s deeply personal story about leaving a prestigious and high-paying job at Microsoft to found a startup called HasMetrics went viral on LinkedIn the past couple of days.
It struck a nerve, read by more than 400,000 people (and counting) and attracting more than 1,300 comments (and counting) so far, most of them supportive (he’s read them all), he told Business Insider.
Herscher’s story goes like this: For nearly the past decade, Microsoft offered him a stable career with a fabulous paycheck, a situation he would have once called his dream job.
“My salary straight out of college 9 years ago was $US75,000. It was $US10K-$US15K over the Computer Science median at the time. I was ecstatic about the journey,” he wrote.
He did very well at the company. Every 18 months or so, he got a promotion and more money, “to the point where my salary upon leaving Microsoft at the end of 9 years ultimately amounted to: $US254,895. I’ll just say… to the child of an immigrant and middle-class family, raised on sufficient but not excessive means, I can only describe that number as feeling both grossly obscene while at the same time a bit like: Well, I’ve made it.”
Herscher worked on some of Microsoft’s biggest products: Windows, Windows Phone, Azure, System Center, and cloud services.
But “then something happened.”
He started to feel like a cog in a big system. The paycheck started to feel like “golden handcuffs.” Some of the projects he worked on succeeded. Some that he really cared about were killed.
He says his decision to leave had three phases. The first was when he recognised his job was making him feel empty when he wanted to feel like he was changing the world.
He started thinking about leaving. He “set a Mint.com goal to stash away enough cash, on top of retirement and rainy day savings, to live comfortably for at least 2 years without a paycheck.”
This stage lasted almost three years.
The next stage happened when Microsoft reorganized his team and killed a project that he had worked very hard on. Herscher started writing pro/con lists about his great-paying job, ultimately deciding the pros won it.
This stage lasted a couple of months.
The final stage happened when he took a couple of days off and spent one with a friend working at a Seattle startup. The friend kept egging him to quit his job and pursue his startup idea.
He went home that night, fired up his corporate email, and realised he could spend his whole life answering emails. He made another list that night and it said: “The project timing was right. The personal timing was right” to quit.
So, with the full support of his significant other (who had a good job but not nearly Herscher’s salary), the next day, he quit.
He and his cofounder Sean Andersen (another Microsoftie), are bootstrapping their company.
The viral post has caused several VCs to reach out, but he and his cofounder have a plan to go it alone for now, he told us.
Their new startup is still in stealth, but Herscher told us it is a software-as-a-service to help companies make better use of their customer service folks. Instead of viewing customer service as an overhead drain, customer service reps, even in far away call centres, will be able to easily share customer feedback info with the people who are actually making the products and adding new features.
Should his idea take off, it will turn the bane of customer service into a hotbed of new product ideas.
Most importantly, he loves coming to work again.
As one person on LinkedIn commented, “Inspiring, proving that money does not always equal happiness.”