On Tuesday, Max Schireson, the CEO of database company MongoDB, announced he would be stepping down from his role and into the vice chairman position.
MongoDB isn’t a household name, but it’s one of the hottest, most important tech companies in New York. It’s valued at $US1 billion, and it’s growing quickly.
So why leave a fast growing, valuable startup that would make him phenomenally wealthy? Shireson explained on his blog that it was about his kids.
One of the parts that sticks out? Schireson talks about being a male CEO and never being asked if he can “have it all” unlike many of the female CEOs who are constantly being judged for trying to be “good mothers” on top of doing their high-powered jobs.
Matt Lauer asked Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, whether she could balance the demands of being a mum and being a CEO. The Atlantic asked similar questions of PepsiCo’s female CEO Indra Nooyi. As a male CEO, I have been asked what kind of car I drive and what type of music I like, but never how I balance the demands of being both a dad and a CEO.
Here’s the rest of the blog post (which you can read in full here):
While the press haven’t asked me, it is a question that I often ask myself. Here is my situation:
* I have 3 wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.
* I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York every 2-3 weeks. 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.
* I have an amazing wife who also has an important career; she is a doctor and professor at Stanford where, in addition to her clinical duties, she runs their training program for high risk obstetricians and conducts research on on prematurity, surgical techniques, and other topics. She is a fantastic mum, brilliant, beautiful, and infinitely patient with me. I love her, I am forever in her debt for finding a way to keep the family working despite my crazy travel. I should not continue abusing that patience.
Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.
A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job. MongoDB is a special company. In my nearly 4 years at the company, we have raised $US220 million, grown the team 15x and grown sales 30x. We have amazing customers, a great product which gets better with every release, the strongest team I have ever worked with, and incredible momentum in the market. The future is bright and MongoDB deserves a leader who can be “all-in” and make the most of the opportunity.
Unfortunately, I cannot be that leader given the geography of the majority of the company in New York and my family in California.
I recognise that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role. Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices. Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family and am confident that I can continue to have an meaningful and rewarding work life while doing so. At first, it seemed like a hard choice, but the more I have sat with the choice the more certain I am that it is the right choice.
In one month, I will hand the CEO role to an incredibly capable leader in Dev Ittycheria. He will have the task of leading the company through its next phase of growth (though thankfully not of commuting across the country while doing it!). I know the company will be in great hands; his skills fit our next phase of growth better than mine do. And I will be there to help (full time, but “normal full time” and not “crazy full time”) in whatever areas he needs help. More about the announcement can be found in today’s press release.
I hope I will be able to find a way to craft a role at MongoDB which is engaging, impactful, and compatible with the most important responsibilities in my life. As great as this job has been, I look forward to creating one which is even better.
The heartfelt letter, Forbes reports, came about after Schireson had a bit of an epiphany in an aeroplane:
A tipping point for Schireson came on a long-delayed overnight flight to Austin. The CEO woke up in Tuscon to discover his flight had gone through an emergency landing and needed to replace some crew members traumatized by the experience — all while he slept, desperately trying to catch up on rest. “In that moment, I realised, ‘What am I doing?'”
Replacing him at MongoDB will be Dev Ittycheria from OpenView Partners.
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