It's common for corporate executives who are retiring to say they'll be spending more time with their family. But Google's chief financial officer, Patrick Pichette, appears to really mean it.
In an unusually reflective and candid letter posted Tuesday afternoon to Google Plus, Pichette wrote that "after nearly 7 years as CFO, I will be retiring from Google to spend more time with my family. Yeah, I know you've heard that line before. We give a lot to our jobs. I certainly did." He said he wrote the letter because "I want to share my thought process because so many people struggle to strike the right balance between work and personal life."
Pichette won't be retiring immediately; he said he will stay on until the company finds "a new Googley CFO" and will help with the transition. In another post on Google Plus, chief executive Larry Page called the letter "a most unconventional leaving notice from a most unconventional CFO."
In his letter, Pichette shared how last year, on a trip to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, his wife, Tamar, suggested they "just keep on going" -- exploring Africa, India, the Himalayas, Bali, even Antarctica. After he listed all his responsibilities at home, "she asked the killer question: So when is it going to be time? Our time? My time? The questions just hung there in the cold morning African air."
Several months later, Pichette wrote, he came to a few conclusions that helped him decide to move on. His kids are grown, and with "no more Cheerios encrusted minivan, night watch because of ear infections, ice hockey rinks at 6:00am," he wrote, "nobody is waiting for us/needing us." After 25 to 30 years of "nearly non-stop work," Pichette wrote, calling himself a "member of FWIO, the noble Fraternity of Worldwide Insecure Over-achievers," he admits to being guilty of being "always on - even when I was not supposed to be."
Finally, as he and his wife approach their 25th wedding anniversary, he revealed that when his kids get asked "the success of the longevity of our marriage, they simply joke that Tamar and I have spent so little time together that 'it's really too early to tell' if our marriage will in fact succeed." Now, he writes, he wants more memories. "And she deserves more. Lots more."
Pichette, of course, is in the enviable position of having a pretty nice nest egg he can use to "just keep on going" in a post-Google life: In 2013, Pichette was compensated with more than $5 million, according to Google's proxy, and more than $38 million in 2012. He seems conscious of this. He notes in the letter that "I am not looking for sympathy" and says he is grateful to be "at a point in my life where I no longer have to have to make such tough choices anymore."
Still, whatever advantages Pichette may have, his letter is notable for how rare it is. Most major corporate executives sign off publicly with little more than a press release. In them, mentions of spending more time with family are more often code for being shown the door than an admission that they truly chose to leave. And while a growing number of male executives are talking more openly about balancing their professional and personal lives -- most notably Max Schireson, the MongoDB chief executive who penned a similarly candid resignation letter last year -- it's still unusual to see it happen.
Below is Pichette's letter in its entirety:
After nearly 7 years as CFO, I will be retiring from Google to spend more time with my family. Yeah, I know you've heard that line before. We give a lot to our jobs. I certainly did. And while I am not looking for sympathy, I want to share my thought process because so many people struggle to strike the right balance between work and personal life.
This story starts last fall. A very early morning last September, after a whole night of climbing, looking at the sunrise on top of Africa - Mt Kilimanjaro. Tamar (my wife) and I were not only enjoying the summit, but on such a clear day, we could see in the distance, the vast plain of the Serengeti at our feet, and with it the calling of all the potential adventures Africa has to offer. (see exhibit #1 - Tamar and I on Kili).
And Tamar out of the blue said "Hey, why don't we just keep on going". Let's explore Africa, and then turn east to make our way to India, it's just next door, and we're here already. Then, we keep going; the Himalayas, Everest, go to Bali, the Great Barrier Reef... Antarctica, let's go see Antarctica!?" Little did she know, she was tempting fate.
I remember telling Tamar a typical prudent CFO type response- I would love to keep going, but we have to go back. It's not time yet, There is still so much to do at Google, with my career, so many people counting on me/us - Boards, Non Profits, etc
But then she asked the killer question: So when is it going to be time? Our time? My time? The questions just hung there in the cold morning African air.
A few weeks later, I was happy back at work, but could not shake away THE question: When is it time for us to just keep going? And so began a reflection on my/our life. Through numerous hours of cycling last fall (my introvert happy place) I concluded on a few simple and self-evident truths:
First, The kids are gone. Two are in college, one graduated and in a start-up in Africa. Beautiful young adults we are very proud of. Tamar honestly deserves most of the credit here. She has done a marvelous job. Simply marvelous. But the reality is that for Tamar and I, there will be no more Cheerios encrusted minivan, night watch because of ear infections, ice hockey rinks at 6:00am. Nobody is waiting for us/needing us.
Second, I am completing this summer 25-30 years of nearly non-stop work (depending on how you wish to cut the data). And being member of FWIO, the noble Fraternity of Worldwide Insecure Over-achievers, it has been a whirlwind of truly amazing experiences. But as I count it now, it has also been a frenetic pace for about 1500 weeks now. Always on - even when I was not supposed to be. Especially when I was not supposed to be. And am guilty as charged - I love my job (still do), my colleagues, my friends, the opportunities to lead and change the world.
Third, this summer, Tamar and I will be celebrating our 25th anniversary. When our kids are asked by their friends about the success of the longevity of our marriage, they simply joke that Tamar and I have spent so little time together that "it's really too early to tell" if our marriage will in fact succeed. If they could only know how many great memories we already have together. How many will you say? How long do you have? But one thing is for sure, I want more. And she deserves more. Lots more.
Allow me to spare you the rest of the truths. But the short answer is simply that I could not find a good argument to tell Tamar we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road - celebrate our last 25 years together by turning the page and enjoy a perfectly fine mid life crisis full of bliss and beauty, and leave the door open to serendipity for our next leadership opportunities, once our long list of travels and adventures is exhausted.
Working at Google is a privilege, nothing less. I have worked with the best of the best, and know that I am leaving Google in great hands. I have made so many friends at Google it's not funny. Larry, Sergey, Eric, thank you for friendship. I am forever grateful for letting me be me, for your trust, your warmth, your support, and for so much laughter through good and not so good times.
To be clear, I am still here. I wish to transition over the coming months but only after we have found a new Googley CFO and help him/her through an orderly transition, which will take some time.
In the end, life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of trade offs, especially between business/professional endeavours and family/community. And thankfully, I feel I’m at a point in my life where I no longer have to have to make such tough choices anymore. And for that I am truly grateful. Carpe Diem.
— Google CFO Patrick Pichette, as posted on Google Plus