PATRICK PICHETTE STARTED working at Google when its only social network was called Orkut and stayed long enough to see its most ambitious effort, Google+, wither. But on his way out, the soon-to-be-ex-chief financial officer finally figured out what Google+ was good for: the Google resignation letter.
Pichette’s farewell, posted yesterday, is getting attention not so much because of what it means for Google’s C-suite but for its revealing look into the psyche of a powerful tech exec.
Yes, the 52-year-old Pichette said he wanted to spend more time with his family. But the way he said it appears to have spoken to the frustrations of overworked professionals everywhere who, whatever the successes they’ve achieved, wonder when they finally get to feel like they succeeded.“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,” wrote Pichette, who started at Google nearly seven years ago.
In the post, Pichette describes an epiphany he had while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with his wife, Tamar. What if, his wife asked him, they just kept going? Not back to work, but out into the wider world.
“I would love to keep going,” Pichette said he told her, “but we have to go back. It’s not time yet, There is still so much to do at Google.“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.”
In the end, Pichette says, he couldn’t ultimately come up with a better answer than now. The couple’s kids are grown. He has worked straight for “about 1500 weeks,” he says. And though he’s been married almost 25 years, work appears to have always come first.
“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.”
One nice thing about all that work is that, for Pichette at least, it’s apparently given him the financial security to leave the work world and seek personal fulfillment at a relatively young age—a luxury that many people will never know, no matter how hard they work. But Pichette appears to appreciate the opportunity he has, and in doing so has spoken a truth that is nearly taboo in corporate life, especially in the work-addicted culture of Silicon Valley: you are not just your job.
“In the end, life is wonderful, but nonetheless a series of trade offs, especially between business/professional endeavours and family/community,” Pichette writes. “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.”