Monday, July 22, 2013

When to quit

His leaving came as a surprise to everyone; he was going great and was synonymous with the company and the industry for a long time. It was like he was destined to be in that position tailor made for him. He reveled in this and loved the attention and adulation it bought. The industry acknowledged his leadership and mentoring of the minnows to help improve their well being. So when leading media and press announced his exit, it was totally unexpected and unanticipated news.

Speculation had it that he had fallen out of favor with the board; some said that he had become complacent and thus was fired. Internal politics resultant out of management shift was another rumored reason for downfall. Another said that industry challenges and cost cutting measures resulted in high profile exits; after all another CXO had recently left the company under mysterious circumstances. There was no dearth of good and vile reasons; no one however asked the CIO lest they rub a wrong chord.

Joining them at the cusp of growth and globalization the CIO had spent a long innings in the chosen company and industry. He invested significant effort which bore fruit for the company leapfrogging it and strengthening their leadership position. He created a high performance and empowered team who created success with ease. Not that the journey was a bed of roses, thorns were a plenty which he slowly weeded out and won the confidence of the enterprise and industry with his willingness to lend a helping hand.

Industry bodies and associations depended on him for thought leadership and his ability to get people together. He improved the level of participation from across companies bringing out the best to discuss and debate solutions to generic and specific issues. Awards and accolades were conferred upon him with invitations to share his strategic, pragmatic and practical views globally. It was almost like a fairy tale in which everyone lived happily ever after. That is why the news appeared improbable.

Tentative in my approach, I decided to uncover the mystery that had many in the industry wondering. I called upon the CIO and popped the question forthwith. Is everything okay ? What happened ? Why did you leave ? Was there a problem ? Where are you going ? Who is taking over ? You were doing so well ! He patiently listened to me and waited for my questions to stop which did bring me to a pause. Smiling, he then started to explain his position and the raison-de-etre behind his steps.

My journey has been great; the industry adopted me and gave me an opportunity to create new benchmarks in customer service. I took on the leadership role with help of my CEO and support from within and outside the company. Challenging conventional wisdom and fast tracking some leading initiatives gave me the requisite platform. My vendors embraced some of the new ideas and committed resources to experiment and explore. Many case studies later I was the spokesperson for what IT could do.

The journey through the recession and upswing cemented the business technology relationship to create new benchmarks. Moving from projects to impacting business outcomes was a great feeling for everyone. This partnership grew from strength to strength; for me the question was what next ? My team was on autopilot and I was on a roll, at the same time a bit restless. That is when opportunity came knocking on my door. It was once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create again from ground up; in today’s world that is a rarity.

I liked what I heard and decided to take the plunge. Leaving on a high is a great feeling when everyone is asking WHY; I did not want to be where people start asking WHY NOT. Everyone remembers champions at their high points of achievements and move on to the next winner as soon as you start faltering. I took my call and decided to take the plunge while setting into motion a process to ensure that all the effort of the teams did not go waste post my exit. I am enjoying the new role and the industry has rallied around this quickly.

Hmm, what a story, I hope I can do the same someday. Should you leave when the going is good or should you build upon past success ? I believe that this is a personal call depending on your risk appetite and the way you see your career progressing. Whether you are a creator or good at sustenance with incremental innovation will determine your calling. There is no one answer that works for everyone. It is for you to find the right opportunity or make opportunities where you are.


  1. Good one Arun, Finally, one is answerable to oneself, so should take a call which gives you joy and happiness. For sure Quit when in peak, but as you mentioned depends on each one's risk appetite, likes/dislikes etc. Opportunities are never an issue - they are in abundance.

    I read a nice cartoon long long back- One Guy is panting and sweating as he climbs a big hill... he goes on, as he enjoys the cool breeze hitting his chest, the small droplets of sweat in his forehead.. the scenic beauty around him...his lungs breathing deeply...the loneliness. his silent and calm mind with one focus of reaching the top...... when he reaches the top he meets a Sadhu in meditation.... he asks him why did I climb this...the simple answer the Sadhu gave was -- to get down and climb again...the joy is in the journey and not in the destination
    Enjoyed the read

  2. Hi Arun
    I have a related question here: There are times in one's career when one begins to feel "devalued" and redundant in the organization. In such times one often thinks of leaving or going on a sabbatical to re-skill (with permission from the company).
    But it's not a good idea to stay away for too long least you are forgotten (and replaced).
    What would be a good strategy to adopt in such situations?

    Brian Pereira

    1. Brian,

      Changes to profile and new skill requirements are rarely sudden, they build up over a period of time with changes in the organization or the function. If you are watchful, this can be addressed on the go with/without the permission of your Manager.

      If you need to augment skills that require longer time or a sabbatical, my view would be to introspect deep and long on your role and responsibilities and whether the new skill fits into your long term goals. If your marketability increase is significant, do take the plunge. Even if you are unwelcome in your earlier organization, you could find roles in other companies.

      You are responsible for your growth and career, your company or Manager is not. So stay relevant, stay hungry.


  3. This answers many questions that have for long lingered in my mind.
    Thanks for the great post!

    --Brian Pereira