Last week to my colleagues and friends at EMC I announced that I resigned. I did this after obtaining the counsel of my trusted colleagues, many discussions with friends, and a prodigious amount of soul searching. And not without a little anxiety. But its now done.
EMC presented me the opportunity of a lifetime. It was EMC that brought me to Asia and then later moved me from Singapore to Hong Kong. It was EMC that paid me well enough to live comfortably in these two cities and enjoy the surrounding adventure. It was EMC that trusted me to lead large teams of dedicated, creative people that served as trusted advisors for projects customers spent literally billions on. And it was the entire family at EMC that taught me so much about technology, teamwork, sales, partnering, and management. I am so grateful.
But on a personal note, I have known something was missing for some time. I am 38 and a serial bachelor. Many people pour long hours into their work but the fruits of their life are their children. Without a family, and with a job that I happily let consume so many hours, my biggest accomplishments in life happened at work. I realized in recent weeks that I needed something else.
Although I do not know exactly what activity will yield this unknown sense of fulfillment, I suspect a year away from the industry in which I’ve thrived for 16 years may help me find it. Of course I’m not going to find it by sitting in my apartment watching TV. So, I’ve decided to make this break from work as a sabbatical. I will study and pursue a private project.
First, I have always wanted to learn another language and make good use of it. This, like earning a PhD while working, is no easy task. Certainly people get PhDs while working but I’ll bet they didn’t work the hours I did over the last year! If I am really going to achieve fluency in a second language I need to ease off work. The Chinese University of Hong Kong offers an intensive, all-week program that, without competing work commitments, I believe will bring me to Chinese fluency in 12 months.
Second, I want to investigate the world of open data. A couple of months ago I met a community of volunteers in Hong Kong. They meet every couple weeks or so. The group wants to influence the Hong Kong government to make more data open and encourage the data scientists in the community to do something interesting with this data. I’m not sure if anything will come of this. But the idea of spending a few hours a week thinking about big data, analytics, public data sounds like a fun volunteer project.
I was just reminded by a colleague how lucky I am to have this opportunity to take a midlife break. The bachelor thing is really paying off here. I cannot imagine having the flexibility to do this with a family to take care of. And when I come out of the other side of this corporate hiatus, who knows what person I will be? I assume I will still be in information technology. But some people tell me not to be so sure.
So, my last day at EMC is 10 May. As of Monday, 13 May, I step out onto the streets of Hong Kong in the cheap (but comfortable!) clothes that come with voluntary unemployment. Where the successes of my past few years were measured in the small ways I influenced very big groups, my coming projects will be measured by the big changes I can make in small groups. And to myself.
I have tremendous gratitude for what EMC and my managers and colleagues provided to me. With thanks in my heart and a smile on my face I say that I hope I will work with them again soon.
Seeing as I will be an unemployed student for the foreseeable future I will gladly accept your free drinks!