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Uber and Google: Two retirement letters from CFOs that aren’t like the norm

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Uber has been valued at more than $62.5bn and has reportedly been in talks with investors about a new $2bn funding round. However, there’s still no C-level executive leading Uber’s finances, and there’s no indication Uber will name anybody to the vacant slot soon.

One of its biggest financial hires came in 2013, when it poached Brent Callinicos, a former treasurer for Google and Microsoft. He scaled the firm from a startup to a multinational operating in 53 countries, but left in March 2015.

As per usual, the departure of any executive comes hand-in-hand with a retirement letter to be dispatched to staff. Most times the message is brief and to the point, but tech execs seem to be a little more personal and philosophical.

In an internal memo, Callinicos explained “there is no later. The time is now. It is time to do what I have desired for a very long time; time to keep a promise to my wife of not missing another school play, swim meet, or academic achievement of our daughter’s childhood.”

He wrote that a great philosopher, John Dewey, once, said, ”Time and memory are true artists; they remould reality nearer to the heart’s desire.” 

It was further added that time has a way of passing quickly, easily leaving your heart’s desire to maybe happen later. “Time; time; time, to encapsulate what matters most to me; time, to admit that every day I work, I lose time with my family; time, to help my daughter understand how important time is before time becomes a blur to her too. It is simply time,” he wrote. 

“For me, this ride is coming to an end. After 26 years of nonstop work since MBA School, I am going to step back and spend some time with my family and let someone else take this amazing company to the next level as CFO. My daughter is in middle school; my wife has been supportively waiting to spend time with me for 28 years. I made a promise to both of them that I would be taking a long break at this stage of life.

“And as the great philosopher put it, everything has conspired to give me this opportunity to acknowledge my heart’s desire. Right now, the happiest thing I can think of is driving my daughter to school and swim practice. Time, now, for the heart’s desire. I will watch and admire from the sidelines as I begin a new life with my family.”

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The letter from Callinicos echoes a memo from former Google CFO Patrick Pichette, who also cited a desire to be with his family.

Pichette told of a story where he was hiking on Mt. Kilimanjaro and took in the sunrise “on top of Africa.” His wife, Tamar, asked him a question that eventually led him to leave the company. She asked whether they could just keep on travelling.

“I remember telling her a typical prudent CFO type response,” he said. “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. 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. I concluded on a few simple and self-evident truths: First, the kids are gone. Two are in college, one graduated and in a startup in Africa. The reality is that 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. 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 1,500 weeks now. Third, this summer we 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 we 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. The short answer is simply that I could not find a good argument to tell her we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road.

“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.”

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