Friday was my last day at Fox Corporation.
I joined Fox last year on their custom platform team, a shared service team providing infrastructure and support for most business units across the organization. While on that team, I helped launch Fox Weather and created comprehensive documentation for folks onboarding to the platform. I went on to manage several client-facing teams. Truly, my favorite part of the job was time spent with these incredibly hard-working and dedicated folks. I’m proud of the work we did together, and I will miss working with them the most. It’s not every day you get to solve hard problems with people operating at the top of their game. Collaboration like that is hard to come by.
Complex organizations bring complex challenges. Even trying to summarize this complexity succinctly is hard to do. The scale of the problems was attractive at first. Big problems require big swings and those big payoffs can be exhilarating; but the complexity exists on multiple levels: people, process, technology, philosophy. Finding clarity in all of the noise takes a lot of work, work that is both time-consuming and stressful. Messy dependencies, legacy systems, employee churn, competing priorities, unclear stakeholders — all of this makes moving forward like running on sand.
Two key things impacted my decision.
Slope of Enlightenment
Most of my time at Fox was marked by a feeling that I did not have the technical expertise/competence needed for the role. Much of leadership is making sound decisions in the face of uncertainty, yes; but at an executive level, you need a depth of knowledge in order to make sound judgement calls and provide clear instruction to your teams. If you don’t have that, you have to compensate with a lot of extra work, and that is very often accompanied by significant stress.
That alone wasn’t catalyst enough, though. Frankly, that’s every engineering job, isn’t it?
In fact, I’d say that I’ve grown tremendously in the last year and a half through that work. I’ve expanded my engineering chops: reviewing and revising legacy codebases, establishing operating procedures for continuous integration and deployment, solving performance problems at nearly every layer. Almost too many technical details to recount. I’ve also grown in my management abilities: onboarding new employees, developing a product roadmap, building consensus around stakeholder requests, practicing principles of effective leadership, putting together and delivering performance reviews, tracking work across multiple projects.
In short: the work was hard, but I’m a hard worker. I’m trustworthy. I want to bring value to an organization and make people feel valued. I know that in time, with continuous work, I could have compensated for the missing expertise I felt.
But there was another catalyst.
When I started at Fox, it was with the idea that I’d be working on a platform team that served all of the business units. Because of some recent organizational restructuring which deemphasized the shared services model, I found myself and my teams almost entirely under the Fox News purview. Instead of working on platform innovation for the entire org, my day-to-day responsibilities had shifted almost entirely to product and engineering-focused discussions around Fox News products. I mentioned my apprehensions about working with Fox News in my announcement post.
How can you be an effective leader—inspire and rally teams, drive the product forward, make intelligent decisions about prioritization—when you don’t have alignment with the product you’re responsible for? I wrestled with that decision for several months, and made a very personal decision that I could not.
I recognize there’s a certain level of privilege in that decision. Not everyone has the freedom to leave a company they don’t support. I also don’t want to cast shade on those teams or the work they’re putting in. There are some incredibly hard-working and thoughtful people on those teams, and working with them was the best part of the job.
There’s more I could say here about the hard-to-articulate realities of perceived and real value and building trust in a large organization, but in short, I decided that as much as I enjoy the people I work with, I do not want to expend the energy required to do this job well on a product I do not believe in.
I plan to spend the next few weeks answering that question. The first question is whether or not to get back in the saddle at another org, or do my own thing. (I have ideas.)
One thing I learned through this role: constant context-switching, endless meetings, and the always-on marathon mindset required by executive life does not agree with me.
What do I value?
- Solving technical problems and helping other people understand and leverage the solution
- Diversity in what I do, ideally with long sessions of focused work, punctuated by short bursts of discovery and rest
- A sensible work day, ideally with mornings filled with focused work, socialization later in the day, and plenty of time for family
- Cooperative relationship with others (avoiding power dynamics)
- Meaningful conversations, driven by a genuine curiosity and compassion for people
The answer to the question “what’s next?” will likely involve some combination of those things.
More to come… stay tuned!