So uh, yeah… I know these sorts of personal departure posts are a bit trite, and I certainly have mixed feelings about posting one. However, as Yahoo-bashing is apparently quite de rigueur in the tech press these days, I wanted to make sure my reasons for leaving Flickr were publicly posted in my own words, so that my departure would not continue to be used as ammunition for other people’s agendas, or incite any speculation about the well-being of Flickr.
After nearly five years of awesome, I have decided to step away from my current role of Head of Product of Flickr, and resign from Yahoo! Inc.
I’ve had the privilege of developing some amazing things at Flickr. I’ve worked with many iterations of an amazing team. I managed to accidentally invent a new holiday celebrated in 28 countries. I’ve had so many unbelievable opportunities while working on Flickr, it’s impossible to even begin to enumerate them.
Very early in my career at Flickr, I worked on the first version of our mobile website. Shortly after launch, while I was travelling on a business trip in the UK, I was waiting for my delayed flight home in Heathrow Airport, bored and lonely. I pulled up m.flickr.com on my Treo 650 and within seconds was looking at a photo my dogsitter had taken of my pooch minutes before, and was able to engage in a conversation in the comments with her. Nowadays, these sort of interactions seem old hat, but at the time I distinctly remember thinking: I helped build something that will change people’s lives for the better. This sentiment was important for me, and for the remainder of my career at Flickr, one of my fundamental underlying motivations in product development has been how will what we’re building enrich the lives of our members and change the way they communicate for the better? I’m proud to say that not only did I have the opportunity to build many things at Flickr that embrace this desire, but also that this sentiment permeates the entire team and I believe it will inform everything that they will continue to build in the future.
Nonetheless, the time has come for me to move on.
The good news
To steal and paraphrase from J. Allard’s excellent goodbye letter — “my life has been 95% Flickr and 5% other for quite some time, and I know the first step is to flip that ratio around.”
Against all odds (and in the oddest of places), I have met someone who having a future with is more important to me than any job could ever be. Leaving Flickr behind will allow me to focus more passionately on investing in a future with her.
The future of Flickr
Flickr now has a newly focused and developed product strategy to win in the photo sharing space. It’s there. It’s coherent. It’s consistent. I strongly believe it will work if executed on effectively. While I obviously can’t share metrics or specifics, in the things we’d begun rolling out in the past year, we’ve begun to see fantastic returns on our bets, in just the way we had been looking for.
Flickr is a small, scrappy team, working on challenges way larger than itself, and as a result it requires intense focus and effort. That sort of focus and effort is actually a good thing for any company, and the Flickr team has been able to step up to the challenge. As the photo sharing landscape evolves and becomes more complex, Flickr will require additional investment from Yahoo. I’ve done my best to advance this fight, and know those who come after me will continue to push that forward as well.
The short version? While I believe highly in the future of Flickr, my time to be leading the charge has passed. I need to pass on the torch to the next generation of Flickreenos, all of whom have a clear mission, sense of purpose, and the drive and talent to get it done. I know that they are up for the task.
What I’m most proud of
Hiring and mentoring some of the most amazingly smart and driven up-and-coming talent in the industry — I hope Flickr was (and will continue to be) as rewarding an experience for them as it has been for me.
Working on a team so committed to “doing the right thing” for our members. Whatever the outside perspective has been at time, and while public detractors (often pushing their own agendas) are certainly easy to find, I’ve never in my life met a group of people so strongly committed to this belief.
Finally, I’m proud to finally have the courage to step away, which anyone who has worked for many years on something they love knows, is an exceptionally difficult thing to do.
So what next?
I’m not going to announce my next thing here just yet, as I don’t want to muddle a post that’s meant to be about Flickr. Suffice to say, it is decided upon and exists, and I’ll share it sometime soon. In the meantime, I know that I’m walking away from one of the most important chapters of life, and hopefully into another.