On departing…and returning

On Monday, 11/28, I began a new job, returning to my previous employer of over 10 years, AOL.

For the past year, I’ve been working for Perfect Sense Digital, a company who builds engaging and profitable websites and publishing platforms. There are seriously talented people at PSD who I had the privilege of interacting with everyday. I departed just after the recent redesigns and relaunches of both SnagFilms and Indiewire. These two sites were both built on PSD’s BrightSpot CMS and provided a major uplift in features and workflow for the content producers as well as a more engaging site design for users. It is with mixed feelings that I leave my PSD friends, who provided me a great opportunity to support and design systems that were not beholden to a legacy way of doing things, and who embrace a collaborative approach to software development and implementation. They will continue to deliver great things, and I’m grateful for the time I was able to work with them.

When I was first contacted by AOL about returning, I reached out to many of my former AOL colleagues who offered endless thoughts and opinions on what it would mean to return, as they mostly affectionately called it, to “The Mothership”. The AOL alumni is an amazing mix of individuals who have gone on to have significant impact to the Northern Virginia region, and, in fact, many leading technology and media companies beyond the East coast. It is an alumni I’m proud to be part of, and a network I fully leverage for sage advice. I’m flattered to have been considered and to be offered an opportunity to return. It is a rare occasion where you get to learn of the reputation you leave behind and of the opinions that people have had of working with you. It is a delicate balance to consider returning to any company where you have spent so much time, invested so much energy, and know so many of the personalities, but in the end, made a decision to depart. It was of the utmost importance to me to ensure I didn’t take a position that would quickly recreate the frustrations that caused me to exit.

I mentally created the following high level checklist to help consider the position.

  1. Will I be able to make a positive impact to the organization I will be leading?
  2. What is different now versus then?
  3. What have I learned about myself since I left that will help me in this position?
  4. Are the responsibilities something I can be passionate about?
  5. Are the responsibilities work that I want to do?
  6. Will my manger be a mentor? What can I learn from him?
  7. How will I know if I’ve been successful?

The technologies team has been very welcoming in my return. There are some great individuals here, working on innovative and interesting technologies, and I’m looking forward to re-engaging with them. In the coming posts I’d like to share some of this work and my observations about leading a team, thoughtful uses of technology, and begin to tell a different, positive story about how one of the largest Internet technology companies reinvents itself.

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2 thoughts on “On departing…and returning

  1. J – I love this blog you’re doing. Sorry I am late on this topic. In my career, I’ve returned to two different companies. In one case, it worked out well. In the other, not so much. I think the statistics say that in most cases it does not work out, but there are so many different circumstances that of course you can’t just blindly apply that rule.

    Sounds like you’ve really done your homework for your particular situation. Keep up the blog – great idea!

    Like

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