“Enjoy the Work”: Finding the work/life balance

Recently MongoDB CEO Max Schireson wrote a compelling and personal blog about why he was stepping down as the company’s CEO. Max’s post on his struggle to find balance with his professional and personal lives sparked conversation here at Chef, with a number of folks weighing in via our company’s internal social network (we use Yammer).

Adam Jacob was kind enough to say, “CEO-ing ain’t easy” (thanks Adam!) and after I shared my own thoughts, several colleagues encouraged me to publish my perspective on Chef’s blog.

In short, I agree, “CEO-ing isn’t easy”. But, frankly, I suspect there are no jobs at companies like MongoDB or Chef that are easy. The flip side to the success that both our companies are experiencing is that we’re constantly at risk of outrunning our supply lines. And in the modern work environment that means that we hurry from meeting to meeting (physical or virtual), the email piles up, interruptions propagate, we underinvest in key relationships, and every day we add more things to the “Do-It” list than we cross off.

Then there is the rest of your life. Parenthood. Spouse. Partner. Friends. Parents. A hobby? We’re massively time deprived. Usually sleep deprived. Are you a heavy business traveler like our services or sales team? Even more time deprivation for you.

I read a very relevant article yesterday in the August 11th edition of Fortune on the bus ride home (unfortunately it’s behind the subscriber wall, but for all you Fortune readers out there, definitely check it out). The article examines how we as professionals can reduce our collective stress. This is an important topic with real business intent. Asking about reducing stress isn’t just me trying to be kind. Think about anything you have done in your life that requires skill. Music. Athletics. Public speaking. Coding. Gaming. Do you perform at your highest levels when you are all knotted up, sleep deprived, eating poorly, and your life is crashing in on you?  No. Your wellness matters. It should matter to you and it matters to your career, your company, and your boss. Take care of yourself and you will perform better in all aspects of your life. We’re taking this very seriously as we map out new office expansions and hiring.

So back to Max Schireson’s blog. I don’t know Max and can’t speak to what is, or is not, at play in his decision. All I can say is that balancing the demands of rapidly growing business and your personal life can be brutal. For me two things are enormously helpful:

1. Share a life roadmap with key personal partnerships and invest heavily in those partnerships.

2. “Enjoy the work.” I’ve borrowed this from a family friend, Kristen. This was her mantra on a coast-to-coast bike ride across the US that she undertook in her fifties. When she was grinding up a steep mountain pass, or pushing into the wind day after day across the Midwest, she’d tell herself over and over, “enjoy the work”. Easy to say, hard to do. But I’ve found that the hardest work is the most rewarding.

And what about the new MongoDB CEO, Dev Ittycheria? He was the founder and CEO of BladeLogic. He visited me late last year as we were closing our Series D round of funding. He’s terrific and I bet he’ll do a great job at MongoDB. He’s someone who very much “enjoys the work.”

Would love to hear others’ thoughts and comments.

Barry Crist

Barry Crist has more than 20 years of experience in driving enterprise customer success with open source and DevOps software solutions and is a recognized leader in driving a culture of innovation. Barry joined Chef as CEO in 2013 and has been a leading force behind the company’s business operations, culture and technology innovation.