Leaving Yammer: A Love Letter

17 Apr
2013

photo-2Today is my last day at Yammer – it’s bittersweet as all last days are. I’m blown away by the experience of the past two years, sad to leave, and excited for the future. It’s been the craziest and most fulfilling experience of my professional life. A bit over two years ago, I had no idea what I had just signed up for. Through the past 2 years, I’ve seen the company go from 100 employees to 500, and to being acquired by one of the largest companies in the world for a whole lot of cold, hard cash. I’ve seen Yammer go from being seen as a social toy by analysts, to becoming a household name, much to the credit of DeeAnna McPherson, Kevin Young and the most amazing customer army.

I’ve gone through every emotion you could think of – to say that every day was a new adventure would be an understatement. I can honestly say that it was a very full and fulfilling experience. You see, it’s very hard to put all of these things into words, but I will try.

Gratitude

I will start by thanking Yammer for this amazing opportunity. Thank you to David Sacks and Adam Pisoni for creating one of the most special companies and cultures I’ve ever seen. It’s been and continues to be a place for talented people to thrive and feel connected to a huge, mind-boggling mission of changing how people work together.

It all started for me when Steve Schnell scouted me from a talk I gave (I’m living proof that getting out there matters much more than writing a resume or a cover letter). When you and Steve Apfelberg took me to lunch that one day, I had no idea I was being interviewed :) Thank you for that, and thank you for not giving up when I told you this opportunity wasn’t for me (what was I thinking?!?).

Thank you to DeeAnna McPherson for being the best boss ever – you are the reason I was successful here. You gave me autonomy to learn, develop, grow and act – and you never questioned my judgment. You trusted me implicitly, supported me, removed roadblocks and defended me in front of others. I’ve learned what leadership means from your actions. Kevin Young: same goes for you. You were only my boss for a few months, but you did much of what Dee Anna did for me. Thank you for being awesome all the time.

Thank you to the amazing team of Molly Bugler and Matt Jensen. You made me look good every day. Someone once said to me: “Wow your team is great; you are really good at hiring.” (See, you made me look good here too!) And yes, it’s true — I found the most amazing team when I met you. The Community Playbook – my favorite piece of content I’ve been a part of – would never have happened without you, your commitment and your patience when each night I stayed up till 1 a.m. to add more slides because I just had to have them :). You probably thought I was nuts, but you rolled with it anyway. You filled in where I lacked, and that was awesome (yep, I’m looking at you, Molly, with your Ninja Powerpoint Skillz). I will miss you guys the most.

Thank you for the constant inspiration and thought leadership from Matt Partovi, Steve Hopkins, Matt Ontell, just to name a few (wow, so many Matts!). Matt P, I’ll never forget how you pushed me to think bigger – beyond community, to building movements. I am better because of you, our brainstorming sessions and your support. Steve Hopkins, Matt Partovi, Stephen Danelutti, Kate Forgione and many others — I will be forever grateful for you making me feel right at home across both oceans and including me in your lives.

All of you will always be my Yamily (yes, I went there).

Learnings

I’ve learned so much, I can’t list it all, but here’s a small sampling …

Not only did I learn a ton about enterprise social, wants and needs of users and buyers – and the art of understanding which one is which, and how buyers and users need each other. I also learned a ton about innovation and organizational design. No awesome platform will help you if you aren’t set up to deal with change, and technology only amplifies the problems that you already have. Yammer the company is an embodiment of what Yammer the product helps its customers do, when product becomes one with the organization.

I learned the importance of shipping and then iterating. I learned that MVP is not limited to engineering. It’s the only way to get anything done in a world that’s constantly changing. I learned the importance of analytics to not only product, but to everything in life. Oh sheesh, now I’m going to be A / B testing everything. O hai there, Fish! :)

I’ve also learned a ton about community management and how the right community design may make or break you. I learned how to work completely in the open, and that being vulnerable doesn’t expose your weakness; it’s actually a leadership strength.

I also learned about letting go of certain things and being flexible. As a very passionate person, I tend to dig my heels in and stand my ground. I learned that this doesn’t always work, and working with other passionate people, you need to figure out how to move forward, without getting stuck at an impasse.  I learned about operating at the intersection of standing by what you know is right, but with enough humility and openness to let others take a chance on you. I learned that trust trumps everything. And probably most importantly, I learned to give myself permission to pace myself, so that I don’t get injured running a marathon at the speed of a sprint.

My favorite part: Community

And my favorite part of my Yammer experience: the customer community (this is the part where I cry). You all mean more to me than you will ever know. It’s been an honor and a priveledge to hang out with you every day – online and offline. You are true heroes, breaking down silos, coaching and educating, putting your careers on the line for what you know is right. You are really changing your companies – and the world!

Thank you for not laughing me out of the room when I first came to Yammer and had no idea how to marry the two worlds of consumerized social software and enterprise buyers. I made some mistakes for sure, but you were always patient and open to learning together. I feel like I got an MBA from the school of hard knocks and a front seat to the best and most meaningful change in how humans work together.

Thank you for teaching me so much and for being patient while I gained a true appreciation for complexity and nuance of what it takes to be you.  You moved and continue to move mountains with unwavering commitment. I have even seen some of your careers change, as you became evangelists of enterprise social – and that’s been extremely gratifying to watch. Thank you for always being honest, helping and trusting each other, and really being a community. Thank you for your enduring passion – it dwarfs all other customer passion I’ve seen yet. Flashmobs, Yammer cupcakes, and even a Yammer dictionary? Oh my!

I will miss the cheerful optimism and helpfulness of Miguel Zlot, Ashley Gross, Scott Kelley, Andrea Berry, Josephine Murfey, Nicky Hayward-Wright – and way too many names to name. I will miss discussions and whole blogposts coming together in front of my very eyes — wait, did Simon Terry, a CEO of a financial company in Australia, really write a blogpost over the weekend, sparked by a conversation between a bunch of really smart people? Did this really happen? That’s pretty special, if you ask me. Simon Terry, Andy Hedges, Jonathan Anthony, Kai Riemer, Lawrence DeVoe, Phoebe Venkat, Roland Hulme and the list goes on and on and on – you are a rare breed: thought leaders and practitioners, and I look forward to seeing you on the cover of the New York Times.

Until we meet again

I hate goodbyes, and this is certainly not one. This is a love letter and a celebration of what we experienced and built together. We will always have the social web connecting us, and I’m not worried about losing touch – my digital door is always open, and you know where to find me. While I will miss all of you on a daily basis, I am looking forward to a lifetime of keeping up with you, because I know you will change the world.

But the building of the future doesn’t stop here. I leave behind an immensely talented and committed team of Molly Bugler, Matt Jensen and Bryony Cole. These guys can take what we’ve built together to the next level. It’s been a priveledge to watch all of you flourish and grow. I am very proud of what we have built together.

I sometimes can’t believe that I get to do this for a living – I must have done something right :) This experience will be hard to top, and now I have developed an appetite for working towards changing the world. So that’s where I’ll be – starting movements and changing the world — one mind and action at a time. But first, a European holiday to recharge my battery!

(P.S. that’s me in the Yammy suit!)

  • http://twitter.com/ThisMuchWeKnow Jonathan Anthony

    Maria – I have witnessed in the Yammer Customer Network the last few days the outpouring of heartfelt best wishes from the community – your community – when you shard your news of departure. For all your readers outside the walled garden, let me summarise it through the words of Susan Sontag. This is what you have done at Yammer:

    “Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”

    adieu!

    • http://about.me/themaria themaria

      Thank you Jonathan! Your support has been invaluable. I’ve learned a ton from you and you continuously pushed me to be better and think bigger. Thanks for the great quote! I’m excited for the future and am very thankful to the Yammer community for being so amazing.

  • http://twitter.com/mor_trisha Trisha Liu

    Maria, congratulations!! What a beautiful tribute to your community, family, and all that you have learned on this adventure. Sending you a giant hug and best wishes!

    • http://about.me/themaria themaria

      Trisha! Thank you! It’s been an adventure for sure, and I’m stoked for what’s next.

  • http://www.facebook.com/annalie.killian Annalie Killian

    Dear Maria. so glad to have met you in this time and for all the great work you did at Yammer championing the requests and needs of the Yammer Community. You are the gold standard of Community Management: Magnanimous, strategic, witty, agile. sensible, emotionally intelligent ( no, make that “genius”). Was fantastic to have you as our guest in Australia at Amplify last year. Check out what we’re cooking up now! http://www.amplifyfestival.com.au All the best and drop us a note where you next land!

    • http://about.me/themaria themaria

      Annalie, it was magnificent having met you and worked with you. Thank you for your warm welcome in Sydney! I hope to continue or collaboration; keep in touch for sure!

  • http://www.facebook.com/k2m2y2 Kevin Young

    Maria – I should be thanking you! You’ve been such a pleasure to work with and your significant contributions to Yammer live on in many ways. I’ve learned a lot from you and been inspired by your passion and boundless creativity. Most importantly, you are a really good person and I am better for knowing you. I look forward to seeing what is next for theMaria :) Enjoy your trip!

    • http://about.me/themaria themaria

      Kevin, I heart you!! It’s been so awesome working with you. You are a class act!

  • http://twitter.com/Infosourcer Suzy Tonini

    Hi Maria,

    I have always loved your enthusiasm, professionalism and personable approach- all traits of a great community manager.

    Yammer is also dear to my heart, having started the Deloitte Yammer network in 2008, under the radar, and watching it blossom to epic proportions-the network is now official and has 195K+ members.How awesome is that?? I also visited the SF office and was graciously welcomed by Yammer folks, and even got to meet David Sacks, briefly. When I contracted at Microsoft, I immediately championed the power of Yammer and was nominated the best Yambassador (at the time) LOL!

    While I am no longer at Deloitte or Microsoft, having chosen the entrepreneur path, I still am a strong advocate of Yammer. That being said, I am very interested in further connecting with you, since, I too, am starting movements and will change the world!!

    Enjoy Paris, a city I lived and loved for 7 years, and give me a shout when you are ready!! :)

    Take care

  • http://twitter.com/alanlepo Alan Lepofsky

    Congrats on all your success Maria. Best of luck on what comes next and enjoy that vacation!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kiwigate David Stanley

    Maria, I am sure you will be terribly missed by the Yammer team and a true asset to what comes next. I look forward to re-connecting when you land at your new home. Good luck and talk soon. David

  • http://twitter.com/yammeradam Adam Pisoni

    It was great working with you Maria. Best of luck on whatever comes next!

  • servantofchaos

    No doubt you’ll be missed by the Yammer community … but will always be connected. Looking forward to hearing of the next adventure

  • http://twitter.com/mattontell Matthew Ontell

    Wow. Such a mix of emotions. Couldn’t comment right away as I tried to think of the right thing(s) to say. Thanks for the kind words and been a true privilege working with, learning from, and becoming friends with you. Can’t wait to hang out again and here of your new adventures.

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