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Work-Life Balance in Tech? Sort of… Sheryl Sandberg Leads the Way

I have been involved in tech – either the tech industry (sell side) or IT (buy side) for pretty much my entire career. People in tech are, overall, smart, dedicated… and a little obsessive and focused. We work night and day, on crazy deadlines, whether you are developer or administrator, management or staff, marketing or R&D. Part of it is the mindset, and part of it is the expected culture.

When I first started at Morgan Stanley IT in the mid-90s, every evening, on the 16th floor (where the Managing Directors and CIO lived), 80+% of the lights were on after 7pm. By the time I left, four years later, I would say 80% were off by 6pm. People were just as dedicated, and delivered at least as much value, if not more. But people learned that not everything had to be done, not everything had to be done today, and not everything had to be done at the office. As great a company as it was, we learned to value and implement a culture of deliverables over face time.

Silicon Valley, for the most part, never learned that. Everything was last minute, everything was impossible deadlines, and everything had to be done in-person.

It looks like that, finally, is changing. One of the most powerful people in SV, and likely the second most powerful woman (after Meg Whitman), is “coming out of the closet.” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg leaves the office every day by 5:30pm to have dinner with her kids. Every day. The interview on mashable is here. She is on email later in the evening, and early in the morning, so that she can balance time with her kids with staying on top of and managing the activities at Facebook. What is interesting is not that she does it, nor for how long she has been doing it, but that only now is she self-confident enough to publicly speak about it. I know the feeling.

Hats off to this Barnard College (my wife’s alma mater, and part of Columbia University, my own alma mater) alumna for taking a public step towards showing that you can get all that work done, that deliverables matter and face time does not, and that family is the reason we do all of this.

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