By Cheryl Porro, Chief Technology Officer of Thrive Global
Below is an article originally written by Cheryl Porro, Chief Technology Officer at PowerToFly Partner Thrive Global, and published on September 10, 2018. Go to Thrive Global's page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
I'm thrilled to start as Thrive Global's Chief Technology Officer. Joining Thrive is not just the next step in my career. It's an opportunity for me to take what I've learned from two decades of experience building and delivering enterprise software products — most recently at Salesforce.org — and apply it to a mission that deeply resonates with me: creating technology and products that help to end the epidemic of stress and burnout.
Working at the highest levels of tech, alongside many of the industry's most talented and ambitious people, I've seen firsthand how deeply ingrained this burnout mentality is, both in individuals and in the culture at large. And I've lived it myself – more on that in a moment.
As I embark on the next phase of my own Thrive journey, here are a few key moments that have shaped me – and my beliefs around the power of technology to help us create a life of less stress, more well-being and more fulfillment.
Looking back, there wasn't a single "aha" moment. It was a slow build. I was the sole breadwinner in my family, navigating, as so many women do, the competing demands and pressures of career and motherhood, professional and personal.
No matter how hard I worked, I felt I could not do justice to any of these categories. I felt anxiety and constant pressure — most of all from inside myself — and knew that if I continued on that way, I was headed for some kind of breakdown. On the surface I was successful: exceeding expectations, meeting my responsibilities; I was promoted seven times in as many years. I put in a full day at the office and then came home for dinner, but was constantly checking in with work and getting back to my laptop after the meal, often with a glass or two of red wine. And my response to the stress of it all had become physical: flare-ups of eczema, puffy eyes, exhaustion. My body was screaming "you need help!" But I'd become so used to powering through, I was able to tune out the warning signals.
Until I wasn't. One day, I walked into my boss's office and said, simply, "I'm done."
To his immense credit, he responded with patience, calm and kindness. Clearly, you're not ok, he told me. Before you rush into any big decisions, take some time off.
So I did, gratefully. And in the month that followed, I realized a truth I had been denying for years: that to really be there for my family, my company and my community, I first had to be there for myself.
Prioritizing Myself = Supercharging My Productivity
In the engineering world, you often hear people talk about "the 10x engineer." This person – an almost mythical figure in tech circles – is someone who is somehow able to be ten times more productive than the typical engineer. Where others feel like time is scarce, 10x engineers seem to have it in abundance.
I don't know if anyone has ever thought of me as a 10x engineer, but I've always been productive and proud of it. And yes, from time to time friends and colleagues have wondered aloud to me how I'm able to get so much done. And yes they are shocked when they hear that most nights I get a solid 8 hours and 20 minutes of sleep, what I have found to be the ideal amount of quality sleep for me to be at my best.
But it wasn't until I took that month off from work and began to prioritize myself that I realized how much productivity potential I had yet to tap into. Suddenly, my productivity skyrocketed. I'd unlocked potential I didn't even know I had. As I prioritized myself – in the form of more sleep, smarter food choices, a meditation practice, and more time for my beloved daily runs – I was able to reach new heights of productivity, focus, creativity. Everything, in other words, I needed to reach peak performance.
I returned to work a month later, a finalist for a new job at Salesforce, leading the technology and products team for Salesforce.org, the nonprofit arm of the company. I was extremely excited, and a little doubtful I would land it. But I got the job and had to turn around my plan for the year and present it to the president and the entire executive team over a one-week period. Something I wouldn't have previously imagined doing.
And as I returned to work, recharged and refreshed after my month away, the extent of the change in me became clear. It wasn't that I'd zeroed in on some magic bullet "life hack" or solved some complicated riddle. As I made time for people and things that truly mattered to me, something in me shifted. It was a dropping off of the ego, allowing me to be more creative and productive without second-guessing myself so much. I wasn't overthinking and overanalyzing nearly as much as I used to. As Thrive Global founder Arianna Huffington says, I'd tuned out the "obnoxious roommate" in my head – because now I had more important and supportive voices to listen to.
Grateful People Give
It wasn't just my productivity that increased. I felt a surge of gratitude that began to improve every aspect of my life. And as I felt more grateful, I became more generous.
Here's just one example: I started going to bed every night at the same time as my now-11-year-old daughter instead of staying up late to check email or chip away at the neverending pile of work. We would get ready together, read together, and start to doze off together – an expression of love and quality time I didn't even know I'd been missing. Instead of feeling that time was always getting away from me, I was looking for ways I could "give" time to others. I became even more active in my community, volunteering and serving on boards for education nonprofits and advocating for equal access to educational opportunities.
All of this forms the backdrop of my joining Thrive Global. When I first started talking to Arianna and learning about Thrive's message, I felt that I had to be a part of it, and would do whatever I could to help others get to a place of more well-being and fulfillment – before walking into their boss's office and declaring "I'm done."
I am beyond thrilled to be joining Thrive Global, where I will focus on building a world-class, diverse tech team in our new San Francisco office, so if you know any front-end, back-end, full-stack, iOS or Android engineers interested in joining our team and making a difference in the lives of millions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you'd like to share your own story on Thrive, you can get started here.