It hit me this week that I am going to be leaving work in 30 days. There is a ton left to do at work, but I am sure there will still be a ton months after I am gone. It wouldn’t be work if it didn’t pile up on my desk. One great thing happened this week that makes it easier for me to start thinking about my leave of absence. You would expect it to be something bad that makes me glad to have a year away, however, it was exactly the opposite. I work at EarthLink, and it is an extremely exciting time with lots of new products and businesses. Three are getting a lot of attention: voice over IP, our Helio cell phone deal, and Muni Wifi. While I have worked in all three of those areas (all in their earliest stages), my attention over the last 2-3 years has been in our web and value added services. I truly find this to be the most exciting area at Earthlink, but people outside Earthlink don’t always get a chance to see the things we are doing. I am so proud of the team of people who work on these products that I feel bad leaving them. I know they are doing a great job and our growth over the last 3 years has been wonderful, but this team needed a little outside recognition. On Thursday night this week we got it. Two of our early products, reader and myfavorites (both still in prerelease) were found by some of the new media thought leaders who pondered when-did-earthlink-get-so-cool. Both Michael Arrington (the writer of leading new media website Techchruch) and Dave Winer(the inventor of RSS) gave us nice endorsements. It is one thing to get an endorsement from a random journalist who only understands RSS after you give them 4 or 5 examples, stop and explain it again as a news ticker, it is all together another story to get nods from people the team respects and reads on a daily basis. The week just kept getting better and Michael also reviewed our photo and web storage product called Weblife.
So what does this have to do with me and my year away from EarthLink? I am not sure why, but this gave me an easy feeling that the work we have been doing has been right and the future roadmaps will be good and all the great people who have been working on this stuff will continue to do innovative things while I am away. This wasn’t a shock to me; I just hadn’t thought about it, and it made me smile when I did.
And just in case anyone was wondering, EarthLink has always been cool. The only way we have survived against monopolies and some of the most dauntingly competitive companies in the world is to be cool and stay ahead: do DSL when it is a nightmare, offer choice to Time Warner cable subs, sell satellite, take chances with things like Ricochet, RIM, and fixed wireless. Keep the customer in mind and create new services like our security suite, acceleration, many flavors of voice over IP, and invest in new access methods like municipal wi-fi networks, Helio cell phones, and DSL 2.0. We aren’t big enough to do everything but we fight way above our weight class. We always have and as long as it is legal and possible we will. Perhaps that is why I feel it is ok to step away for a year and focus on my family and some other personal interests. You have to admit any company that lets someone leave for a year and then come back must be cool. The only thing cooler would be if they kept paying me.