Lessons I learned leaving RIM

Posted on September 14, 2011

I had a unique opportunity to spend the two weeks after my resignation at RIM helping with the transition of my role to minimize the impact to both the developer community and my team.  As part of that process, I had some lessons which I thought were worth sharing.

  1. It is awkward.  Inevitably, sticking around for two weeks after announcing your departure is an awkward process as people try to determine the right social practice for engaging with you.  So, be prepared to deal with some awkwardness and my recommendation is to engage others proactively rather than reactively dealing with it.
  2. People will need your support.  Even though you are going to making a big transition yourself (leaving the company) most people will view it from their perspective and the impact these changes will have on their specific situation.  Expect to spend quite a bit of time supporting others through the change.  I encouraged people to not make any emotional decisions and to spend time thinking through their own path rather than relying on others to define it.
  3. You will get cut out of the loop.  Understandably people will recognize that you are no longer the right person to engage for specific questions or problems.  Your inbox will start to dry up and your calendar will show a lot more free time.  It will be challenging some days to “keep busy” as you work through the transition.  In terms of lessons I learned, here is how I would fill your time:
    1. Build a Transition Plan Early – as the end of your two week period approaches you will get more and more people stopping in to “chat” or looking for support.  It is critical that you spend the time writing out a transition plan (with your leader) to ensure an effective amount of time to close out any remaining activities.
    2. Proactively Transition Work Now – For many it will be easy for them to avoid your transition by assuming that you are going to continue doing the work for the next two weeks.  As part of the transition plan in (A) you need to proactively start handing off the work so that any questions or concerns can be raised at the start of your two weeks rather than at the end.
    3. Build in Time for Yourself – This is a big period of change and you will want to give yourself time to think about next steps and new opportunities.  Proactively block off time in your calendar to plan for the future.
    4. Don’t forget the administrative tasks – Depending on how much time you have spent in the company there can be quite a bit of “baggage” you need to work through before leaving on the administrative side.  For example, old expenses that need to be submitted or approved, distribution lists or network drives that need to be assigned new owners, cost centers that need to be shifted to new people, etc.  Putting in some time now to clean up these elements will save your successor(s) a lot of extra time and effort.
  4. Plan for your exit interviews – Most companies will have automatic programs in place to capture your feedback on exiting the company from simple electronic surveys to in-person interviews.  You do NOT need to perform an exit interview but there will be pressure for you share the reasons why you are leaving the organization.  In planning for your exit interview determine what you want topics you want to discuss and how you want to phrase them.  Your exit interview may be used in the future to drive change (with your name attached to it) so be sure to consider that in your responses.
  5. Stay Positive – Leaving a company is a difficult decision and many people will view you as a person to discuss many of the negative experiences they have at the company.  Engaging in those conversations (other than to support them) doesn’t provide anyone much value especially if they just degenerate into venting sessions.  Stay positive throughout the transition and show that leadership from within.
Overall, we need to remember that leaving a company is just as much about the people (if not more) than the work itself.  Be kind, be supportive, and be positive.  I wanted to leave with integrity and have people remember me for everything I did to support the company.

5 Replies to "Lessons I learned leaving RIM"

  • Mite Nishio
    September 14, 2011 (10:24 am)

    I wish you good luck and a lot of sucessful projects in your new life. Thanks for your help and contribution to create the R&D Skill Center in Dominican Republic.

  • Luis
    September 14, 2011 (10:40 am)

    Good information, thanks for sharing.

  • Patrick Kosiol
    September 14, 2011 (10:56 pm)

    I agree with all points.

    Wish you good luck in future. Would be great to keep in touch!

  • David Yorke
    September 17, 2011 (6:04 pm)

    Hi Mike,
    can’t believe you won’t be at DevCon, or at SFO, asking if this is our breakout year

  • Joe Jerde
    October 16, 2011 (12:58 am)

    I wish you were still in there, Mike. Been rather uncertain lately since you have left.

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