Three Years, Five Months, Sixteen Days

Well, it’s been a while now, but after a very exciting and very educational adventure (in three offices!), I’ve decided to leave FiscalNote and figure out what’s next. Even though it was less than four years ago, I shudder to think at how different myself and my life were when I walked through the door back in 2015. There are plenty of cutesy current event examples, but the biggest two are that I now have not just one, but two kids, and that I live in New Jersey, just across the river from Manhattan.

These specifics were not… well, let’s just say “entirely expected”. Yeah, I was going to have kids, but nobody’s really ready for that that means, and we may not have totally planned on two in three years. Yeah, I knew my wife’s job might change, but I didn’t expect that I’d have to move to Maryland for her next adventure, or to New York less than a year later when that adventure was acquired by an enormous, exciting company you may have heard of that… helps you find what you’re looking for… on the internet. Yeah.

And while I’m loathe to give any generic advice to “the young people” given that we all come from very different backgrounds with very different resources, anchors, etc. — but if there’s one thing I think is universally true these days, it’s that if you do get a shot at something crazy, with a manageable level of risk, you better take it. I never in a million years thought I’d live in New York — seriously, never. And with kids? Utterly unthinkable.

But here we are. FiscalNote has been very cool about letting me work remotely for the last month or so, sometimes from home, and sometimes from our NYC office, but it only took me a couple weeks to realize that my life and my career were at an inflection point. Nothing crazy, no midlife crisis (that’s coming, I’m sure); just a series of events that have lined up somewhat coincidentally, but that together paint a pretty clear picture it’s time for me to figure out what’s next.

If you’re unaware, FiscalNote has gone through some truly insane growth since I started. After our acquisition of CQ Roll Call (which includes two publications I read voraciously long ago as a 20-year-old media intern roaming the halls of the Senate office buildings), we’ve become an eighty million dollar company with close to 400 employees. Lots of people have come and gone over the last couple of years — these were peak startup years — but this is different. FiscalNote is truly realizing what it’s going to be for the next, I dunno, ten or twenty years right now, and having done my small part to get us to this point, and then through the early parts of integrating two very similar yet very different companies, there’s a real feeling my job is just sort of… done. And while it’s true that I could probably abuse my long-term status a bit and become a living example of the Peter Principle, I’m fortunate enough to have some options, leave on my own terms, and maybe even breathe for a couple weeks before I dive into another job.

I’ve had a lot of cool adventures so far in the fifteen years since I entered the non-hourly workforce. But hands down, FiscalNote has been the craziest, most challenging, and most rewarding. In my twenties, I spent a lot of time working on other’s people’s projects and developing a lot of theories about how things — people, markets, co-workers, etc. — worked. FiscalNote, whether they originally planned on it or not, gave me a chance to really put those theories out into the world and watch them sink or swim. Sometimes I was right, and dammit, did that feel good. Sometimes I was wrong, and boy did I ever have some sleepless nights figuring out how to make things right (or less wrong). I hired people, I named things, I unveiled plans, I listened to people literally cry and argued with hundreds of people about hundreds of things. I even had to fire people, which was every bit as awful as people had warned me about.

The whole time, FiscalNote supported me in numerous ways. They let me go on two paternity leaves — 4 months for Mary, and 2 for Sam — that will matter forever because they fundamentally changed my marriage and my relationship with my kids for the better. They rolled me out with a microphone to sell the company on some of my biggest ideas because it was my job to have ideas like that and they liked what they heard. And they pushed back — oh Lord did they ever push back — when I needed criticism, and holes poked in grand plans, and just the occasional kick in the teeth to make sure I still cared. And I always did; maybe even a little too much at times.

Anyways, the reasons I’m leaving are simple.

  1. It’s pretty apparent I can’t do my job from NYC. I manage too many people, management for me is really personal and requires a ton of trust, and I can’t do 100% of it over a Google Hangout. I tried, and I just can’t. Not to my standards, at least.
  2. I could do a different job, perhaps, at FiscalNote — but that’s fraught with “change management” challenges, as captains of industry like myself like to say. There’s a point for every person at every organization where there are diminishing returns on time served, and experience shifts to baggage. I really hope I’m not there yet, but I bet it’s close, and I want to get out while I’m a net positive. I don’t want to be Patrick Ewing on the Sonics, for God’s sake.
  3. I live in NYC (okay, Jersey, but you know what I mean) — something I still can’t entirely get over and haven’t fully processed, and that means I’m a 36 year old tech person surrounded by an unthinkable buffet of professional options. Again, if opportunity strikes… you gotta go get it. You just have to, and then you pay it forward as much as possible. Short of starting a charity, I don’t know a better way to do good in this crazy, merciless, capitalist world we live in. So I’m going to find something good that I couldn’t do anywhere else, and see where that leads me.

It’s hard to overstate how much I learned and grew at FiscalNote — but since I stayed for a while (in startup terms), there actually aren’t that many people still around from the summer of 2015. That’s life in hyper-growth, I guess. Anyways, if you’re one of my colleagues and you’re reading this, thanks for the amazing three and half years and the opportunity to be a part of something special. I’m truly grateful and better for having gotten the chance to work with you.