Retiring Google CFO Writes The Best ‘Spend More Time With Family’ Memo Ever

After more than six years in the job, Google Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette today announced plans to retire, and he did it with customary style.

As Pichette wrote in a post on Google+, he wants to spend more time with his family–in particular his wife Tamar, since their two children are now in college. As you’ll see in his memo below, he appears to really mean it, even though he’s only 52 years old. He writes about struggling to answer his wife’s question about “when is it going to be time” to retire from a 30-year career that by his own estimation left him with too little time to pursue anything else.

By all accounts, Pichette was a popular executive at Google, one of five executive officers along with cofounders Larry Page, the company’s CEO, and Sergey Brin, Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, and David Drummond Drummond, senior VP of corporate development and chief legal officer. Pichette was an unusually affable and public-facing CFO, and in recent quarters after Page stopped speaking on corporate earnings call because of a vocal cord issue, Pichette became the one constant. He’s also credited with bringing more financial discipline to a company known for spending on wide-ranging projects from self-driving cars to high-altitude balloons to bring Internet access to remote areas.

Although his departure is significant, it’s not expected to concern investors all that much, since Google, for all its research spending, has generally been considered well-run on the finance side. Google shares fell 2.4% today, but on a day when the SP 500 posted its worst drop in two months on interest rate concerns. Also, the transition won’t be abrupt, as Google said in a filing that it expects to appoint a new one in the next six months.

Anyway, his long memo, praised by Page as a “most unconventional leaving notice,” is striking for its seeming honesty about how he wants to dedicate the time he once spent almost solely on the job to traveling the world with his wife. Here it is in its entirety:

After nearly 7 years as CFO, I will be retiring from Google to spend more time with my family.  Yeah, I know you’ve heard that line before.  We give a lot to our jobs.  I certainly did.  And while I am not looking for sympathy, I want to share my thought process because so many people struggle to strike the right balance between work and personal life.This story starts last fall. A very early morning last September, after a whole night of climbing, looking at the sunrise on top of Africa – Mt Kilimanjaro. Tamar (my wife) and I were not only enjoying the summit, but on such a clear day, we could see in the distance, the vast plain of the Serengeti at our feet, and with it the calling of all the potential adventures Africa has to offer. (see exhibit #1 – Tamar and I on Kili).

pichetteAnd Tamar out of the blue said “Hey, why don’t we just keep on going”. Let’s explore Africa, and then turn east to make our way to India, it’s just next door, and we’re here already. Then, we keep going; the Himalayas, Everest, go to Bali, the Great Barrier Reef… Antarctica, let’s go see Antarctica!?” Little did she know, she was tempting fate.

I remember telling Tamar a typical prudent CFO type response- I would love to keep going, but we have to go back. It’s not time yet, There is still so much to do at Google, with my career, so many people counting on me/us – Boards, Non Profits, etc.

But then she asked the killer question: So when is it going to be time? Our time? My time? The questions just hung there in the cold morning African air. A few weeks later, I was happy back at work, but could not shake away THE question: When is it time for us to just keep going? And so began a reflection on my/our life. Through numerous hours of cycling last fall (my introvert happy place) I concluded on a few simple and self-evident truths:

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