CEO Notes: Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn

Jeff Weiner’s last note to LinkedIn employees entitled “I am because we are”

After 11 ½ years, today marks my last day as the CEO of LinkedIn. The world has changed dramatically since I first announced my intention to step down on February 5th. Having worked closely with Ryan Roslansky, our next CEO, and LinkedIn’s executive team over the last several months in preparation for the transition, I am more confident than ever in their ability to successfully lead the company going forward and grateful for the strong foundation Microsoft continues to provide. Though I won’t be going far in my next play as Executive Chairman, I did want to take this occasion to thank the team and our members for everything you’ve done to make LinkedIn the company it is today, and for making this the greatest professional experience of my life. Words can’t begin to express what you’ve meant to me and how you’ve changed my life for the better, but I thought I’d try to capture it through a recent experience.

For all the incredibly thoughtful and heartfelt ways people wished me farewell, I never would have guessed I’d become most emotional while watching several members of our team perform “Sweet Caroline” via video:

Yes, that “Sweet Caroline” — the same feel-good, sing-along anthem that has become my go-to karaoke staple.

Reflecting on it afterwards, I attributed my “there must be dust flying around my home office” reaction to two things: First, how the performers in the video wonderfully encapsulated the truly amazing people I’ve had the privilege to work with over the last 11+ years, noteworthy for their world-class talent, and even more so for the size of their hearts. Second, a brief moment in the video depicting me at a Global Sales Kick-off several years ago, leading a sing-along with our sales team. Why, I wondered, would such a fun, upbeat moment then elicit such an emotional response now?

It’s been said that we don’t truly understand the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. I learned how true that statement was over the last several weeks. In emails, posts, texts, event chats, and numerous meetings, my colleagues have given me the most wonderful farewell gift imaginable: memories of our time together. Those memories have been built around the world in ways big and small: from extemporaneous hallway exchanges to thousands of scheduled 1:1s, team meetings, and all-hands; they’ve come from personal interactions, like enquiring about a family member or checking in on someone’s health; and they’ve been built in larger than life moments, like the IPO, and meetings with heads of state. Each time someone emailed me, or messaged me with one of their stories, it brought me back to that precise moment in time as if I were experiencing it all over again — just like the sing-along highlight in the video.

Over the last few days, it finally occurred to me that as those moments unfolded over my tenure as CEO, I didn’t fully appreciate their significance. While in those moments, I felt like I was just doing my job, or being myself, or treating people the way I would expect to be treated, day after day, and year after year. However, reliving those memories again through the perspective of the people who created them with me, and hearing how meaningful those interactions were to them, a different picture began to emerge. It was almost as if each moment were an independent shard of glass, distinct in its color and shape, but when viewed in the aggregate, those shards became a beautiful mosaic, reflecting something far bigger than my experience at LinkedIn.

Similarly, I have been blessed over the years to be on the receiving end of countless notes of gratitude that our members have shared, either publicly or privately, describing the way in which LinkedIn has changed their lives for the better: the doors opened, the jobs found, the companies started, the skills gained, the relationships forged and myriad other examples. While each individual member story inspired and fueled us to do even more towards the realization of LinkedIn’s mission and vision, it’s only now that I appreciate how they too were an integral part of the mosaic.

It seems almost impossible to find the right words to fully describe my experience at LinkedIn — the thousands upon thousands of moments, people and learnings that comprised my true dream job. The most appropriate word I can think of is one that’s always held special meaning for me. It’s a Bantu word, “ubuntu,” that loosely defined means “humanity” or the way in which all of us are connected. A more literal translation is “I am because we are.” It’s a powerful concept and very fitting of my time with the team at LinkedIn and our 690M members, developing a community to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce. I can’t think of a better way to describe my extraordinary journey with all of you over the last 11+ years: I am because we are. Those were among the last words I said at my final all-hands and they seem equally relevant here among the last words I’ll write as CEO: I am because we are.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything.