Whitney is Leaving EMC…Why Not to Panic

So, if you missed it, Whitney Tidmarsh announced at the info360 AIIM Conference that she was leaving EMC. In fact, her last day was March 31. She quickly handed keynote duties over to Jeetu Patel who is taking her role and assuming the mantle of Chief Strategy Officer.

The first instinct is to panic at yet another person leaving EMC. My second instinct was to put myself into Whitney’s shoes for a minute. When I took that minute, this is what happened…

Why So Long?

Whitney has been with Documentum/EMC for fifteen years. Think on that for a moment. Now consider that the Documentum product has been considered one of the market leaders for ten plus years. If you ask yourself why they aren’t consider THE market leader, I can point to several reasons outside of the marketing department.

What is left to achieve? Documentum has had consistent mindshare for years. Getting significantly more of that mindshare is dependent on the actual product improving dramatically. I don’t see Whitney moving up into EMC corporate as the culture is very different. I’m also pretty sure Whitney wouldn’t consider moving to Boston.

Once I thought about her overall position, I was left wondering why she stayed as long as she had at EMC. From a career perspective, where were the new challenges? How could she grow? Managing the transition from Documentum to EMC was probably loaded with lessons. Since then, I imagine things have been a little slow on the “new lessons” front.

I don’t want to hazard a guess as to why she stayed. What I do want to say is that if YOU are invested in Documentum at all, either on a personal or professional level, you may want to thank her for sticking around as long as she did.

Why Now?

The question left to ask is this, “If you stayed so long, why leave now?” During her announcement, she implied that she is leaving for a young company. I don’t remember her exact words so I am not going to try and read anything into my faulty memory.

I did talk to her later and she told me that she is going to an opportunity. She had spent a lot of time determining what she wanted to do next and then held to that vision. This was the important detail. As I talked to Whitney, I could tell that she was going to miss her team, but at the same time, she was looking forward to the new challenges.

At the end of the conversation, I had the distinct impression that she was running TO a new job and not running FROM her old one. That is a huge difference.

To borrow from an analogy (apologies to Whitney), sometimes when a rat leaves a ship, it isn’t because the ship is burning. There may be cheese on the dock. In that case, don’t think less of the boat.

Do not get me wrong. Whitney’s departure is a loss. We just shouldn’t make the mistake of reading too much into the departure.

The Barometer

Besides, Whitney hasn’t been my barometer for the future of EMC, Jeroen van Rotterdam serves that role. I was excited when he became the Chief Architect over six months ago. I talked to him in January and became enthused about the direction the platform was taking.

The reason Jeroen is my barometer is quite simple. He is smart. He knows the critical technology cold. He has a technical vision for the platform that will enable EMC to succeed when the Content Management ecosystem moves to the cloud. If Jeroen is empowered, the Documentum platform could become a force to be reckoned with again.

Jeroen doesn’t hold back. He pushes technology barriers. He will randomly create a demo on the way to a conference. He doesn’t do that because he procrastinates. He does it because he might think of the idea while checking luggage and decide to give it a whirl.

From my few discussions with Jeroen, I have the distinct impression that if his technical vision is restricted and is not supported by management, he will leave for a new environment. He would not leave rashly, but only after realizing that the vision was not going to be achieved where he was. He would do right by everyone, but he would take his mind somewhere that lets him use it to its full capacity.

If Jeroen leaves before the platform is reengineered, then we should panic.

Gap at CTO

With Jeetu moving to Chief Strategy Officer, there is now a gap at CTO. While Jeetu has said that he is going to hold onto both roles for a while, I suspect that given the right candidate, EMC will fill the role.

It should be an easy job to fill. There is only one thing that has to be done as part of that job. Do whatever it takes to enable Jeroen to do his job effectively. Give him the tools and resources he needs. Keep unnecessary distractions away from him.

If the CTO just lets Jeroen do what he does best and removes any hindrances, there will be a lot of success…if the market gives Jeroen enough time.

2 thoughts on “Whitney is Leaving EMC…Why Not to Panic

  1. Victor says:

    I totally agree. Jeroen is amazingly good. But given what I know about Documentum’s upper management, they will create all the obstacles for him to fail. Hoping that would not happen though… Lets see…


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