As The New York Times’ chief technology officer, I had a crucial role in guiding the company’s successful transition to digital, and an opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most talented journalists and software engineers in the world. It’s undeniably one of the world’s most influential institutions doing work in the public’s interest, and has been since 1851.
I love The Times and its vision, and cherished my four years there. But, there was something missing in my career. I had been in CTO roles at four major media companies, with accomplishments I was proud of. However, I didn’t want my 3 year old son Fitz Raj to know me for only being a successful corporate executive, but for accomplishing something significant for the greater good.
So I took a leap: A couple of weeks ago, I left The Times to join Vinit Bharara and fellow Times alum Paul Smurl at Some Spider–a startup creating a network of brands dedicated to community, content and commerce. In many ways my move is not surprising. Throughout my career friends and colleagues asked me why I hadn’t “done the startup thing yet.” People saw me as an entrepreneur inside and wondered why I hadn’t already become one.
However, until I met Vinit and Paul, I hadn’t come across a company with all the right ingredients. The most important thing about a startup, even more important than the idea, is the team that supports it. An idea evolves over time, the product and business pivot as the environment changes, and the technology improves and gets disrupted. But throughout, the people make all the difference between success and failure. Both Vinit and Paul share a dedication to building an outstanding team, which is a large part of why I chose to become invested in the company’s vision.
The people also make all the difference when it comes to giving back, and working for the greater good.
My grandfather, Dr. Krishna Chandra Pant, was a doctor under British rule in India. As the chief medical officer (i.e. the only doctor) at an institute in Mukteshwar, his job was to only treat the (mostly British) employees of the institute. But he knew no borders when it came to helping the sick and injured. There was no other doctor for more than 50 miles, so he welcomed all patients who came to him and he gave them the same treatment. His British employers didn’t appreciate that, and a drawn out lawsuit ensued. The courts finally ruled in his favor and he prevailed in not only keeping his job, but also in gaining the formal authority to treat all patients equally.
He continued his medical practice out of the family home long after his formal retirement. I remember he used to treat poor patients without charging them fees. He would even give them the medicines free of charge.
In 2014, the World Economic Forum selected me to join its Young Global Leaders community. I didn’t realize at the time the impact it was going to have in my life. I thought it was simply another award. But I met exemplary leaders like Ayesha Vera-Yu, Analisa Balares, Pardis Sabeti, Lorna Solis, and others who have dedicated themselves and already accomplished more for the greater good of humanity than I could imagine accomplishing in a lifetime. I realized that YGL wasn’t really an award for past accomplishments, but an invitation to start a new journey committed to help make the world a better place.
We should challenge ourselves to make the world a better place
in the ways that we can.
Making the world a better place is no small feat. Last year, when the Ebola epidemic was at its peak, I felt a strong desire to help, but I didn’t know how. I have always admired the organization Doctors Without Borders for the work they do around the world. While many people and organizations claim to work for a greater good at personal cost, people who work at Doctors Without Borders live (and die) by that. In the past, I helped out by giving them small donations here and there, but I wanted to do something more impactful.
My move to Some Spider gives me a chance to use my specific abilities to make a substantial contribution to a cause that I believe in. As a part of my hire, I decided to pledge 20% of my equity to charity, most of it to Doctors Without Borders. This may come as a surprise, especially to those who know me only as a CTO. But just because we have talents in one field doesn’t mean that we can’t be of service in another.
We should challenge ourselves to make the world a better place in the ways that we can. For the doctors serving overseas, their commitment may be their life. For me, it’s dedicating myself to a company that shares my vision, and dedicating part of the reward from being at that company to the people on the ground who can make a difference where I can’t.
My grandfather passed away before I could make him proud. I pray that I am able to do something for this world that fills his great-grandson with pride.
Follow Rajiv on Twitter. This essay was originally published in Quartz.
As you may know, I have accepted an offer to join a startup on June 1st, and therefore have made the difficult decision to leave The New York Times, an organization I have loved being part of for the past four years, and a brand I have admired all my life. I will continue to be a loyal reader, vocal supporter and paying subscriber.
I care deeply about The New York Times. Let me know any way I can be helpful. I remain personally invested in your continued success.
Working with you has been an honor, a pleasure, and a learning experience for me. I would love to stay in touch. You can connect with me on social networks and find my contact info via rajiv.com.
Over the past four years, many of you have become close friends to me. The Times building has felt like my second home. I will leave with fond memories of being part of this wonderful institution.
Paraphrasing Leonard Nimoy’s farewell Tweet:
A career is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.
Live long and prosper.
On Mon, May 4, 2015 at 12:21 PM, Marc Frons wrote:
I am writing to let you know that our CTO Rajiv Pant is leaving The Times to join a startup focusing on community, commerce and content, where he will be heading up technology, product and design. Rajiv told me he has long wanted to be an entrepreneur, and this new position gives him the opportunity to roll up his sleeves and help a startup he co-owns become a successful business.
In his four years at The Times, Rajiv has made an invaluable contribution to the company. He has played a leading role in building and managing the technology behind the growth of our digital business, and the expansion of our mobile and data science teams. Always a magnet for top talent, Rajiv’s proteges can be found in every area of the technology department. Most of all, he has been an unflagging champion of the culture of technology innovation at The Times, and a model of collaboration and good cheer.
Rajiv has agreed to stay on for the next two to four weeks to aid in the transition and help in the search for his successor. Although we are sad to see him go, we wish him every success with this new venture. Regards,
After I reached out to some people in New York, a kind person arranged to have the alien returned as a surprise at Steve Huffman‘s birthday dinner. Steve and Alexis Ohanian were thrilled to have the alien back. It was a great night!
I’ve now been living in Manhattan for two weeks and I love NYC. New York is a wonderful city. I’ve wanted to live here since I was little.
My new job is at Conde Nast Publications as VP of Information Technology for CondeNet. My office is near Times Square, a major tourist attraction which is every minute, every day teeming with a diversity of people from all over the world.
So far, I’ve visited the Village, Union Square, Central Park and Times Square areas, all of which I’ve found lovely. I see the city will provide ample sights for one of my favorite hobbies, photography.
I’m moving to NYC for an exciting new job as VP of Technology at an awesome publishing company. I look forward with excitement to the job at the company and life in Manhattan.
I loved the past three years working for Cox as CTO of COXnet in Atlanta where I was proud to contribute and learn a lot. I wish them continued success and will stay in touch the wonderful friends I made there. Atlanta is a good city, but my personal preferences match The Big Apple much better. I’ve wanted to live in Manhattan for many years. This move back to the Northeast also brings me back nearer to family and friends in the area.
I look forward to living in Atlanta, a major city in the southeastern state of Georgia. I will, however, miss being around my friends in the the Philadelphia and San Francisco areas where I previously lived.
On June 1st, I start work at COXnet as Chief Technology Officer. COXnet is part of the Cox Newspapers Division of Cox, one of the nation’s leading media/communications companies and providers of automotive services. I’m excited!
Effectuation (my business venture) has been handed over to new management. I wish them the best.
Earlier this year, I founded a product development & consulting company called Effectuation (www.effectuation.net) with some associates. We are involved in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Media/Publishing and Open Source.
We had too much excitement at work pulling an all-nighter. Then when we thought we could go home and sleep, there was a terrorism threat at our building. An stranger placed some threatening packets mentioning anthrax and terrorism.
Fortunately, one of the employees saw this suspicious person and alarmed the rest of us. As we came out and saw him, the culprit took off. Five KRD engineers chased after the culprit, splitting up to not loose him without fear of their own safety while the others called the police and took photos of the scene.
Within minutes several police cars lined up outside the KRD office. Other police cars raced looking for this man. After a long chase in downtown San Jose and almost losing him a couple of times, a KRD engineer caught him and handed him over to the police. The police arrested the suspect and he confessed leading the police to more packets he left at our office we didn’t know about. It seems he was not a real terrorist, but just some disturbed person. What a night!
Knight Ridder is an enjoyable place to work. The employees are diverse, talented, hardworking, friendly and fun! No wonder I’ve been here for almost 8 years.
On this Friday night/Saturday morning, many folks from the Knight Ridder Digital Technology, Product and other departments happily stayed at work late hours to ensure that a data center migration project went successfully. As you can see, besides working hard that night, they also had a lot of fun.