Yujin and I worked together for four years at Conde Nast and then for another four years at The New York Times. We have been friends and colleagues for twelve years. I witnessed Yujin grow from an engineering lead to CTO of WorkMarket. Yujin is an excellent engineering leader, a meticulous manager, and a caring collaborator.
I am honored that Yujin mentioned me in his article (and I feel lucky that my name happened to appear first, even though his other mentors are more accomplished than I am.)
The New York Times Company
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
[phone and email redacted]
July 27, 2015
Mr. Rajiv Pant
New York, NY 10019
I am writing to extend to you my congratulations on your position at Some Spider and to thank you for the excellent job you did at The New York Times over your four years with us.
Your insight and expertise were enormously valuable as we built the technology needed to launch and grow our digital business. And, your eye for talent helped us to fill our ranks with top developers and technologists. The spirit of collaboration and enthusiasm you brought to your work will surely live on.
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,
As I’ve worked at various news media companies, I have been impressed to see editor in chiefs and other senior editors spend most of their working time in cubicles alongside their teams where the action in the newsroom is. They use their offices only when needed for privacy.
Having access to a private office room is useful too, whether you are a manager, maker, or both. So as an experiment, for one day every week, I decided to share my office with my colleagues in the technology team who don’t already have an office.
Below is the memo I sent to my team. I’ll share the results of this experiment after a few months.
Dear Software Engineers and Technology Colleagues,
In the spirit of supporting our makers’ schedules, I’d like to make my office room available on Fridays to anyone in our technology team who does not already work in a private office. Here is how it will work. For any Friday, you can book my office in advance for a 2-hour period of your use. I will not use the room on Fridays. Instead, I will work at various temporarily available locations alongside other tech colleagues.
You can use my office for any productive work for your job. You can write code uninterrupted for 2 hours in a change of environment. You can pair-program with another colleague. You can use the dry-erase white wall in my office to hold a brainstorming workshop with fellow contributors. You can close the door and use the privacy to think of solutions to complex engineering problems in your work. Research indicates that a refreshing temporary change of environment can be helpful for such tasks.
I should also clarify what this is not meant for. If you need to hold a meeting, join a teleconferenceI suggest you continue to book regular meeting rooms. If you’d like to have a social lunch with colleagues, there are other more suitable places in our building. I’m offering my office to you on Fridays for maker’s work: to build software/systems, and to solve engineering problems in a temporary change of scenery.
This is an experiment. We will test, solicit feedback, measure and change. For example, if time-windows other than 2 hours work better, we will adjust the experiment.
I plan to run this experiment until at least the end of this year. If we determine that our software engineers and other tech contributors find this experiment productive, or even just enjoy having it as a part of our culture, we will consider continuing it into the next year.
Details on how the sign up and feedback process will work to follow.