Chris Saccheri had a great career, a wonderful spot at one of the biggest social platforms in the world, LinkedIn. At LinkedIn, Chris helped develop the platform as the director of web development, growing the company along side its owners before it was even named.
Saccheri later decided that it was time for a change in focus.
Think Marketing spoke with Chris Saccheri to talk a bit about work-life balance, life after leaving work, inspiration and self-grooming for success.
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Tell us, what was your reason for leaving your position as director of web development at LinkedIn?
I joined LinkedIn at the end of 2002 when it was getting started and stayed for 9 years as a contributor and then as a manager, leading a team of about 30 web developers. I left 6 months after LinkedIn became a public company because my life changed. When I started I was single, had no kids and my life revolved around work.
Fast forward 9 years later and I was married and I had 2 kids that I wanted to spend more time with. I decided that I was going to take time off and focus entirely on my family because I felt that I was missing out on aspects of my kids’ lives.
I would be sitting in meetings thinking, “Years from now I am going to be thinking I wish I spent more time at the park with my kids, not sitting in these meetings.” I decided to step aside and spend more time with my family.
What can you tell Egyptians that spend most of their lifetime in the office, or stuck in Cairo traffic? Are there alternatives to quitting a job altogether?
I tried to establish that work-life balance at first. I took a month off initially and when I returned to work I focused on getting home at 5:00pm for dinner. Ultimately, I had been at LinkedIn for 9 years and I felt like I had ridden the startup rollercoaster from the founding all the way through to the IPO.
Seeing as how you have halted your career, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I love learning and I try to continue to learn. I have been trying to learn Italian over past year which has been humbling and fun. I noticed that there is lack of male teachers in elementary (Primary) schools, so I think it would be a positive response to that, as well as something fun to be a part of – I would be happy to help
Lifestyle in the Tech Industry
How important is it to be well-groomed in both your personal and professional life?
Since I’ve traded office time for playground time, grooming isn’t as high on my list of priorities as it once was, but it’s still something I appreciate. (My kids can walk around with spots of paint and food on their faces, but I prefer a cleaner look.) It’s easy to get overwhelmed with household chores, so getting a shower and a shave early every morning (often before the kids are up) helps me start the day positively and with a small sense of accomplishment! The Braun electric shaver is a real life and time-saver in this regard.
The tech industry has been portrayed as infamously unstylish (i.e. Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodies). Do you think this is changing? Does it even need to change?
I recognize the importance of being comfortable when spending hours and hours sitting at a desk which is a typical day in the tech industry, especially for startups.
There is a balance; however. I have heard of some people who have wardrobes full of one outfit because not making clothing choices optimizes their time. That seems a bit extreme to me.
You’ve been clean shaven and have worn a beard in the past. What was the motivation behind your grooming style?
I like to experiment and I generally grow a beard in the winter time; when it gets hot again it’s nice to feel clean shaven.
How do you interpret a clean shave or a beard in the workplace? How is it perceived professionally?
So long as the beard is well-groomed, I don’t think it makes a difference in the professional context. I think it just comes down to the convenience for the person growing the beard/ or shaving it.
General Advice for Men
What advice can you provide Egyptians that want to pursue the same career path as you?
My career path wasn’t particularly straightforward. My first job out of college was as an editor at a textbook publishing company. From there, my first job in tech was at SocialNet (where I first met most of LinkedIn’s founding team) where I started as a writer/editor, not a programmer.
The company needed help with front-end web development, though, and I’d always enjoyed programming in school, so I pitched in and taught myself the skills I needed to do that job as well. That was the key pivot in my career that led to my job and work at LinkedIn.
So, my best advice would be to stay open to new opportunities and to be flexible in your idea of what your career is and can be. There are some career paths that are very linear–becoming a doctor, for example. But most careers aren’t like that; you can come at them from a variety of angles or backgrounds. Don’t think there’s only one path for you to follow. Keep an open mind, invest in learning new skills, and don’t be afraid to try something new.
What traits do men have to build to succeed in their professional careers in the tech industry?
It is important that adequate time is spent in understanding the industry, its creativity and the potential it has to grow very quickly. LinkedIn is a great example of how things can grow successfully over night to become a pioneer in the tech-industry.
Where do you borrow inspiration from for life and business?
I am a huge John Lennon fan. When his second child was born he stepped away from the music industry and stayed at home with his son until he was 5.
He didn’t tour and completely removed from public life while focused on his family. That was a big inspiration for me, to leave LinkedIn. If one of the greatest musicians can put aside his work to spend 5 years then why can’t I take some time for my family? I think the work that I did with LinkedIn was great and important and I couldn’t me more proud, but at the same time my family is forever.
Years from now I am not going to go back and say I should have spent more time working at LinkedIn. It will be that I didn’t spend enough time with my family.
What is one simple thing that every man could do to have an immediate impact on their life?
Be present with your kids and pay attention to them. When I am out at events or playgrounds with other parents they often have one eye on their phone or are clearly thinking about work. You don’t have to devote 14 hours day to your kids, but when you are together be fully present.
I try to enjoy the moment with my kids and let them tell me about their day without constantly feeling the need to coach or to teach or be the one talking. Just listening and being present with them can go a really long way.
Most young gentlemen in Egypt are married with families at quite a young age, and spend most of their 20s and 30s stuck in the office away from their kids. Should this change?
Absolutely. Those early years with your children, before they’re off to school every day, are just golden. They learn and change SO much, practically every day. I know how hard it is to establish a foothold in your career, but carving out time for your family–whether it’s waking up early and playing with them before work, or getting home early periodically so you can all have dinner together–is essential. Kids really do grow up so fast; you don’t want to look up one day and realize you’ve completely missed their childhood.
Where will Chris Saccheri be in 15 years when the kids are grown up and seeking a career of their own?
I think sometimes about what I might like to do down the road when my kids are in school and they aren’t around all the time, but I haven’t given it a huge amount of thought at this point. Possibly teaching. I do a lot of volunteering at their school and really enjoy it.