March 22, 2016

A New Path Forward

A New Path Forward Welcome to the world, Path Forward, Inc.! I’m thrilled to announce the launch today of Path Forward, a new non-profit with a goal of empowering millions of women to rejoin the workforce after taking time out for childcare. We are launching today with a Crowdrise campaign.   See more about that below.  And we launched with a bang, too – the organization is featured in this really amazing story on Fortune. The concept started at Return Path two years ago, as I wrote about here and again here, when our CTO Andy Sautins came to me with a simple but powerful idea of creating a structured program of paid fellowships with training for women who want to reenter the workforce but find it difficult to do so because of rusty skills, lapsed networks, or societal bias. We expanded the program later that year with partner companies ReadyTalk, SendGrid, MWH Global, SpotX, and Moz, as I wrote about here.  The response from both participants and companies has been nothing short of amazing. The day after I put up that last post about v2 of the program, a human resources leader at PayPal gave me a call and asked […]


December 6, 2015

Sweet Sixteen (Sixteen Candles?)

Today marks Return Path’s 16th anniversary.  I am incredibly proud of so many things we have accomplished here and am brimming with optimism about the road ahead. While we are still a bit of an awkward teenager as a company continuing to scale, 16 is much less of an awkward teen year than 13, both metaphorically and actually. Hey – we are going to head off for college in two short years! In honor of 16 Candles, one of my favorite movies that came out when I was a teenager, I thought I’d mark this occasion by drawing the more obvious comparisons […]


September 17, 2015

The Playbook

As Return Path gets older, we are having more and more alums go on to be successful senior executives at other companies – some in our space, some not.  It’s a great thing, and something I’m really proud of.  I was wondering the other day if there’s effectively some kind of “RP Playbook” that these people have taken with them.  Here’s what I learned from asking five of them. People-related practices are all prominent as part of the Playbook, not surprising for a People First company.  Our Peer Recognition program, which is almost as old as the company and has […]


August 19, 2015

ReturnShip Program, Part III

I’ve written a couple times this past year about our ReturnShip program, which is a 4-month paid internship program designed for women who have been out of the workforce for more than 3 year to re-enter and  build credible and relevant experience, and to expand the talent pool for our organization.  I wrote about the initial concept when we launched v2 of the program, and then again when v2 concluded with the hiring of four of the six participants. I’m immensely proud of our organization for inventing the program (Andy Sautins, our CTO, gets credit) and for managing it so […]


August 6, 2015

The Phoenix Project

The Phoenix Project:  a novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win, by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford  is a logical intellectual successor and regularly quotes Eli Goldratt’s seminal work The Goal and its good but less known sequel It’s Not Luck. The more business books I read, the more I appreciate the novel or fable format. Most business books are a bit boring and way too long to make a single point. The Phoenix Project is a novel, though unlike Goldratt’s books (and even Lencioni’s), it takes it easy on the cheesy and personal side stories. […]


July 16, 2015

Everything Is Data

Everything Is Data As our former head of People, Angela used to say during the recruiting process, “Everything is Data.”  What she meant is that you can learn a lot about a candidate from things that happen along the way during an interview cycle, not just during the interviews themselves.  Does the candidate for the Communications role write a thank you note, and is it coherent?  Does the candidate for an outside sales role dribble food all over himself at a restaurant?  Here are two great examples of this that have happened here at Return Path over time: Once we […]


May 14, 2015

Give the Gift of a 360 to Your Board of Directors

Give the Gift of a 360 to Your Board of Directors I recently ran our biennial Board 360, and I thought it would be interesting to share the details.  Attached are a few pages from, my book, Startup CEO:  A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business  which describe the process as well as share the survey I developed, which I adapted from one that the legendary Bill Campbell uses at larger public companies like Intuit. If you’ve read this blog a lot over the years, you know that we are big on 360s for staff at all levels at Return Path , […]


April 29, 2015

ReturnShip Program, Part II

Today marks the graduation for the six women who participated in our inaugural ReturnShip program, which I wrote about here and which was written up at least twice, in Harvard Business Review and in the San Francisco Chronicle. The ReturnShip was a 14-week paid internship program designed for women who have been out of the workforce for more than 1 year to re-enter and  build credible and relevant experience, and to feed our funnel of prospective employees. While there are still a couple things in the air, my guess is that at least three, and as many as five, of […]


March 19, 2015

Corporate Sniglets

Corporate Sniglets This might be showing my age, but those who may have watched Not Necessarily the News in the 80s might remember the Sniglets segment that Rich Hall pioneered which spawned a series of short, fun books. Sniglets are words which are not in the dictionary, but which should be. I can remember a couple of examples from years ago that make the point — aquadexterity is the ability to operate bathtub dials with one’s feet; cheedle is the orange residue left on one’s fingers after eating a bag of Cheetos. As is the case with many companies, we […]


March 9, 2015

The Value of a Break

The Value of a Break I’ve written before about our sabbatical policy as well as my experience with my first sabbatical five years ago. I just got back from another sabbatical. This one wasn’t 100% work-free, which breaks our rule, but after a few false starts with it, when I realized a few weeks before it started in January that I either needed to postpone it again or work on a couple of things while I was on a break, I opted for the latter.  The time off was great. Nothing special or too exotic. A couple short trips, and lots […]


February 19, 2015

Option Grants over Time

Option Grants Over Time Several people have asked me over the years how we think about subsequent option grants (e.g., not the employee’s initial grant when hired), so I thought I would just share my standard answer here.  We give the following kinds of grants other than new employee grants: promotion grants – employees get the incremental grant between their existing grant and what someone being hired into the new position would get performance grants – once a year we give the top 10-15% of performers a grant that is equal to approximately 25% of their initial grant (so if […]