The Great LinkedIn Job Swap

August 30, 2012

Editor’s Note: This summer, two LinkedIn employees came up with a wild idea - to swap jobs, homes, and cars for a month, bringing their families along for the ride. Rich Wong, Senior Director of Finance, is based in Mountain View, California and Sharon McCooey, International Finance Director, is based in Dublin, Ireland. Rather than dismissing the idea, our management team encouraged them to go for it. Below is a he-said, she-said account of their adventures.

Rich: I love working at LinkedIn and here’s why. Crazy ideas aren’t so crazy. People are encouraged to come up with new out-of-the-box ideas and managers tend to support these new ideas. A perfect example of this was when Sharon approached me about doing a job swap – including swapping cars and houses too! At one point, I was worried and joked with her about wanting to swap families too (like the TV show “Wife Swap”).

Sharon: I came up with this idea while having a conversation with Rich on how we globalize at LinkedIn. And it wasn’t so crazy! We are a fast growing global company, we both report directly to the CFO Steve Sordello and both of our roles depend on us having relationships with teams all over the world. Working in each others' offices and with each others’ teams would help us be more effective in our roles. Most importantly, this idea fit perfectly with the company culture of transforming ourselves and the company.

Rich: After Sharon pitched the idea, I jumped on it.  From a professional perspective, this was an opportunity to expand from my current job and dive deep with the sales teams in Europe and the international financial operations team in Dublin. And personally, it was a great opportunity for my family to live in Ireland and experience European history and culture.

Sharon: After Rich agreed, we spent months exchanging ideas, discussing work projects and training each other in our jobs. My family was very excited especially for the California summer (sun, yeah!), Rich’s house and his pool. I definitely felt like I got the better end of the job swap.

Rich: It was quite complicated to organize between schooling for the kids and keeping them entertained. In the process of sharing and planning for this swap, Sharon got to know my wife pretty well. My work and personal lives collided and I really started to worry when my wife started telling me things about Sharon I didn’t even know, like where she was traveling to on business.

Sharon: The adventure began in July, and the California sun did not let me down. We enjoyed a beautiful summer and I had some amazing work experiences. All of the folks on Rich’s team were fantastic and inclusive. Humor is a core part of our company culture, and I found out quickly that his team definitely keeps this part of the culture alive. One of the projects I worked on included assisting the Procurement team in finding a new global travel provider, a personal interest as a frequent flier! The timelines and interactions are very different in headquarters which made every day exciting and broadened my perspective.

Rich: The Irish weather did not cooperate with us – it rained 28 of the 30 days I was in Europe. I went to Ireland with no rain gear, but left with four umbrellas AND we ended up buying raincoats for the whole family. My kids had to raid Sharon’s closets for winter wear because we weren’t prepared for anything but California sunshine. I joined a customer call with one of our strategic accounts in Ireland, and participated in the EMEA/LatAm mid-year sales training. The EMEA sales team is amazing and Sharon’s team was fantastic – and I got to know all of them on a much deeper and personal level!

Sharon: My kids took full advantage of all that California had to offer from Universal Studios to Lake Tahoe to the Exploratorium. I got to travel with my family which was a pleasure and a massive learning experience. My daughter was born on the 4th of July and she realized that an entire country celebrates her birthday with fireworks (how cool is that!).

Rich: I feel extremely fortunate to have had this phenomenal opportunity. There is nothing better than working someone else’s job, living in their house and driving their cars!  I have a much better understanding of some of the international challenges Sharon deals with and my perspective has become much more global as a result.

Sharon: My greatest learning was one which I had not considered. By walking in someone else’s shoes (or in my case driving on Route 101 in someone else’s car), you get a whole new sense of perspective of not only the technical role but the leadership role that someone else plays. My increased respect for Rich comes from just that.