by Meridith Levinson

Second Life CTO to Seek New Life Outside of Virtual World

Dec 13, 20074 mins

Cory Ondrejka quit his job Tuesday, according to the AP.

The Associated Press (AP) reported this morning that Cory Ondrejka is stepping down from his post as CTO of Second Life. He tendered his resignation on Tuesday, but will remain with Linden Labs, which owns the virtual world, until the end of the year.

The AP reports that Ondrejka, who helped develop the software that runs Second Life, is leaving due to “strategic differences” between him and the CEO, Philip Rosedale. Said Rosedale in the AP story:

The needs of our company are changing, and the role of CTO, or technical lead, has also evolved…Cory and I are in agreement that our paths, at this point in time at least, lie in different directions.

This is one of the most dignified and straightfoward explanations as to why an executive is leaving a company that I’ve seen in the seven years I’ve been reading and reporting on these announcements. Usually, companies say “So-And-So left to pursue other opportunities,” if they make any statement at all. Consequently, the phrase “left to pursue other opportunities” has become a euphemism for “So-And-So got canned.”

Although Rosedale gave The Associated Press the typical BS that Ondrejka was leaving Second Life “to pursue new professional challenges,” he at least had the courtesy to follow up that statement with a specific explanation as to why the #4 guy at Second Life was packing his bags: They disagree on the direction of the company and the role of the CTO.

This kind of stuff happens all the time in the corporate world: Executives don’t see eye-to-eye. They lock horns. They argue. Eventually, someone gets fed up and leaves or is forced out.

I’m not saying this is precisely what happened at Second Life, though it sounds that way from the AP story. I’m saying that these kinds of disagreements and ousters happen all time, and in *most* cases they are no big deal.

Because the circumstances in which executives leave companies are often no big deal, I simply wish corporations would take a cue from Second Life and Rosedale and be more straightforward with the media and with their shareholders regarding the reasons why executives suddenly leave “to pursue other opportunities.” It would actually do them some good.

If they stated, for example, that an executive was leaving due to philosophical differences, that explanation would answer some questions about the circumstances surrounding the executive’s departure and would save the company some time dealing with the media and shareholders. (Of course, inquiring minds would want to know what the specific philosophical differences were.)

But instead of being direct, corporations beat around the bush. They obfuscate. That tactic, which they think is so smooth, does more harm than good. It only draws more attention to the executive’s departure and leads to speculation, questions and rumors about the company in the media and on Wall Street, and that, my friends, destabilizes the company’s share price. It also does a disservice to the executive who’s leaving. If he is leaving due to philosophical differences with the rest of the management, the phrase “leaving to pursue other opportunities” makes his departure sound like a clear cut firing.

I realize saying something other than “left to pursue other opportunities” isn’t always an option. If a CIO is leaving “to pursue other opportunities” because he’s inept, a company can’t state the real reason why the executive is leaving without being sued. I just wish that companies would be more straightfoward with us (and by us I mean all interested parties in the news, not just the media) when possible. The “leaving to pursue other interests” explanation reeks of blatant disception, and no one likes to be deceived.