The Boss’s summer vacation: rafting, hiking…and email


From The Wall Street Journal

It can be hard to get away if your job title is CEO but that doesn”t mean executives skip vacation altogether. Here’s a look at some corporate leaders’ recent time off — or for some, time still connected. From shopping in Capri to cliff jumping in Wyoming, these executives have covered a lot of ground — sometimes with a few conference calls wedged in. As told to Rachel Feintzeig.

David Morken, CEO and co-founder of telecommunications company Inc.

My wife, six children and I just got back from two weeks in Wyoming. We always try to do something outdoorsy — two years ago we did a seven-day trek across the interior of Norway. This year, we focused on climbing in the Wind River mountains and the Teton mountains. We went rafting, cliff jumping and hiked eight miles to a waterfall where we sat in hot springs. Our kids are nine to 21 years old so we’ve got a lot of energy to deploy.

When I was on vacation, our chief operating officer was in charge. Our company policy is a true embargo. I was prohibited from contacting work and work was prohibited from contacting me. We protect the personal lives of our employees and we also establish resiliency within the chain of command by requiring other people to step up and captain the ship. They may make a decision that’s not as good as the person who’s on vacation may have made, but that is a near-term tradeoff.

When I’m on vacation, I don’t worry about work — I’m usually worried about grizzly bears or making sure the kids are all fed and watered appropriately on the trail. But it does take me about 72 hours to get to the peaceful frame of mind that allows me to be completely present with my family.

Steve Smith, CEO of data-center company Equinix Inc.

Last summer, my family went on a nine-day vacation in Italy and I met them for three or four days in some remote villa in some beautiful little place in the middle of nowhere. There was not good reception. I had to go into town to find a hot spot. I found myself doing it three times a day. Time zones are never an excuse for me. When you’re running internet infrastructure you can’t afford to not be plugged in. I get over 100 emails a day. If I just checked out for three days, I don’t like the workload I’d have to plow through.

But some Silicon Valley executives — you would not believe the pace these guys lead. Some of these people at places like Apple AAPL +0.04% and Google, they get up at four in the morning. I’m always working but I get up at 5:30 a.m. I feel like a slacker.

Alan Trefler, founder and CEO of software firm Pegasystems Inc.

My last vacation was in December. It was a staycation at my home in Brookline, Mass. All the little things I’m tasked with — installing the new TiVos, upgrading the routers — had piled up. I was here with my screwdriver and my brother in law who’s an electrical engineer and we just sort of made things work. This took the better part of a week. It’s actually pretty fun to put some effort into something and see it work. So much of my normal business is tied up in extremely delayed gratification. Being able to pick a project, execute and have people look at it and say, “Wow, that worked,” is pretty satisfying.

I can actually shift out of work mode into more strategic mode pretty quickly. I take advantage of that and as a result I don’t think I need as many vacations.

Mike Depatie, CEO of Kimpton Hotels

It’s really important to take your vacation. I think it’s also important to unplug. I set an out-of-office and my assistant knows she can call me on my cellphone if something really important comes up. Other than that, I don’t want to be disturbed. This summer, I’m going fly fishing two times in Last Chance, Idaho (and once in Ennis, Montana) where cellphones don’t work. I take long weekends, from Thursday to Sunday, with a bunch of fishing buddies or family. If someone really needs to get a hold of me, they can call on a land line at the main lodge and track me down. That person’s usually my wife.

Taking time away from the office allows me to be creative, recharge and reconnect with myself. It helps me clear my head and focus back on things that are more important rather than what’s urgent. Emails are usually urgent but not important.

Jon Gacek, CEO of data-storage company Quantum Corp.

I embrace all the connectivity and all the technology to give myself flexibility. I don’t really take a vacation so to speak — over the last 15 years, I’ve probably taken about two vacations that were trips for my kids’ high school graduations. Instead, I tack on a few days at the end of work trips. Last summer, I was in France for a week of meeting customers and I went and spent the weekend with my daughter in Italy. She was near Rome doing a summer program through her college. We drove down to Sorrento and went shopping in Capri. We ate good Italian food — a lot of pizza. She’s a lot like me — very high energy — so we crammed a lot into three days.

I’m always plugged in; the kids are used to me taking an hour or two or three to get on a conference call. And then we’ll go and do something fun.