Mohamed El-Erian’s decision to resign from PIMCO in January caused widespread debate about his reasons for departing, his relationship with founder Bill Gross and the future of the firm. Here he speaks to the personal side of his decision.
About a year ago, I asked my daughter several times to do something—brush her teeth, I think it was—with no success. I reminded her that it was not so long ago that she would have immediately responded, and I wouldn’t have had to ask her multiple times; she would have known from my tone of voice that I was serious.
She asked me to wait a minute, went to her room and came back with a piece of paper. It was a list that she had compiled of her important events and activities that I had missed due to work commitments.
Talk about a wake-up call. The list contained 22 items, from her first day at school and first soccer match of the season to a parent-teacher meeting and a Halloween parade. And the school year wasn’t yet over.
I felt awful and got defensive: I had a good excuse for each missed event! Travel, important meetings, an urgent phone call, sudden to-dos…
But it dawned on me that I was missing an infinitely more important point.
As much as I could rationalize it—as I had rationalized it—my work-life balance had gotten way out of whack, and the imbalance was hurting my very special relationship with my daughter. I was not making nearly enough time for her.
Of course, I was experiencing what many, if not the majority of working parents experience: Work-life imbalance is prevalent in America and is one of our greatest challenges. It is particularly tough on the more vulnerable members of our population, including single parents and lower-income families. And, inevitably, children.
Work-life balance was an initiative that we had been devoting more time to at PIMCO. But that knowledge did little to dampen this very personal wake-up call. And it is one of the main reasons why I decided to make a major professional change.
Earlier this year I left behind the privilege and intellectual stimulation of working with extremely talented colleagues and friends at PIMCO and instead opted for a portfolio of part-time jobs that requires a lot less travel and offers a ton more flexibility—enough, I hope, to allow me to experience with my daughter more of those big and little moments that make up each day.
So far, it’s been the right decision for me.
I now alternate with my wife in waking up our daughter every morning, preparing her breakfast and driving her to school. I’m also around much more often to pick her up after school and take her to activities. She and I are doing a lot of wonderful talking and sharing. We’ve even planned a holiday together, just the two of us.
I’m the first to recognize that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to structure my life in this way. And I’m so grateful that this is providing me greater opportunity to experience key moments in my daughter’s life before they’re all too quickly gone.
Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury. But, hopefully, as companies give more attention to the importance of work-life balance, more and more people will be in a better position to decide and act more holistically on what’s important to them.
Mohamed A. El-Erian is the former CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO.