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July 02, 2008

Why I'm leaving Forrester

by Charlene Li

I was once asked what was the best career advice I ever received -- and it was to plan for job obsolescence every 18 months, because research showed that people typically master a job in that time period and fall into a routine.

It's a testament to Forrester that I've been happily employed at the company for over nine years (that's 36 Internet years or 63 dog years). I have been continually challenged, from tackling new coverage areas, running an analyst team and the San Francisco office, to most recently, writing the Groundswell book. I've treasured the friendship of my colleagues and appreciated the flexible schedule of an analyst, especially in light of trying to strike a balance between work and my family.

Forrester has bent over backwards to be accommodating and flexible, but in the end, I have decided that I need to have greater control over how I allocate my time between work and family. As any working parent knows, there’s no such thing as balance – only a series of compromises on both the work and home front. For me and for now, that compromise needs to happen on the work front, so I have elected to leave Forrester on July 18th to have greater control over exactly when and how much time I devote to work and travel.  This was a difficult decision for me to make and I’ll be taking a few weeks off this summer to figure out my next step -- it is my goal to remain involved in this space, in a manner yet to be determined.

If you're a Forrester client, member of the press, or a vendor, you should be rest assured, as I am, that Forrester is committed to fielding a deep, talented, and growing team -- you'll be in good hands with people like my Groundswell co-author Josh Bernoff, Jeremiah Owyang, Rebecca Jennings, Steve Noble, Mary Beth Kemp, Brian Haven, Oliver Young, Rob Koplowitz, Kyle McNabb, and many, many others.

My last day with Forrester will be July 18th, a day that I look forward to with anticipation for the adventures that lay ahead, but also with sadness for the colleagues that I’ll leave behind. I’ll leave my good-byes until then, but please know that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the conversation that we’ve had on this blog over the past almost-four years.


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Josh Bernoff

One door closes, another opens . . .

Charlene, working with you has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The results – Groundswell, both the book and this blog – speak for themselves.

But watch this space. As Charlene mentioned, our team here will be building on and expanding the Groundswell ideas. There is just so much more to do as social technologies change everything. And we’re growing the team, hiring at least two more Analysts and a Researcher.

See you in the groundswell.

Beth Kanter

It's hard to balance work and kids ... particularly if you're the mommy. I've been working as a consultant - the key benefit is flexibility - is a the most valuable asset if you are a working mom.

Good luck with your next adventure

jeff nolan

You leave behind some big shoes to fill, if they can be filled at all. While I'm disappointed to learn that you are leaving, as a parent it is not hard to understand why. Best wishes going forward.


It's been an honor to work with and learn from you at Forrester.

See you in the Groundswell!

Jeremiah Owyang

You've left a big void that will take a team to fill, thanks so much for inviting me to join you here, we are very, very sad to see you go.

On the flip side, you've propelled the company forward when it comes to social computing, momentum we plan to continue based off your lead.

Thank you so much for everything Charlene, a friend forever, Jeremiah

Account Deleted

My dear good friend. My best to you always. I am so glad we are friends.

Michael Chin

Congrats on making the choice for more control and balance. As Jeremiah said, you're leaving a HUGE void.

Best of luck with your next adventure.

Kinda cool though, Charlene, very Jay-Z/Michael Jordan of you.

Jonathan Yarmis

As a long-time observer, occasional competitor and big fan, I'd be sad to see you go...if I didn't understand the decision you've made here. Having been in and around the analyst business for most of the last 21 years, I've flown over 100,000 miles for all but two of them. My kids are now 17 and 14 and the time I have gotten to spend with them has been the most important time of all. Wise choice, and best of luck.

Paula Thornton

We're waiting and watching. Your contributions serve the industry.

Skip Reardon


I've been following you and your thought leadership for years now (since I was Manager of Industry Analyst Relations for Microsoft Business Solutions from 2001-2004).

Social media is where it's at!

All the best to you!

Carter Lusher

Best of luck in the transition Charlene. I'm sure all of your fans are hopping that you will continue to share your insights, even informaly.

Adam Metz

1. Nooooooooooooooo!

2. Can I have your blog?

3. I'll have to buy you a beer. I'm really, really, going to miss reading you.

Rick Myers

Congrats Charlene. You'll do great. Let me know if Talent Zoo can be of any help to you. -Rick


Best of luck, be sure to Tweet your new URL

Daniel Riveong

Congrats Charlene.

You've contributed a lot to Forester and to the many large sums of people who have always found your ideas and analysis insightful.

In fact, I just gave my pre-release copy of the Groundswell to my co-worker this morning.

I'm sure you'll continue to do so in whatever venture you choose next.

Daniel Riveong

Heath Row

Best of luck!

Kate Olson

Good luck in your new adventure! I've read your postings on the SV Moms blog and completely relate to needing to make career decisions based on both career AND family. Groundswell is amazing and I'm glad to have found your work through this site. Good luck!


Charlene, thanks for all your insights and presentations at various conferences (Web 2.0 Expo and GSP West) I've been to. Best of luck to you in the future and I'll look forward to hearing more of your thoughts in the future.


Congrats Charlene - best wishes to you and your adventures!

Samer Forzley

Good luck, based on your previous work, cant wait to see what your next adventure will be.

Andrew Stockwell

It's been amazing to work with you so closely over the years Charlene. Sarah and I also struggle with work/family balance and can sympathize completely. All the best to you in your future endeavors!

Jim Cahill

Charlene, Best wishes in your quest for balance! I've enjoyed getting to know you through your great work with Forrester and on Groundswell. I look forward to continuing to follow your next adventures in Twitter and Friendfeed.

Scott Germaise


Your contributions have been huge. I'm sure in whatever you do next - even part time - you'll remain a compelling voice providing true insight amidst a great deal of hype.

I shall have to be more protective of my autographed copy of Groundswell now!

Good luck!


Jeremy Pepper

This is a huge loss for social media, and for Forrester.

But, we did talk about this in Los Angeles, and congratulations on taking the time to spend at home. I look forward to what's next.

It's exciting, it's a great break, it's a great time ... and you'll still be in the thick of it.

Now I have to find your other blog URL. :)

Rob Koplowitz

Charlene, it's been such an honor to work with you. Your passion and insights are only surpassed by your ever present smile. Go have fun with the kids. I can't wait to see the next great thing you do! - Rob

Neville Hobson

Best wishes on your next moves, Charlene. I've been reading your writings since I first found you in 2004. Will miss your insights.

Barbara Nixon

Charlene -- As a working mom of four myself, I can empathize, a lot. You might remember me from the Edelman New Media Academic Summit last week; I brought along a copy of Groundswell for you to autograph & we also had our photo taken together. Best of luck as you transition to the next stage in your career.

R Wang

Charlene, you rock and it's been quite a pleasure following your work and learning from you. Good luck with the family focus and you will be missed!

Warren Sukernek

As a big fan, I will certainly miss your observations and insights. I will look forward to finding your ideas in the social air on facebook, friendfeed, twitter and other areas of the social web.

Thank you and best of luck,


Wishing you all the best! I'll miss your insights and advice which i have been following over the years.


Doug Haslam


Congratulations on making a tough decision based on the right priorities. I am certain we have not heard the last of you.

Ron Shevlin

Good luck, Charlene. Best wishes.

David Carter

Charlene, the industry owes you a debt of gratitude for legitimizing a lot of our work. When Awareness (formerly iUpload) started in this space in 2004, you made a huge difference by actually evaluating the enterprise readiness of our tools and our peers. I'd wish you "best of luck", but have no doubt about your success moving forward. You don't need luck.

John Furrier

It must have been a touch decision, but having a large family myself I can only imagine how all that research, blogging, travelling must have weighed on your schedule.

Taking time to take stock in ones life is a very valuable thing.

Good luck in your next adventure. You've been a big pioneer and leader in the social space.

Thanks for all your contribution.

Cheers and have a great summer


Louis Columbus


Thanks for a great education on social networking and Web 2.0, I learned so much from your blog and from your book. Best wishes on your future and thanks again for generously sharing your insights and knowledge.

Steven Noble

We'll miss you Charlene, but speaking as I parent I understand completely.

Beth B.

Will miss you, but also as a parent that is trying to juggle work/career myself - I completely understand!!

Andy Beal

Good luck Charlene!

Wade Rockett

Good luck! I'm very glad that I got the chance to hear you speak. You've done a lot of good work, and you'll be missed.

Blake Cahill

Charlene - you will be missed. Appreciate all your support and getting the opportunity to work together over the past two years. Looking forward to seeing what comes next for you.




Good luck! Nine years is a long time at any place in Silicon Valley!

Rick Murray

Hey Charlene, thanks for inspiring so many of us to learn more, think bigger and reach higher. Cheers, Rick.

Ori Soen

Forrester is going to have a hard time filling the void that you leave behind.

Your insight into the social media space and specifically widgets and social apps will be greatly missed.

Good luck going forward!

Vanessa Camones

Wow, what a loss. I literally was just flipping through groundswell this morning to refresh... and i saw the news abuzz on twitter... Wish you the best of luck in your next adventure and look forward to collaborating with you again in the future. Widgets have come a long way since Forrester started covering them!
Warm wishes,

Joe Cothrel

Here's a reader since '99 too - hopefully you'll stay in the space and continue lend your good perspective.

Mike Manuel

Aspiring for a work/life balance is pretty easy, we all do it, but actually finding it is pretty damn hard and clearly comes with some serious compromises....

I really wish you luck with this next path you're taking, Charlene.

susan mernit

Congratulations on this big decision and milestone. You have given so much to Forrester, and to the Web 2.0 community (which your insights have truly helped broaden.)
Best of luck on this next step of the journey.

Susan E

Charlene, I completely understand and wish you every happiness. And of course I'm eager to hear about your next move! Enjoy the break, however long it may be.

Aaron Strout


Congratulations on your decision. You've been an anchor at Forrester and will no doubt be sorely missed. Thank goodness for all the other great analysts at Forrester like Josh, Jeremiah, Oliver et al!

By the way, did I mention that we were hiring? ;)


Dave Webb

Wow. That's huge considering the success & acclaim of the book. I've been impressed by your insights into the world of social media. But I am even more impressed that you have the courage & conviction to launch out into the unknown in order to better balance your work & home life. It shows that your priorities are in the right place and you are to be commended. Best wishes in your new endeavors.

Jim Storer

Congrats on making this decision Charlene. I'm sure it wasn't easy, but you'll certainly enjoy your new adventure(s). Best of luck!

Jim | @jstorerj

Douglas Pollei

You are a giant in the industry and also a thought leader who will be missed at Forrester for sure. With your book tour and conference schedule this past year, time off to regroup is definitely deserved. Best to you and your family.


Cathryn Hrudicka


Best of everything to you, and I'm sure it was a difficult decision. It does help a lot to be a consultant and be able to work at home at least part of the time. Here's to a great adventure, and your family is fortunate to have a mother who is so clear about her priorities.


Thanks for Groundswell - and for "showing me the way." What a huge impact you've made...you're my professional hero. :)

Best wishes on your future endeavors!

Oliver Young

I have to say I'm seriously bummed to see you leave, but must, like so many other, thank you profusely for taking the time to work closely with me over the past few years. Your time and insight has been tremendously valuable to me personally and professionally. Thank you!

Amy Worley

You've done so much to set the stage for how businesses can make smart business sense of social media and communities. I'm sure your gifts will be very much appreciated wherever you go. Including at home!

Brian Bowman

Charlene -- we have worked together on an off for about 5 years now. I have always enjoyed your thought leadership and perspective.

As a dad of a two young daughters, I certainly appreciate the complexity of balancing work/family life. I wish you a year full of laughs, hugs and fulfillment.


David Dalka

Good Luck in whatever you chose to do next!

Angelo Fernando

I've been a great follower of your work and fed on the insights you have brought to this space. Thanks, and best of luck.

Kevin Walsh


You have done some great work at Forrester. I eagerly await seeing whatever you do next.

Good Luck and best regards,


Brian Hayashi

I'm sure there are going to be many moments you are going to miss the experiences and wonderful relationships.

When I read Jeremiah's tweets I am transported back in time when Forrester treated interactive TV the same as the Internet: you could not have dreamed of working at a better place at a better time. After all, you get to work on interesting projects; meet terrific people; and there are more 'moments of truth' than you can shake a stick at.

But the Web 2.0 space continues to grow and cry out for attention. You cannot continue to stay abreast of the myriad changes and their implications and manage your other duties with the same gusto. It's just not possible.

In my opinion, every one that works in this space long enough needs to take some time to rise above the fray and take some time to rearrange one's priorities. There will always be enough email; in the meantime, we don't want to miss out on the other important things in our life.

Your insight and wit will be missed. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Craig Newmark

Hey, good luck in whatever you do!


Rudy from Trulia

Hi Charlene!

Groundswell is on my shelf...waiting to get read. As a a father of 3 young ones, I understand your position. Finding the right balance is really tough...I work on it daily.

Best of luck with everything.

Social Media Guru at Trulia.com

Andy Wibbels

Congratulations! Fantastic book... can't wait to see what you do next.

Cynthia Gentry

Your post really hit home as I struggle with the work-life balance issue daily, and more so recently as I've just accepted a more challenging position with a great company. I hope you will continue to address this topic, and that you'll continue to write!


Wow Charlene

You have been pioneering and leading the curve. Thank you for all the compromises you have made for the field. Best wishes on the new balance, yet pioneering that is ahead of you!

Steve Furman


A courageous and noble decision. Your children are indeed blessed. You have been the North Star for so many. I have searched my mind to find a single word to describe you, and I've actually got it. RARE.

I hope we can stay in touch.



they gave you credibility you probably wouldn't have gained on your own, lucky, but i see them as a lowest common denominator status quo company, time to move on.

Sean Duffy

Charlene, you've been a great ambassador for Forrester and for the Groundswell. Look forward to hearing from you again after your break. - Sean

Will Nourse

Charlene, a courageous decision, but I'm sure the right one. Groundswell is a seminal work and I look forward to keeping up with whatever you do in this space in the future.


Mentor Graphics Communities

Groundswell is a great book & best of luck to you.

Mukund MOhan

Congratulations on the decision and very good luck with the future.

I think you'll be pleased with the choice a few years from now.

Guilherme Ambros


whatever you decide to do, please keep writing!

as a long time Forrester subscriber, I can say that you'll be missed, and your coworkers will need to work hard to fill the void. Just wish we all can continue to benefit from your insights and keep dialoguing with you, wherever it'd be.

all the best!

Lisa Stone

Charlene, bravo. As a reader, I've always felt your whole life (motherhood included) helped you "get" the social media space better than most. I'm excited to see what you tackle next.

This is also a great opportunity to thank you for all the support you've given BlogHer and the terrific ontributions you've made as a conference speaker. Look forward to seeing you at BlogHer '08.


Welcome to the world of ex-analysts Charlene (assuming that you are leaving that occupation as well as your employer). Lots of fun stuff on the outside!

-Richard Stiennon

Melanie Notkin

Wow. It's the end of an era.

Jeff Lanctot

Thanks for all of your great work, Charlene- and all the best to you and your family.

Todd Cunningham

Thanks for being there for me - and for us. Wishing you and your family all the best.

Pre Priyadarshane

Good luck Charlene. Wishing you and your family the very best.

Jackie Huba

I've been a big fan of your work for a long time. Congrats on Groundswell...it's a terrific book.

Best wishes for your future endeavors!



It's a big loss for Forrester and the rest of us, but we'll be looking forward to your next moves. Thank you for all of your contributions and pushing forward on the research and awareness of social computing as an industry.

Best of luck and please let us know where you surface next.

Nick Huhn

I recently faced a similar decision and I could not be happier to have more time for my family and myself. You will thank yourself later, and so will your family. :)

I do hope you emerge again to share your invaluable wisdom and insights with us in some capacity. Thank you for all of the thought leadership you've provided to us. Best of luck in your future endeavors!

Sam Lawrence

Shazam, that rocks. Time to Go Big Always again. Love it and can't wait to hear what you do.


Bernard Moon

Best wishes, Charlene!


1) enjoy spending more time with your kids & family :)

2) blog when you have time

3) kick ass all over the place.

and make sure to stop & smell those roses charlene :)

- dmc

Colin Henderson

Best wishes Charlene. Been following you for years, and will be watching for your next project.

Linda van Veen

Now I understand I had to wait for you 10 days to close the email inquiry.... I still untagged the late notification ;)
I wish you all the best in your further career!
Greetings from Holland


9 years - wow, that must have been a difficult decision. But as everyone else, I also understand the needs for balance.. I still remember the day we met in Seoul - it was great to see you and I will look forward to seeing you again if opportunities allow.

Dario Salvelli

Breake a leg, Charlene! I hope that u found a great work, refresh about your way.

Take care. Greetings from Italy.

Patrick Chanezon

Congratulations, this is a courageous decision: we have 3 kids, both work, and feel the pain of these compromises:-)

I look forward to seeing you succeed in work with a more balanced family life.

Lee Odden

What's amazing about you Charlene, is that you've not only set a standard for your peers at Forrester, but for the industry.

Thank you for all your contributions and congratulations on making such an important decision for you and your family!

David Berkowitz

Congrats, Charlene. I've learned a ton from you and look forward to learning more from your next endeavors.

B.L. Ochman

Charlene - I've learned so much from you over the years. I'm sure you'll have a brilliant next chapter too.

As a long-time consultant, I can tell you there are lots of advantages, not the least of which is the bunny slippers.

Sarah Rotman Epps

Charlene, you have been an incredible role model for me at Forrester--I so admire your open, collaborative nature.

Best of luck and keep in touch.

Krishna De

Charlene - Your readers will certainly miss your contributions here - and we can't wait to see where this next chapter will take you.

Good luck with the transition.

Terri in Tokyo

Congratulations! I have had my thinking stretched, challenged and confirmed by reading you and Josh (and Jeremiah, too).
I thank you, and wish you all the best in your next move.

Mary Fallon

I am enjoying reading Groundswell - thanks for your contribution to the tech community's conversation. Balance is something we all struggle with and your decision sounds like you're putting family and self first, which is so important. I can so relate to the 18 months statement...especially here in Silicon Valley. Best wishes.

Rich Reader

How we define ourselves in our own terms is the enlightened path. You're on it!

Srinivas Rao

Hey Charlene,

Enjoyed working with you several years back and your book has been very influential during the course of my MBA internship

Sam Diaz

What a brave decision!! Congrats, though, on picking family over career. Truly, you are the envy of every parent out there who has ever worked long days and arrived home just in time to tuck the kids into bed. You'll do well. Please stay in touch...

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