I never regretted by decision to leave Cisco and do my usual "18 month tour" there. It was the perfect antidote for all the cynicism and negativity that entered my bloodstream after five years of working at Cisco in Austin.
Some days I wish I could have stuck around to see the dramatic growth over the past few years, but patience has never been one of my virtues.
But among the many things I learned from the experience is that in small companies is that you are not happy, you only have your self to blame. You can't blame the status quo, the slow pace of change, politics, dysfunctional teams because it is all on you. And particularly relevant to periods of economic anxiety, is the good feeling working on teams (or projects) that you can directly trace revenue for the organization to your own deliverables. That's one of the reasons I like what I'm doing at Tenable right now. Just as with consulting, developing and delivering training provides a tangible, concrete metric on the value you are providing to an organization.
And last but not least Dale introduced me to to Tom Peters who at first I thought was sort of cheesy, but I continue to read today.