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“i intrinsically understood that success in business
was about skills. i wanted to start a company,
but i didn’t have the skills to do it.
i knew i had to develop them.”
—Jimmy Treybig
Building Skills Before Building a Business managerial skills and, at the same time, became savvy about the
commercial computer market at a time when few people had any
“I intrinsically understood that success in business was about skills,” inkling of its immeasurable potential.
Treybig remembers. “I wanted to start a company, but I didn’t have
the skills to do it. I knew I had to develop them.” As soon as he was A Business Opportunity Emerges
out of college, the first job he took was selling instrumentation for
Texas Instruments. Why did he take a job as a salesman? Precisely Commercial data processing at that time was enabled by either
because he had skill-building in mind, and although he was fairly batch or real-time computing, explains Treybig. This was the era
sociable and outgoing, he wasn’t a salesman. of punch cards and mainframe
“At first I had to have my wife go with me to make cold calls,”
“Jimmy is constantly stressing the
computers the size of a small
he laughs. “She’d literally have to push me out of the car because I
importance of paying attention to
house that had limited uses and
was so nervous.” But by deliberately placing himself in an uncom-
the people in management and
weren’t available to the general
fortable position and forcing himself to develop skills that establish
throughout the company. He is the
direct business relationships with people, he was able to add an in-
board member who I go to when
The challenge for the era’s
dispensable tool to his kit. “Learning to sell not only your products
I need advice on personnel is-
technologists was to increase
but also yourself is one of the most important things you need to
sues. Although Jimmy would never
system performance, and dif-
learn in life,” he affirms.
boast about this, he was awarded
ferent industries were try-
Next stop on the skill-development train was Stanford University.
the Torch of Liberty Award by the
ing various solutions to solve
“While getting my MBA at Stanford,” he says, “I learned about
Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
unique performance and avail-
organizational theory, marketing, finance, and accounting.” All,
in 1983. The award is given by
ability issues. “In the publish-
he says, are necessary skills for a future CEO. One thing you can’t
the ADL to business leaders who
ing industry, for instance,”
learn in business school, however, is how to manage. That requires
demonstrate a commitment to end
Treybig explains, “companies
on-the-job training, and Treybig was well aware that managerial
bigotry and racism. Jimmy had an
would have two IBM systems.
jobs were hard to come by, especially for 26-year-olds. So, when
above-average number of women
If one failed, they’d take the
he was offered a job working in the new computer division of
and minorities in his management
paper tape and reload it into
Hewlett Packard (HP) with Tom Perkins, a man who would later
team and throughout the company
the other one. So they were
become extremely influential in his life, he had one stipulation:
at Tandem, and he won the award
using redundancy to achieve
“My main requirement was that I eventually would manage at
for his efforts to create a diverse
availability, which was very
least 20 people.”
Perkins agreed, and after Treybig had cycled through a couple
—Scott Eckert
As Treybig learned more
different positions, he was promoted to marketing manager for CEO of Motion Computing about the market for what
commercial computers, where he oversaw four groups that sold would later be called fault-
computers in different industries: finance and banking, manufac- tolerant systems, he estimated the potential. “I decided that if I
turing, and publishing. He spent five years at HP developing his could start from scratch and build a computer that would not fail
28 rice sallyport
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