On Tuesday I got a call from some lackey at a major software supplier. "Our MD had a cancellation so would you be available for lunch on Wednesday?" (Strewth! A last-minute invitation based on a cancellation? Now that makes a sheila feel really important.) I was a bit narked, but didn't tell him to nick off, just said I was flat out like a lizard drinking. The truth is I just couldn't bear the thought of sitting across the table from one more Tall Poppy rabbiting on about themselves.
Boy, do I long for the days when men were men and vendor CEOs weren't shameless self-promoters masquerading as industry observers, but blokes who could talk technology. And back then they were all blokes.
For example, anyone out there remember Digital Equipment's Ken Olson? (Anyone out there remember Digital?) Now there was a bloke who knew his technology. In fact Ken didn't particularly like - or see the need - to talk to journalists. Ken liked his technology not his press clippings. Back when Microsoft wasn't all about marketing and Bill Gates wasn't a "visionary", he actually spoke to you about technology.
That said, there were times when a CEO's vision thing was kinda neat. At this magazine's first CIO Conference eight years ago, Symantec's Gordon Eubanks drove his local marcoms people bonkers when he decided to change his preso the night before his speech. Overnight he dumped the corporate product pitch opting instead to talk about the social implications of telecommuting on companies and the workforce.
I remember people like John Cullinane, who founded Cullinet and developed IDMS; Paul Brainerd, the guy behind Aldus and PageMaker; Dick Pick, the code-cutter behind the eponymous Pick operating system (and also a reasonable break-dancer); and Borland's Phillipe Kahn, who - ah, well - played the saxophone (okay, so not all of my examples are working beautifully here). In fact it shows you how bad things have become when I start longing for one more encounter with Phillipe Kahn - but that's another story (and not one with a particularly happy ending).
No one has asked my advice, but since when has that stopped me? So, here are my top tips for the muckamucks running IT companies here:
1. Don't talk about how successful your company is, but about how well your products perform;
2. Don't talk about how successful you personally are, but about how successful users of your products are;
3. Don't speak at all if you don't understand the solutions your company provides. The vision thing only works on a base of knowledge and comprehension.
And finally, you might have noticed my Strine petered out somewhere between Bill Gates and Phillipe Kahn. Even so, I hope it was a fair start to my Australian citizenship, which officially began on January 26. I still have my Yank accent, but I couldn't be prouder to say I am now officially dinky-di. And by the way, they didn't give out trees at my ceremony. Instead we got baseball caps and a cloth shopping bag using the Aussie flag design. Only in Australia would you get a shopping bag made out of your flag to celebrate your citizenship. No wonder I love my new country!
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