Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Misogyny in the Valley"


The following was first published in "Model View Culture" in June 2014.  You should subscribe.


Misogyny in the Valley
by Nancy Householder Hauge 
(with contributions made by Henry Higgins and Lean In)

“Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?”

30 years ago, when I first joined a rapidly-growing-Silicon-Valley start-up-soon-to-be-very-successful-company, a young female engineer, named Katie, came to me for some help. She told me she felt uncomfortable with a situation, but she did not know what to do or say about it.

“Have you noticed that all the servers have been given girls’ names?”  she asked me. “Why do you think that is?” 

“I assumed it was like planes, ships and cars. Guys always refer to that stuff with girls names,” I replied.

“Maybe,” she went on. “But did you know that the protocol for starting up a server is called ‘mounting’? 

“No, I’ve never heard that,” I said, looking at my watch, wondering when she would come to the point. I can be slow.

“Well, every morning I have to listen to my male colleagues yelling down the hallways, ‘I am mounting Cathy now!’ or ‘I mounted Judy a few minutes ago and she is purring!’ or ‘Jenny is being a tease and will not let me mount her!’ or maybe the worst, ‘Katie can I watch while you mount Joan?’”

Oh. Now I saw what she was talking about. 

I pictured the group she was talking about. A cluster of offices ran down two sides of a long hallway, near a big cold room with a raised floor, as server-rooms had to be in those days. 

Each office was occupied by two or three of the nerdiest-nerds you have ever met. These were engineers who demanded that they control the servers on which their work resided, not trusting them to the IT department’s care. These very smart boys were the most important brains in the company. Recruited from the top three engineering schools in the nation, their hair was long and unkempt and they wore jeans, T-shirts and sandals to work in 1984, but when they went to college in the 70s their pants were too short, they wore pocket-protectors and they knew how to use slide-rules.

Many of them never had a date in high school or college. Many worked so many hours they often slept under their desks at work, did not shower and smelled pretty ripe on a Friday… and it was pretty clear they still had limited contact with girls. They were arrogant, contemptuous of anyone without a technical MS, know-it-alls. Some were geniuses. All were socially inept. 

So, as I sat there picturing these horny, smelly nerds and juxtaposing Katie’s story of them bragging about “mounting” their high-tech girlfriends, I did what anyone in my position in 1984 would do. 

I laughed out loud. 

I told Katie I would look into it, but I advised Katie to develop a sense of humor. 

In truth, on that day in 1984 I saw no harm in what was going on.  I thought Katie was just being uptight, a whiner…she was looking for things to complain about and did not understand how to get along with boys. I assumed she was not as good an engineer as the boys. I assumed she was one of those malcontent-girl-engineers with dirty hair and too much political correctness to ever have fun. 

Why were those girl engineers so whiny and malcontent anyway?

Well, in retrospect, it might have been because of people like me.

People like me, who did not see much harm….no, it was worse than that… people like me, who saw charm in the misogynistic hijinks of young men.

Inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s poster boy for chauvinism, Henry Higgins, I wondered, “Why can’t these girls be more like the boys?”

Why can’t they nut-up, develop a thicker skin and a cooler sense of humor? Why do they look for mistreatment everywhere? The boys are just having fun. Get along, do your job. We need to keep those boys happy, ya’ know.  We need to do anything we can to keep the nerdy-brain-trust-happy. And if I confront them, they might bolt over to another company where the culture is still cool and not full of rules about behavior. So, Katie, can you just take a chill-pill and get with the program a bit?

What a dumb-ass I was.

I am so sorry, Katie. I was a wrong-headed young woman, raised with four brothers, living in the male-dominated high-tech world and addicted to trying to make the boys like and accept me. Could someone reach back 30 years and put a sock in my mouth, please?

Luckily things, and I, have really changed over the past 30 years, right? Isn’t that a relief? At least we don’t have those boys clubs of the 1980s to contend with anymore! 

What do you mean you “have a sock for me to taste?”

The 21st Century
In 2011 I was consulting to a Silicon Valley start-up seeking a bunch of Ruby on Rails developers. The CTO was panicked about finding the right team. I understood his concerns, although I had never seen so many qualifiers attached to screening candidates. As the recruiting team and I tried to fill a pipeline with qualified developers, we had to submit the names to the entire engineering team so they could check out the candidates’ GitHub accounts. 

The engineers called it “GetHumped.” Over and over we submitted woman engineers, and over and over they were rejected, supposedly based upon the “quality” of their code submitted to GitHub. Or, they didn’t have code posted on GitHub at all. But what I would hear the engineers say is, “Can’t ‘get humped’, can’t get hired.” 

Welcome to the 21st century version of “mounting Cathy.”

When I confronted the CTO with the remarkable rejection rate of women, he said, “I can tell you this because you are a consultant and not really ‘HR,’ but… I have a cool team with a good culture and I just do not see woman on that team, ok? None of the women I went to school with were enough like the guys to fit in.”

I was a bit stunned that one of the millennial generation could be so 1984 in his attitude. But, I was paid to advise, not preach.  So, I sat the CTO and his CEO co-founder down and said, “Boys, let me tell you how the deposition that is in your future is going to go.”

I explained that the consistent elimination of female candidates was going to come back to bite them. I explained that their product was used by women 95% of the time and a few women on the product team would be a good thing.

They thought about my “advice.” Then they agreed among themselves that they could not tamper with the chemistry of the current team, that female engineers would make the boys uncomfortable, that women just wouldn’t fit in. They were disappointed that I did not “get it.” They expected more of me because I was part of the culture of Silicon Valley in the 1980s, where we did not have so many “PC” rules.

Well, the desperate-for-male-approval-Nancy of 1984 would have fit in fine, but apparently Nancy in 2014 no longer fit in…. they ended my contract.

But there it was, 30 years later the lament: “Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?”


“Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Woman?”
Early in Sheryl Sandberg’s disappointing book, Lean In, she recounts speaking to a group of graduate students. She was impressed by the “thoughtful” questions the male students asked. The men were focused on business model and operational questions. They asked questions about how to run a company.

She was less impressed by the questions from the young women, questions such as; “Did you feel guilty leaving Google?” “Were you concerned about going to your company’s biggest competitor?” “Did you think about commitments you had to the people you left behind?”

Sheryl was disappointed in the lack of “thoughtfulness” and focus in the women’s questions. She wondered why they did not ask the same valuable questions as the men. 

But Sheryl totally missed the point of the women’s questions. The men asked “how to” questions, because Sheryl’s level of professional and financial success gives her gravitas and credibility in their minds. The women asked values and relationship-based questions, trying to determine if Sheryl shared their values and ethics before they would take her advice. Because, regardless of her financial success, Sheryl would not have gravitas until she scaled those hurdles among women. In my experience, young women are no less interested in the “hows” of learning, but they are far more rigorous in qualifying the “who,” before taking advice.

“Successful” behaviors in corporate America were set by men, based upon how men use their brains and how they interact. Women do not readily fit into the corporate culture created by men, which values only the standards set by them. Alternate models of workplace skills are not yet understood and appreciated. Prevailing thought has always assumed that stereotypical male work behaviors are empirically proven to be winning behaviors.  

Sandberg perpetuates that antiquated myth throughout her entire tiresome book. She holds men up as her only model for success and continuously compares any differing behavior from women as “heartbreaking.” Sheryl is so enamored of the male behavior she indulges in a book-long version of what the character, Jenna Maroney of “30 Rock” calls “back door bragging:”  

Jenna:  “Backdoor bragging is sneaking something wonderful about yourself in everyday conversation. Like when I tell people it's hard for me to watch American Idol ‘cause I have perfect pitch.”  

Sheryl continually explains that she went through life embarrassed by her “bossiness,” when in fact, she is back-door bragging. And we are all supposed to think, “Wow, she ‘takes charge’ just like a man! Isn’t it just awful she had to be embarrassed about being so great?”

Men in tech often “take charge” in a competition of dominance. They rush to see who can solve the problem fastest and then rush to see who can find the flaws in that solution fastest. Often, when men in a tech workplace are in an animated discussion, one of them is likely to stand up in an unconscious attempt to physically dominate. After the first one stands, they will all stand in order to avoid looking up at any other male in the room.  Soon the whole meeting is taking place at six feet in the air. That makes it pretty tough for a five-foot-tall woman to participate without standing on a chair.

It must also be hard to thoroughly think through a problem when you are so intent on maintaining dominance.

But how about “taking charge” like a woman?

Ten years ago I was part of Ruckus, a social media company whose value proposition was downloading music and movies legally into dorm rooms. During the summer of 2005 we had 18 college interns working with us. We had a variety of projects for them to do, most of which were focused on making the site sticky and expanding the subscriber rate.

For one project, we decided to split them up by gender and asked both the boys and the girls to solve the same problem: How to get more students to subscribe. We gave them two hours to brainstorm and then present their ideas.

The boys solved the issue in about 10 minutes. They placed a flip chart outside of their conference room that read:  “Invest more in on-campus marketing. Invest more in branding.”

Then the boys went to shoot hoops for the next 110 minutes. The boys’ answer was focused on exactly what the senior team had concluded and we were pretty pleased with what we had taught these guys over the summer.

The girls took the entire two hours and then asked to see me privately.  I went to the conference room where they had been working. The white boards and flip charts were covered in ideas with cross-outs and edits in every color pen. It was clear that this had been an unfocused session.

Two girls were at the front of the room and they seemed a bit nervous. I understood why - it was clear they had been all over the place in their ideas. I was feeling pretty sorry for the girls and their lack of clear understanding compared to the boys…. when one of the girls said, “Nancy, we know why the site is failing. But we are not sure management will be willing to solve the problem.”

“Try me,” I said, a little put off.

“The site needs erotica,” one said.

“The site just does not have enough sex on it,” said another.

Now, part of our commitment to the schools we sold to was that we would not serve up porn. I was disappointed that the girls did not remember that and was sad they had wasted 2 hours. But they went on: “We don’t mean porn. We mean erotica. For example, European movies have much more sex in the context of the stories they tell. European content would be attractive to educators. And girls like sex in movies.  Management has to secure a volume of erotica that appeals to young women and market it appropriately.”

I sat there a bit astonished. I looked around the room and now saw the covered white boards and flip charts in a different light.

The boys had served up the answer that would please management and they took pride in their expedience. The girls worked long, quietly and hard on something that would not just validate management but also actually solve the problem. And they took huge risk of self-exposure by talking about how girls like explicit sex in movies.

The Temple of Male Behavior
Without credible workplace role models for behavior other than the male behaviors Sheryl proselytizes, women are left trying to emulate them, and risk abandoning some of the best parts of themselves when they leave for work in the morning.

The young women interns at Ruckus worked in a very different way. As I explored their notes, I noticed that ideas were expanded upon, not abandoned. Challenges were identified, but the male language so often heard in Silicon Valley conference rooms - “Well, let me tell you what the problem with that idea is….” - was not in the room.  These young women, without men to define the “appropriate business behavior,” used different behaviors and came up with a startling and valuable solution. They showed many of the values that exist outside of dominance-based leadership: strategic thinking, intuition, nurturing and relationship building, values-based decision-making and acceptance of other’s input.

Women need space to be themselves at work. Until people who have created their success by worshipping at the temple of male behavior, like Sheryl Sandberg, learn to value alternate behaviors, the working world will remain a foreign and hostile culture to women. And if we do not continuously work to build corporate cultures where there is room for other behaviors, women will be cast from or abandoned in a world not of our making, where we continuously “just do not fit in,” but where we still must go to earn our livings.

I laughed out loud in 1984.  30 years later I am not laughing so much.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Unreasonable, indeed!

My HR team has done some remarkable work lately.  I got the press, but they did the heavy lifting.  Including taking unreasonable ideas I threw around and making them a process and system in which we can all be proud.  They made Oracle cry "Uncle" and then thank them for the pain. 

This team is pretty extraordinary.  The truth is I hire really well.  How did I learn to do that?  Necessity.  As a person with no discernable skills, I learned early on that I had to hire people much better than myself, if I intended to have a future.

My team today is very young...but they are gifted and creative and resourceful and a joy to work with every day. 

And I learned how to hire well in 1986/87/88 when I was in over my nose at Sun Microsystems...so this team knows that they are part of what I think of as my only professional legacy....turning HR wonks into contributing members of society.

An example:

"Hello! I am the acting recruiting manager, and today I've decided to act like Bette Davis, 'What-a-dump!'  Are you Nancy?"

And with those words I met Patty McCord.

Patty McCord.
I was waiting to interview for a job at Seagate in Scotts Valley, CA.  It was 1987 and I was snooping around, testing the waters of other companies, trying to see if I was marketable and how much my services might command out in the world beyond Sun.  A soft-spoken woman had called me about an opportunity at Seagate, but when I arrived for an interview I was met by this strawberry-blond-dynamo.  Short, cute and a bundle of energy, she never stopped talking on the way back to her office.  She greeted and teased everyone we passed by.  She launched into a description of the company, the products, the personalities, the facilities, her background as a diversity recruiter  and I think she described the men's room to me all in the time it took to walk 300 feet.  She explained that she was in this acting role because her boss was out having a baby or a nervous breakdown or something.  I was laughing the entire time and out of breath by the time I sat down.

After 30 minutes of conversation she said, "I am going to send you into meet the CEO, but I can tell you right now that you do not want this job.  You have a great job.  Our job is not as good. Don't leave Sun for Seagate, no matter what they offer you."

The next day I called Patty McCord and offered her a job working for me at Sun.  She declined.  Then, after thinking about it for a week she called back and accepted.  And God touched me right on the forehead.

Pam Headsten, the greatest recruiter ever, had taken on some generalist duties and was now drowning in the same pool of overcommitments that had almost killed me a year earlier.  I had suggested she focus on recruiting, give up the generalist duties, and we could build a recruiting team around her.  She turned me down and asked instead to be a full-time generalist.  She explained that she wanted to get a Masters' degree in Organizational Development and the HR job was more in line with her long-term interests.  She was right.  She is a brilliant generalist.  OK.  That meant I had to find a recruiting manager for the World Wide Operations Group.  And, serendipitously, just a few days later, I met Patty.

In addition to the 100% growth per year we were trying to cope with, the wonks at corporate were starting to throw the word "diversity" around.   Frankly, it worried me a bit.  We had a group of white, male, Anglo-Saxons running HR (Seriously the VP and three of his directors were from the UK for pity sakes.  They thought diversity was having a German guy and an Italian guy at the table).  In the operational groups we had diversity up the wazoo.  The flags of many nations hung over the achievements at Sun.  But we were not running the kind of diversity programs our competition were focusing on, so when Patty referenced her experience with the subject in our interview at Seagate something clicked in my feeble brain.   I knew that if I wanted a voice in how Sun was going to address this topic, I needed an expert on my team.  I need to hire better than my competition for mind share.  Enter Patty.

The truth is Patty made me laugh.  I could not resist her.  She was smart and funny and she seemed not to be intimidated by anyone.  Her energy and enthusiasm were contagious.  I am always described as "high-energy" but I cannot hold a candle to Patty.  Additionally, I believed that if you were going to get the organization to embrace diversity programs, they were going to have to be run by someone with a sense of humor.

Patty worked for me for a about a year bringing a volume hiring process to chaos, she worked with corporate and eased the tensions between what they could provide and what we needed .  Then she went off and gave birth to twins.  She returned to work and I talked her into taking a year as an expat in Scotland.  Game girl that she is, she packed up her babies and took on the heavy lifting of bringing Sun's American culture to Linlithgow.  When she got back to the states she joined the corporate group and moved into the role as Director of Diversity at the corporate level.  No one who ever met Patty did not want to hire her or work for her.  She added some world-class talent to the mix, Debbie Dagit and Hazel Hatcher climbed aboard the rocket ship just to work with this amazing talent. 

As the advocate of diversity at Sun, Patty made white men tongue-tied, black women shake their heads in admiration, Asian engineers lust after her, Pakistani finance guys laugh-out-loud and all of HR wish they could appear so effortless in their endeavors.  She brought everyone together with her humor and her irreverence.  If you are going to tackle a politically correct topic, make sure you do it with good humor or you will lose your audience.  Patty has never had a shrill day in her life.

Patty left Sun to work at Borland, a shorter commute and more stock options.  Diversity takes on new meaning when you work for a Frenchman who believes in nude swimming in the company pool.  She was just the girl for the task.  She joined a few other start-ups along the way.

Patty is now a high paid speaker and consultant after her last gig as the Chief Talent Office for Netflix.  She had been with them since the first DVD left the distribution center.  She has traveled a long way from that odd little borrowed office at Seagate.

And for a brief time she worked at Sun and made me look better than I ever deserved.

Unreasonable, indeed!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gravitas

I met two young women this month that took my breath away. 


Amelia Greenhall and Shanley Kane schlepped down the peninsula to meet for lunch after they had republished one of my blog pieces about women CEO's on their magazine, Model View Culture http://modelviewculture.com/about . I arrived at Joanie's in Palo Alto, smug, ready to be the estrogen-depleted-aged-sage, prepared to be the experienced crone-with-cahones, who had survived the sexism and misogyny of the  '70's, 80's, '90's & '00's and lived to tell the professional tale.  My "Queen of France" voice was warmed up to pontificate about my experience...oh, the wisdom I would impart...the pearls of philosophy and humor I would leave them with.........and 90 seconds in I discovered that I was outclassed, out-shone and out-thunk at every turn.  These girls were serious about this stuff....and not likely to be impressed with the lame-humor-facile-observations which are my raison d'ĂȘtre. 

First, they are full grown adults who were born about the time I learned to drop the F-bomb....(and although I was a late entrant to the game of obscenity, I had apparently not fully comprehended that my vocabulary enlarged to include that word about half my lifetime ago.)  So, while “young” they are grown-ups….not really looking for a teacher.


Second, these young women have about 6 degrees between them, each with both technology (yes, real technology, one has a EE) and liberal arts....and an MA in Public Health thrown in for good measure. As they went through their short-but-impressive verbal resumes, they casually mentioned Vanderbilt, Carnegie-Mellon and the University of Chicago.  So, even if they were looking for some sort of teacher/mentor…they have standards that I could never live up to.

After finishing a serious commitment to higher Ed, they each started careers in Silicon Valley, succeeded in their endeavors, bounced their beautiful craniums against the glass ceiling a couple of times, and then did something pretty wonderful.  They said, "Screw this!" and started their own company. A technology driven media company about technology, media, culture and the human experience in 2014. 

These girls are scary smart.  They are also thoughtful, articulate, ambitious, creative and honest.  They are part of the top 1% of intellect and capability.  And as I sat there listening to them, laughing with them, admiring them, wishing they were my daughters, I had to wonder…..What the f*ck is wrong with Silicon Valley?  How did these two remarkable women get pushed out of corporate America so early?  Has there really been so little change to the unthinking misogyny I encountered in the 1980’s?
I would be ashamed, and I would expect to be fired if I let talent of this caliber slip away from my company.  But some HR wonk like me did let them slip away.  And I worry I have cavalierly let young woman slip away….especially when they were daunted by the obstacles and obtuseness of a world that claims to only value break-through-thinking, but gives you demerits for breasts attached to brains.
So, I sat there and realized that I have let my position in life allow me to become complacent about the plight of young women in the workplace.  At my age and position in the world, I do not encounter the same kind of sexism I used to deal with every day…partly because I am really old, and there are no longer any hormonal “tensions” with my colleagues….and my professional status (achieved via tenacity over merit, trust me) demands a bit of respect.  Do I still find sexist behaviors? Sure I do…sometimes men ignore or talk over me (interestingly it is most often my beloved former Sun Microsystems colleagues who subject me to this rude practice).  But at this point in life I can tease them, threaten to kick their butts around the parking lot and shock them out of ignoring me.  I have tools available to me at 60 that a girl in her 20’s just cannot access.  
In the end the only tools these girls have available to them is their astounding intellects and a pen.  In this day and age we call it “technology driven media” but let’s be clear, it is smaller than a penis, but still mightier than the sword.


So, I am rooting for Model View Culture (they had to explain the name to me...a riff on some programming protocol...see, smart cookies), and not just because they had the good taste to use my words.  And not just because it is founded by two young women.  No, I root for MVC because, as I have said before, I am in love with smart, young entrepreneurs...and Amelia Greenhall and Shanley Kane are all of that, indeed.  And Silicon Valley better watch out, ‘cause these girls have brains and focus and rigor….and they also have the pen in their hand, now…..

So, I am rooting for Model View Culture (they had to explain the name to me...a riff on some programming protocol...see, smart cookies), and not just because they had the good taste to use my words.  And not just because it is founded by two young women.  No, I root for MVC because, as I have said before, I am in love with smart, young entrepreneurs...and Amelia Greenhall and Shanley Kane are all of that, indeed.  And Silicon Valley better watch out, ‘cause these girls have brains and focus and rigor….and they also have the pen in their hand, now…..

The gravitas of my age and experience apparently also has brought blindness to the ongoing frustrations of the women who have followed me into the workforce.  It is easy for me to think, "what are you whining about...I was once told that I earned plenty for 'a mom'".   But that attitude from me has made me stupid about what young woman still face every day...even in the ultimate meritocracy that is Silicon Valley.

As these two shockingly talented women recounted the frustrations of their high-tech experience (from constant concern about how to dress for work without either denying who they are or inviting unwanted attention…to despair over watching less capable male colleagues be embraced and promoted….to anger over the lack of female support systems), I felt my heart break.  How had I become so arrogant?  How had I not noticed that so little had changed?  How am I going to fix this?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Life in the Boy's Dorm: My Career at Sun Microsystems Part 24

"I just want to party all the time, party all the time party all the time...."

Yes, I am shamelessly leveraging the picture I snapped last night of these two unsavory characters...in order to get folks to the Sun reunion. 

When I joined Sun in the early autumn of 1984, I was 30 years old and had never been to a "company party."

I had worked with companies that occasionally sponsored a nice lunch or even a very well-mannered cocktail party for customers/clients.  But I had never worked in a company that "celebrated" with the entire employee population.

I had never heard of a Beer Bust.  I was from Chicago...where people do not hang around after 4:30 on a Friday to catch up on the weeks events.  In Chicago you are trying to pretend you have to go to the john at 4:30 so you can sneak down the elevator and start your weekend in a pub, with fingers crossed that your supervisor does not notice you are gone.  I could not understand the Beer Bust concept..."What do you mean we all gather at 4:30pm on a Friday for a beer?"  "With the executives?"  "Why?"  I was "Alice Through the Looking Glass" in a surreal environment where people wanted to stick around for a bit on a Friday and spend more time with the boss. I did not get it.

My first Friday at Sun, in October of 1984, Lin Trahan and I spent the afternoon trying to figure out how many folks had been added to the headcount that week, so Scott McNealy could announce the new hires at the Beer Bust.  Sun was hiring so rapidly in those days, that it was hard to actually keep track of who had started, how many offers were made and accepted and how many new hires were starting the next week.  Counting heads was a major challenge at Sun for the entire 10 years I worked there. It was like trying to count the passengers on train as it whizzes by.  The math was always wrong and you got whiplash for the effort.

But we pressed on.  The week of October 8th, 1984 we had 26 new hires and we had made 40 offers or so.  Lin explained that CFO Bob Smith had told her that by the end of the year she would be making 100 offers per week in order to keep up with the planned growth.  I was dumbfounded by the volume...Lin, being one of the most positively-competitive people I have ever known, just smiled her pretty smile and shrugged her shoulders, she knew she would meet the goal. "What else is there to do but figure it out?" she asked.

So, at 4:15 Lin, Kathleen Filano and I made our way across the campus from Bldg 2, over the pond (where an office and a Ferrari would one day float) to an open space in the Distribution area of Bldg 1.  The Ops and Facilities guys had set up tables with chips and dip and there were kegs and boxes of wine. We had the stats on new employees, product shipped and revenue collected in our hands along with a big bowl which contained a copy of every employee's badge.  People started gathering, music was playing from a boom box and I witnessed, for the first time, the quintessential Silicon Valley cultural experience.

As folks from all areas started to gather, I got my first glimpse into the subcultures of Sun:  Joe Roebuck's hail-fellow-well-met sales guys who were jolly, but also let you know that being there was taking away from revenue generation, Joe also ran Customer Support in those days with Steve Saperstein and Wild Bill Cote and his team...always the most raucous; Carol Bartz's marketing team, mostly very attractive women who seemed at first a bit standoffish, but were in reality...a bit standoffish; Russ Bik's operations folks, whose environment we had invaded with this soiree, continued to work until the absolute last second, good guys who stayed in the background; Bernie LaCroute's engineering team was there..the hardware engineers clustered around Howard Lee in animated conversation and the software engineers, clustered around Eric Schmidt in silence; Bob Smith's finance team, always the first to tap the kegs; The very small IT team, who in those days always looked a bit moist from perspiration;  The HR folks all trying to avoid whichever manager was pissed off at them about recruiting (someone was ALWAYS pissed off about recruiting).  Folks were milling about and then suddenly there was a bit of a hubub in the center of the room.  I looked up and there was 29-year-old Scott McNealy standing on a chair in the middle of the floor.  Scott had the stats Lin, Kathleen and I had gathered that afternoon and he read them off to all gathered...what we shipped, what we booked, what we collected, who we hired...the crowd roared and clapped and whooped and hollered with each new data point and Scott was grinning and joking and being adorable....and for the 50th time since I was offered the gig I thought, "This is the CEO?"  This was like nothing I had ever experienced.

Scott took questions from the super-smart attendees...product questions, quality questions, revenue questions and then the inevitable-always-last-question, "When are we going public?"  And Scooter answered with the best answer any CEO ever gave to that question, "When we need the money."  And moved on.  Then Scott reached into the bowl of badges and announced the weeks winner...with a dollar for every workstation shipped, someone had just won $125.  The crowd went crazy!

My family was waiting in the parking lot (we only had one car in those days) and as we drove home that night I tried to explain to Kem and Andy what I had just experienced.  I could not quite express what I was feeling....I had never seen a CEO disclose so much...up on a chair, with the team around him going nuts...and it seemed like it was all important...that whatever we were doing (it was only my fifth day, I still was not sure we did not make office furniture) was somehow bigger than what met the eye.

http://sunmicrosystems.emp-consultants.com