Friday, April 18, 2008

Who is flying this plane?

A while ago when I was in Technology Management MBA @ UW, they got former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio to come to the orientation meeting and talk about his tenure with the company.

As a result of this talk, I've gotten two very lasting impressions. First was a sense that under absolutely no conditions save outright starvation I would want to work for Qwest, and second was a state of bewilderment to which extent a CEO of the company can be disconnected from the technology that this company is using.

During his talk Nacchio confused GPRS, GSM, and other cell network terms. He professed the ignorance of how the networks work himself, and with a distinct sense of smugness (as in - you don't need to know any of this crap to be a leader - this is for lowly engineers to understand).

What he did talk about at length, and where he had become really animated and very lucid was mergers and acquisitions. Apparently, at the time Qwest was making a lot of money by buying small Eastern European telecoms and then selling them at a profit. From what I gathered in the talk, that line of business was what really animated the management. Not the pesky technological and operational hurdles of providing telecom services.

Over the last many years, as Ballmer's influence increased, I watched Microsoft leadership become less and less engineers, and more and more sales and marketing people.

Now, I don't think that engineering skills are required to head an engineering company. However, I do find that culturally marketing and engineering organizations are VERY different, almost stereotypically, Scott Adams, cartoonish different.

And nothing affects company's culture more than the CEO.

So when I ran into this "pearl" today, I felt embarrassed, but, sadly, not surprised:

There is often a big disconnect between market's perception of the product, and the sales perception it. It is not bad - to be an effective salesperson, you have to be excited about the product as it is - or you won't sell very many of it. Sadly, I fear that Microsoft internal perception - that of the leadership team, anyway - of Vista is closer to the movie above, and not to the painful reality.

1 comment:

Dzembu Gaijin said...

Oh... I love Vista :-) Not early adopter, but ...

It preventing my new Laptop from working too fast, so my own brain will not overheat.

What puzzles me so is why all 3G of RAM is allocated right away ( right, pre-what-fucking-fetch ? ya?) and Double Core CPU spikes on 95% ACTIVITY when absolutely NOTHING happens on desktop. On OS X when I write this post and have couple more applications running I have completely opposite picture: it less potent CPU is at least on 97% FREE and RAM is 300M FREE ( and it has only 1 G of RAM :-)) That explain why it feels SO MUCH responsive on Mac compare to even my super duper popper new laptop: that is usable even under Vista, but can barely handle Vista shell ( with all things I could disable disabled).

That is Amazing, no ?