Executive Recap | Microsoft Chairman Talks at UCLA Anderson School

Microsoft Chairman of the Board, John W. Thompson, spoke at UCLA on November 6, 2017 sharing some of his experiences and insight with Anderson School students and alumni (of which I’m privileged to be one, go class of ‘95).  He shared that he was influenced significantly by his parents to focus on education and to work hard since his childhood in Florida with his mother being a teacher and father a postman who did multiple other jobs after hours.

Early in his career, he was a bit of a rebel at IBM and didn’t fit the typical mold of an IBM man in the 1970s with his attire and/or attitude.  After a couple years of excelling in his position, he realized that fitting into the culture of IBM would enable him to continue to progress, so he changed his attire and attitude, and rapidly climbed the corporate ladder at IBM.  He held many other leadership positions at small and large corporations, including CEO of Symantec from 1999 through 2009.

Mr. Thompson joined Microsoft as a board member in 2012 and succeeded Bill Gates as Chairman on February 4, 2014.  During his tenure at Microsoft, there were multiple significant acquisitions, and he spoke about two of them.  The Nokia acquisition was fueled by the desire to increase mobile market share, to be an integrated phone manufacturer and apps player (like Apple) and to leverage some of the $80B in offshore cash.  In hindsight, he believes it was the right acquisition at the time and he’d do it again, but he would certainly have changed some key operational aspects of the newly acquired division.  On the other hand, the LinkedIn acquisition has been a great success, in part due to Microsoft’s strategy of enabling the LinkedIn leadership team to continue to operate relatively independent (similar to the YouTube acquisition by Google) but still leveraging the brand and corporate strength of Microsoft.

When asked about the future of Microsoft, he shared that the cloud and enterprise applications continue to be great strengths for Microsoft.  He discussed security concerns related to the cloud and noted that more resources (technology, people, money) are focused on cloud security now within Microsoft and several of its competitors than ever before, and the cloud is more secure than ever before.  However, constant vigilance and investment is required to maintain effective security, but Microsoft and its competitors understand that optimal security is paramount to ongoing cloud success.  Hearing this from the prior CEO of one of the world’s largest security applications companies (Symantec), helps me rest a bit easier as we move forward with cloud and enterprise applications.

Written by Bob Bond, President & Owner of Bond Consulting Services