A recent article about computer science education in Vietnam caught my attention, having invested a lot of effort in the last year to ramp up our office in Ho Chi Minh City. In addition to Vietnam’s commitment to produce software developers with a high level of skill, I think a critical reason for sourcing developers in Vietnam is a cultural bias towards coming through for the team and doing what is needed to follow through on commitments. This is a great attribute: one that naturally fits with Waverley’s vision for doing business. My personal experience of Vietnam is that its young people (85 percent of the population is under 40) are friendly, motivated, and helpful. And the food is excellent! We look forward more great things to come from our office in Ho Chi Minh City and to having our Vietnamese colleagues contribute to our know-how and our client relationships.
As I dashed through the door of Whole Foods Market in Palo Alto for a bite to eat, a bearded guy stepped on the heel of my shoe. I looked up to meet the man’s gaze and realized that it was Steve Jobs. He said, “Pardon me.” I said, “No problem,” and we both moved on. We only crossed paths on one other occasion. It was early one Saturday morning. I’d taken my daughter to a local park. Steve was also there on “dad duty”. No words were exchanged; we simply enjoyed our kids while entertaining our private thoughts.
It’s nearly impossible to live in Silicon Valley and not be privy to Steve Jobs stories—how great the man was, how difficult he could be. Like so many people in our industry and around the world, I feel his death as a personal loss even though I never formally met the man. Perhaps his influence on my own career explains this personalization of the loss. Long before I stepped foot on peninsula soil, my college roommate and I drove down from Providence, Rhode Island on an exciting excursion: to see the new Mac. It was like nothing anyone had done before. It broke the rules. What a turn on! Shortly thereafter, I took a job at a small Mac software company that was eventually acquired by Claris. The next thing I knew, I was pulling up my east coast roots and moving to California.
Remembered as much for his iconic presence as for the remarkable role model he was and is, Steve Jobs showed me — and all of us — an inspiring way to live. A way that trumps setbacks and small thinking. A way that leads with the heart and pursues wild dreams. A way that proves the value of staying on course, true to one’s vision. A way that shows how clear, critical thinking is absolutely key to innovation and creativity. Steve proved that the desire to build something great was a revolutionary act that could turn the world’s head and make it a better place. He also showed us about tenacity, about looking beyond the next quarter or the next year into a future that only emerges when failure is not an option.
Steve showed us that being down or even out doesn’t have to stop you from moving forward and taking what comes, for better or worse, in terms of public and private opinion. Steve did what he believed in, even when detractors and critics reviled him. His was a truly visionary eye, one not easily blinded by ups and downs. Daily stock prices? Who cares when you really feel you’re the coolest dude on the planet? I suspect that Apple rose to being the world’s most valuable company as a result, not as a goal. Steve’s leadership made that possible. I also suspect that what mattered to him most was creating things that pushed the envelope. Personally, what I’ll always remember most is a comment he made about the heaviness of success and the lightness of being a beginner. Would that we could all remember to look at the world fresh every day. It’s a great way to live and a smart way to do business. I’ll hold onto that thought in my memory of Steve.
I think we all sometimes wish that life could be a bit more like business, with clear and measurable objectives, decisions based on research and rationality, teams devoting hours to problem solving, and the ability to sometimes leave it on your desk on Friday afternoon – have a weekend – then pick it up again on Monday.
This week I am reminded that business is just a shared idea, and that life and death will trump business every time. This week we memorialized and remembered that awful day, 10 years ago, when thousands of people who showed up for work on a Tuesday morning were senselessly destroyed. Whole businesses ceased to exist. Fathers, mothers, children, friends, all were caught up in a tragedy that was, through no fault of their own, imposed on them. In those horrifying events, and for days, weeks, sometimes months after, thoughts of business and contracts and corporate objectives and departmental strategies became meaningless.
Also this week, a client of ours took his own life. I don’t know why, I may never know why, but I know that his demise eclipses all our mutual business plans and needs for awhile.
So, instead of blogging about outsourcing and software engineering services today I want to remind myself, my employees, my clients, my associates, anyone who is reading this, that in the end, the asset we are managing is people, the inventory that matters is people, the word “business” describes a human-relationship-centered activity.
If you have kids, hug them tonight. If you have a partner, tell your partner what he or she means to you. Call your parents, have a drink with your friends. Celebrate life. There will be time to get back to business later.