Valley industry leaders making a difference
The Phoenix Business Journal annually recognizes those making a difference through its Top Tech program. This year is no exception as the publication highlight individuals who have not just made an impact on their companies, but on the greater technology sector around them.
CEO of Avnet Inc.
Years in industry:
Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, Lehigh University; master’s degree in management and a Sloan Fellow of the Stanford Graduate School of Business; honorary doctorate, Lehigh University
What was the first time you knew tech would be your career?
When I was in the eighth grade, I loved chemistry. I asked my teacher how someone could make money at it. He told me, “Be a chemical engineer.” That’s exactly what I did. I studied and became a chemical engineer. My first job with IBM gave me the opportunity to put that degree to good use; however, I quickly fell in love with technology.
What’s your biggest career accomplishment?
From a business perspective, it’s been my honor to lead several great organizations, including Lenovo, CHC Group, and currently Avnet. From a personal perspective, my wife, Jamie, and I founded and continue to lead Caring for Cambodia, a nonprofit organization that works to educate the children of Cambodia through building schools, training teachers and providing for basic human needs.
Who is your tech industry inspiration?
Earlier in my career, Larry Bossidy, a former manager of mine, CEO of AlliedSignal and GE executive, once told me “Feedback is a gift.” I’ve never forgotten it and operate by it to this day by giving feedback and receiving feedback in return. More recently, I had the pleasure to meet and work with consultant and author Geoffrey Moore, who inspires everyone to think differently. In his book, “Zone to Win,” he discusses competition in this age of disruption. Disruption can be a threat to companies that aren’t willing or don’t know how to evolve. I embrace disruption and view it as an opportunity for growth.
What’s the best thing about working in a tech-related field?
I get to see amazing projects come to life every day. Our engineers solve incredible design and technology challenges that enable us to take our customers’ ideas and bring them to market as products that have the potential to help solve many of the complex problems that plague our society, in the areas of health care to transportation and even in today’s automated factories. Technology is no longer the limit, our imaginations are, and I’m excited about the future.
What’s the hardest thing about working in a tech-related field?
There’s no shortage of change in the technology industry, and in fact the one constant is that it’s always changing. But when faced with any kind of disruption in business, it’s important to first gain the trust and confidence of your team, and that can be a challenge in itself. To overcome this, you need to over-communicate on why change is necessary and celebrate the progress made in accomplishing your objectives. It’s also critical to be flexible and course correct along the way if needed.