Otellini, MBA 74, was named president and chief operating officer of Intel Corp. earlier this year - a convincing indicator of major-league career success and professional distinction. But Otellini has his own personal definition of achievement, one that reveals something of his character.
"Never stop growing. Never compromise on integrity. Make a positive difference," he said in a recent interview.
In fact, Otellini's career path also demonstrates what he considers important in life. His promotion came after a remarkably successful 28 years spent entirely at Intel - atypical for Silicon Valley executives these days, whose resumes are often filled with the names of multiple firms.
"I stayed (at Intel) because I never ceased to learn, or to have a new opportunity to grow," he said. "We went from startup to the largest semiconductor manufacturer in the world while I was working here. It's a pretty hard to beat that in any other place."
In his new role, Otellini is responsible for overseeing Intel's internal operations, focusing on the development and delivery of new products and technologies, and the efficiency and productivity of the company's business. He now serves in a two-person executive office along with Craig Barrett, who has been Intel's CEO and president since 1998. Media reports have speculated that Otellini is in line to be tapped as Intel's next CEO.
His advice to others who are seeking a career in technology is also telling about his professional priorities: "Be passionate about the products. We are not selling or inventing new kinds of derivative financing - these are tangible products that can change the world."
Haas School alumni had the opportunity to hear Otellini speak at the school's Business Forecast Luncheon in San Francisco on June 14.
As the first non-technical executive the company has chosen as its leader, Otellini rose through the Intel ranks via sales and marketing. Prior to being named to his new position, he was executive vice president and general manager for the Intel Architecture Group, responsible for the company's microprocessor and chipset business. He has also served as executive VP of sales and marketing, where he focused on extending Intel's global presence into emerging markets and making Intel a leader in the use of e-Commerce.
In 1989, he served as an assistant to Andrews S. Grove, then president and now chairman of Intel. Later he took on responsibility for the company's Microprocessor Products Group in 1990 as general manager, leading the introduction of the Intel Pentium processor.
A native San Franciscan, Otellini earned his BA in economics at the University of San Francisco in 1972 before deciding to pursue an MBA at UC Berkeley's business school. "I wanted to go to either law school or business school," he said. "After I graduated from USF, I worked for a law firm in San Francisco for a summer. That convinced me that business school was the way to go for me!"
Working full-time while he was in the MBA Program, he recalls the difficult commute across the Bay Bridge and the DEC PDP-10 the students had for computing - "what a beast." Otellini fondly remembers one of his teachers, Louis Lundberg, who had just retired as Chairman of the Bank of America. "He demonstrated that ethics and integrity could be an integral part of a businessman's character," he said.
Otellini says his MBA education helped him in two ways. "One was the initial 'foot in the door' - remember that in 1974, when I graduated, there was a recession in the US," he says. "The degree helped me get a great starting job. Second, you learn a very thorough analytical methodology at UC Berkeley. We did not have many cases in those days, and instead relied heavily on quantitative analysis and problem solving."
These days, when he has the opportunity to pursue leisure activities, Otellini said he likes to "ski, boat, grow grapes, and curl up with a history book."
Finally, asked to reflect on the attributes of a successful corporate leader, he underscores a few of the most important ones: "I think one must possess relevant competence in one's industry and firm. And the ability to manage well is a pre-requisite for leadership." He adds that "at least in a high tech company one needs to be close to one's products and customers.
"The ability to admit one is wrong and learn is critical," he continues. "And most of all, one must listen to customers, to employees, to markets. The biggest sin is to stay heads down when the world is changing."
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