JNEWS: Tucci, Joseph (1969 Un-Registered)

JNEWS: Tucci, Joseph (1969 Un-Registered)



May 6, 2007
The Boss
Lessons From the Diamond

***Begin Quote***

I’M a pretty good baseball player and a really terrible guitarist. What I’ve learned from baseball has had a great impact on the kind of manager I’ve become, but it was the guitar that landed me my first technical job.

We lived in Brooklyn when I was a kid, but I spent a lot of time visiting my grandparents in the Bronx. They lived on Webb Avenue, right off the Grand Concourse, so close to Yankee Stadium that I could hear the crowd when someone hit a home run. My grandfather was the world’s most avid baseball fan, and he’d take me to games all the time.

When I was about 10, my family moved to Delmar, just outside Albany, and of course I signed up with a Little League team. Sometimes I played third base, but my favorite position was catcher. The catcher gets to see the whole game play out in front of him, and he gets to send the signals, to call the shots.

Like lots of kids, I wanted to be a professional ball player. I drove my mom crazy — I’d be tossing a ball up and down when I was watching TV, or I’d be hitting pink Spaldeens against her walls.

But I’d promised my dad, who died when I was 16, that I would go to college. So I went to Manhattan College and studied marketing and accounting. When I was about 20, I fractured my leg on a ski slope, but even that didn’t drive professional baseball entirely from my mind.

My younger brother, meanwhile, was a brilliant guitarist, and he taught me to play. I was never any good, but he’d let me sit in with his band once in a while.

I took a job on Wall Street when I graduated in 1969, hoping they’d put me in a training program of some kind. But they relegated me to back-office chores, and I was bored. I left a few months later and found a couple of semi-pro leagues to play in. It was only then that I realized how much mobility I’d lost to that skiing accident, and gave up the idea of a baseball career for good.

I drove a van for the Teamsters for a while, even worked some as a lifeguard. But I’d gotten married, and it was time to get serious. So I applied for a job at what was then the computer division of RCA.

The interviewer asked if I played a musical instrument, and I said yes. He said that people with a musical mind usually make for good systems engineers, and he hired me. I guess I’m lucky that he never asked me if I played it well.

I’d always thought of myself as a sales and marketing person, and I was astounded to discover I loved systems engineering. I was also pretty good at making presentations, and the sales people would often ask me to come along on calls. But it seemed so unfair — here I was, making maybe $12,500, the sales reps were making more than $30,000, and I’m the one they counted on to help them sell.

I asked my boss to let me switch to sales. I did well and moved up the ranks but, to put it in baseball lingo, I felt like I was constantly getting traded. Less than a year after I joined, Sperry Univac bought my division from RCA. Then, in 1986, we were bought by Burroughs, which soon became Unisys. I haven’t left a job, yet I’m on my third team.

After getting traded twice, it seemed time to make a switch on my own. So in late 1991 I accepted an offer from Wang Computer, and was part of the team that took it through bankruptcy and successfully got it out.

In late 1999 EMC hired me as chief operating officer, and less than two years later I was chief executive.

I keep seeing all kinds of analogies between business and baseball. There’s the need for teamwork, the need to read signals, to assess the other team. And a good leader has to know how to pitch and catch ideas.

But the best chief executives are the ones who make sure the right talent is in the right spot, and who know what the competition can hit and what it can’t. So I guess we business chiefs aren’t like baseball players at all. We’re the managers in the dugout.

As told to Claudia H. Deutsch.

*** AND ***

Joseph M. Tucci
Chief executive, EMC Corporation

BIRTH DATE Aug. 13, 1947
HOME Nashua, N.H.
FAVORITE TEAM The Yankees, of course. “I may live 40 minutes from Boston, but my roots are in New York.”
FAVORITE TV SHOW “24.” “I usually solve mysteries right away, but this one has so many twists and turns, I just can’t. Jack Bauer is my hero.”

***End Quote***

{mcOLdb: Tucci, Joseph (1969 Un-Registered) }


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