I’m sad to see Scott McNealy step down as CEO of Sun Microsystems.
McNealy is rare as executives go, a man who speaks his mind and never worries about offending anyone or playing the corporate-speak game.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet and to interview him a few times and I would like to share some of those experiences with you.
The first time was at the old Comdex Canada show when he was the keynote speaker. During the speech he knocked every single competitor. I found him to be very funny, but I questioned him later in an interview on some of his comments about IBM and its AS/400 platform. McNealy told me it didn’t work and that IBM had to buy Sun workstations to solve its problems.
I found this to be a shocking statement, but it was true. A year later, I toured an IBM facility in Boca Raton, Fla., and sure enough, there were the Sun machines.
Another story I find hilarious is one that involves my best friend Mario Di Carlo. Now Mario is not involved in the IT industry and he likes it that way. We were both on vacation one time in San Francisco when I was invited to an event at Sun headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
Since I was there I decided to cover it, and Mario would come by and pick me up after the event. The press conference was held in a tent in Sun’s parking lot. As I got to my assigned seat I passed McNealy, who was wearing a golf shirt and faded blue jeans.
Near the end, he stood up and started walking out. I did not give this a second thought. About 25 minutes later, when the session ended, I got up and interviewed a Sun executive and a couple of users. I then thanked the PR person for inviting me and headed outside. There I see, to my surprise, Mario chatting with McNealy. “Hey,” I said to them. Mario replied: “Paolo this is Scott.”
“Yeah I know,” I said, and turned to McNealy. “Hi Scott. I do not know if you remember me, but I interviewed you in Toronto last year.” McNealy said, “Sorry, but I get interviewed a lot. So you are Mario’s friend? Are you both hockey fans?”
Passion for hockey
In my amazement, I did not know how to respond. Scott thanked us both and went on his way. Mario had arrived early and just decided to ask the first person who came out of the tent about my whereabouts. That person was McNealy. They then struck up a conversation about hockey, which is one of McNealy’s passions. When I told Mario that he was talking to a billionaire who owned the company, he could not believe it. His response was: “Why would a president wear jeans?”
But that’s the kind of person McNealy is. He’s grounded and that’s what has made him so effective for close to a quarter century.