Oceans

My career in Silicon Valley and high technology spanned more than two decades. Those 20+ years encompassed the first and the second iteration of Silicon Valley. By my third year in the industry, I joined two others to found a photomask manufacturing company called Micrographic Products, Inc… We later changed the name to Ultratech Photomask. My role was vice-president of marketing and sales, with growth and profitability coming quickly and in great abundance. As the founders and managers of the company, all of us were young, with way too much money, too little sense, and boundless self-confidence. A sure recipe for a bumpy ride with likely a spectacular crash at the end.

Fortunately, we all survived, in our professional lives at least. Our personal lives, however, sustained a frightening toll from too many 12-16-hour work days, and an all-consuming absorption in our business during the few hours we did have away from work. Few marriages survived in this maelstrom. In fact, I have a hard time recalling survivors from amongst the many friends and associates I had. Even the few I can recall bore scars from the experience. It was the best of times and the worst of times. An undertaking not designed for the faint of heart.

Before my time in high technology came to an end, I started and sold two more companies, and spent some time as the Division President of an Aerospace company where I learned that, if I chose to, I could survive in a tsunami of political intrigue, but only at the cost of my own soul. I opted for a move to the exit instead. Through all of this, a few things had become clear. I really enjoyed starting businesses and I was fairly good at it, but I really didn’t enjoy running them at all after they achieved some size and success. I really wasn’t very good at running them anyway. My heart was in the creation, not the maintenance. Once you know you can do a thing, what’s the point? I’m sure there is one, and its’ probably an important one that points out some kind of terrible character flaw that I possess, but for me, I didn’t get it. It became clear that my original goal of commercial fishing was probably a pretty smart idea in the first place. I should pursue that impassioned dream to do something I really loved, and as I would come to learn, I was fairly good at it.

Fortunately, my high technology journey had provided generous financial rewards so that I could decide my own choice of futures. So I did. As a result, came the end of my high technology experience. I really do miss a few things about running small companies in Silicon Valley.​​ 

Things like everyone agreeing with whatever you said so that you could screw up really big and never see it coming. And there was hearing yourself talked about at the next table in a restaurant, by people you have never met, who are filling in their captive audience on what a malefactor you are. Or, finding some juicy article in the newspaper about some guy that “was in the catbird’s seat” only to realize the article was about you. Oh, wait, those are things I don’t miss!

A couple of traits that make good company leaders include the need for constant punishment and pain tolerance to the extent of just being numb from the bridge of the nose down. I’ve known some outstanding CEOs. Many couldn’t start a business to save their life, but if they could, I guess they might not be a good CEO anymore. The skill sets are different unless you are Bill Gates. I prefer more solitary activities that don’t really compete against other people, but instead test yourself. Commercial fishing is the essence of that. The ocean will humble you, or kill you, your choice.