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Two Sides to CEO Bob Walmsley

Bob Walmsley SoccerIn this Q&A, NuoDB’s new President and CEO Bob Walmsley talks about his background, personality and accomplishments.

Tell me a bit about your background and early career.

I came over here from England. I have a Computer Science degree from M.I.T., which is unusual for someone who came up through sales. I was a software engineer at Mentor Graphics, which was probably one of the five hottest software companies in the world in 1984. Then I went to Thinking Machines, also in Cambridge Mass. In fact, they were in the building next door to us. I was developing applications on the world’s fastest supercomputer. Then I went to work for Digital Equipment to run their competitive analysis workstation program against Sun Microsystems. There I worked up through the sales organization.

Part 1: Aligning with a Market in Transition

What about your personality?

There are two sides to my personality. First, I am highly analytical. I led the M.I.T. chess team as a freshman and we were 9th in Pan-American Championship. And I am highly competitive. I ran track and was the MIT track record holder for 30 years. I’m still an athlete. I play with the New England “Over the Hill” Soccer League and we just won the division one championship.

What is your management style?

My management style is around ensuring that the entire organization has a clear set of objectives and that we are very much over-communicating to our customers, to our board, to our employees about what’s going on. It’s about being direct and transparent. It’s about including people and making rapid decisions and adjusting. Friday afternoon every week we get together with the employees and have a Q&A session, along with wine and cheese.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

On a personal level, I am most proud of my three children. On a professional level I would probably say taking the Irish middleware provider IONA Technologies from a $35 million company to a $102 million company. I inherited an organization that was largely telesales-based and turned that into a combined field-telesales organization. We basically dominated the middleware marketplace, which is quite relevant to the database space. IONA was Europe’s fastest growing company at the time. It was a significant success story.

What was the last good book you read?

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. I thought that it was very interesting on two counts. One was the notion first impressions cut two ways. The human being is very sophisticated in bringing together all our different inputs, but that can devolve into analysis paralysis. You need to be aware of your own set of prejudices.

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