Back in the age of the great dinosaurs, when I was a college senior, I debated going to Wall Street. I’d worked at Kidder Peabody and Co. for a summer, and in the late 80′s (Prior to the LAST major mortgage bond/finance-related crash), everyone wanted to be on the Street. To be young, footloose, well paid, and in NYC, what wasn’t there to like?
At the same time, I felt my west coast youth calling, and decided I would interview with a number of Silicon Valley companies. One of those was a newly public database company called Oracle. In the experience of interviewing, joining, and working at Oracle I learned a number of lessons that I’m only now understanding at Buzzient:
1. Draft best available athletes, then let them play:
When I joined Oracle, I was interviewed by Sales, Consulting, International and Marketing. There was no fitting me into a box, or only having me talk to one department. The attitude at Oracle was to get people in and let the candidate choose where they fit best. For me, I ultimately chose the International job, where I started in 2nd line tech support, then moved over to marketing. That experience gave me the opportunity to learn about the product, but also get a real customer advocate view of the world.
2. Encourage free expression, even conflict:
Anyone who was at Oracle during that time will tell you that half of the battles fought at Oracle were internal, not against external competition. I likened the Oracle experience to the Star Trek (geek alert) episode “Mirror, Mirror” where the fastest path to promotion was to assassinate your superior officer. Not to say that you want to create a culture of constant beating of chests and bumping of heads, but it’s important to enable the team to freely air grievances, new ideas, and defend those in a public forum.
3. You break it, you bought it:
As a corollary, if you break a process or strongly critique one, well, you better have an alternative. In other words, your team needs to focus on bringing new solutions to existing problems, not complaining about what isn’t right and just throwing it out there for someone else to fix.
These are three of the key dimensions I saw that were critical to Oracle’s growth as an enterprise leader. I think they still apply today.