In late May of 1978, the day following my graduation from The State University of NY at Stony Brook, I joined a start-up company called Symbol Technologies, as its fifth employee.
I learned only later that, as of that first day on the job, Symbol had negative revenues for the year — the result of a customer returning a system shipped the prior year, and no new sales yet recorded in '78. I didn't know enough to be concerned by this fact. I was getting married in three months, and I had a job!
By the time I left Symbol, twenty five years later as its Vice Chairman and CEO, annual revenues had increased to over $1.6 billion, our team was 5600 team strong, Symbol was the acknowledged innovation and market leader in our industry and Wall Street valued us at nearly $4 billion.
There are many stories to be told about the years between those points in time. Some funny, some sad. Many instructive about what to do in trying to build a great company (I believe it's fair to say that we were), and what not to do (we came close to disaster on more than one occasion). Stories about technology, innovation, strategy and leadership yes, but mostly stories about people. People whose ideas and inventions led Symbol to be awarded the National Medal of Technology, people who our customers trusted to bring them the great products and ideas that would help them lead in their industries… and others whose failings nearly resulted in the company coming undone.
Perhaps these stories will cohere into a book at some point. For now, I'll use this blog to share a few of them with you from time to time. I hope that you'll enjoy my recollections, and perhaps take away a point or two of insight or even inspiration on occassion.
I have a great affection for Symbol still (though now it's part of Motorola), and especially for the people who worked there over the years. Many among them remain close friends to this day. Even though my career there didn't have a traditional Hollywood happy ending (we'll get to that at some point), my memories are almost universally fond ones. I'll try not to embellish or romanticize them however, though that may be tough… because, in the end, this is a bit of a love story.
First installment coming soon to this space. But first, tomorrow, a story about some long-ago advice, and a journey toward following it. It's not about Symbol, but it is about someone I came to know there, and how he touched my life, twice.