At the mention of Microsoft, the first person to come to mind for most would be Bill Gates, however in 2014 John W. Thompson made headlines by becoming the first African-American chairman of the company.
Let’s be clear. You don’t ascend to a leadership role at of one of the most influential tech companies of the age without being someone who can get things done and Thompson has had a storied history in the world of technology.
Born and raised in South Florida as the son of a teacher and postal worker, Thompson received a scholarship to play the clarinet for a Missouri college marching band before transferring to Florida A&M to study his real passion, business.
The no-nonsense star spent 28 years with IBM in sales, marketing, and software development before being given the role of GM of the Americas business unit. From there, he worked for 10 years at Symantec and resigned as company’s chief executive in 2009.
At 64 years old, Thompson brings decades of experience to his new role, which is probably one of the many reasons Microsoft’s chief executive, Satya Nadella, sought him out.
Thompson is known around the industry for his tremendous level of strategic insight and as one of the best communicators to work with for his ability to take complicated messages about technology and make them understandable.
His ability to make tough decisions may be exactly what Microsoft needs as lately, it has had a very scattered business approach of trying to be everything to everybody, without having a real hit product or service in any one area.
At the time of his appointment, Thompson was largely quiet about his plans to help turn the company around, but has been challenging his new team with questions like, “Is this strategy right, and more importantly is the team executing well against that strategy?”
To be fair, only time will tell where he takes Microsoft next, but we’ll all be eagerly awaiting his next boss move.