Ballmer Talks Business to Stanford Students

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-03-15 Print this article Print

Microsoft's CEO spoke at the Stanford Graduate School of Business about the world of corporate leadership and management; he also called for more students to embrace a career in technology.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer came back to the Stanford Graduate School of Business on March 15 to share his insights into the world of corporate leadership, management and to call for more students to embrace a career in technology. The event, titled "A Conversation with Steve Ballmer," was attended by several hundred Stanford students and was moderated by Robert Joss, the dean of the Stanford Business School.
Joss introduced Ballmer by telling attendees that Ballmer grew up in Detroit, was active in high school basketball, got a perfect 800 on his mathematics SAT, and went to Harvard, where he got his undergraduate degree in applied math and economics.
Several years later, after a stint at Procter & Gamble, Ballmer returned to his studies, this time at Stanford Business School, class of 1981, but he left after his first year to join Bill Gates at his startup called Microsoft, where Ballmer was the first business hire. Ballmer received applause when taking the stage and thanked the students for their welcome. Asked about the state of play at Microsoft, Ballmer responded that the companys core competence is writing software for broad, horizontal things, but he noted that applying that is also very important. "The power of software will continue to positively change society," he said, citing how Gates and other Microsoft executives had recently come up with the top 100 technologies that will change the world going forward. Click here to read more about eWEEKs interview with Ballmer after the business launch of Vista. "I asked him for just five, but Bill said that, as we spend $7 billion on research and development every year, he wanted $70 and $100 million for each," he said. Ballmer said that while Microsoft had reached a milestone with Vista—acknowledging that it took longer than he would have liked to get there—the release of that operating system had enabled the next generation of growth. Asked what it was like being one of his direct reports, Ballmer said there was enough for him to do without having to micromanage those executives. He said 35 percent of his time was spent on representing the company externally, a third was tied up in coaching and mentoring staff, doing review and execution strategies, board and recruiting meetings, with a third of his time spent on things he wanted to focus on—big challenges or areas of strategic growth. Next Page: Leadership.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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