Shortly after Joe Tucci was named CEO of EMC, I became one of his direct reports. I ran EMC’s investor relations at the time. I’ve worked with him for about 8 years; 2 as a direct report, the rest as “one removed.”
What is it like? Following, in no particular order, are some observations:
• He cares – big time. When I worked directly for him, he was always available to me. He returned my phone calls promptly; my emails personally; accepted ‘pop in’ visits; and accepted my meeting requests with no question. He still does.
• He puts himself last, his customers first, and leads with humility. He travels with no handlers; offers praise to his people profusely; and seeks no accolades. He spends most of his time in the field, not in any executive suite.
• He can talk tech with techies and understand engineering specs better than most execs. He has a brilliant understanding of business strategy – both by the Columbia MBA teachings (which he has quoted when trying to show me the logic of a business transition) and by intuitive business savvy.
• When we traveled together for events such as product launches, I would inevitably get included to join him for dinner – or at the casino table if we were in Vegas. Generally I was the only woman. I never felt out of place.
• I’ve witnessed him handle brutally strategic situations and confrontations with such wisdom, conviction, and blunt honesty it took my breath away. He does not fear doing what he sees as the right thing. I saw him do this on the subject of EMC-coveted personnel, products, business models, governance, and branding.
• His primary Monday – Friday residence, last I knew, was a modest townhouse. He’s on the road on EMC business most of the time; why waste money on ego-trappings? He drives a basic car to work (himself) and leaves anything flashy away from work. The only thing I can see where he indulges? His suits.
• He is generous and thoughtful. My expectations were exceeded on many fronts – including when I asked for a longer than normal maternity leave. His reply was, for me, ideal. It was far from the candy-coated, “I-don’t-know-how-to-talk-about-this-woman-stuff” norm. I recall him telling me in his ever frank manner that my timing was not perfect (the tech market was still imploding.) He let me know that my leave would be a loss. At the same time, he allowed me to have a guilt-free maternity leave that went about 4 weeks beyond the norm.
• What about job change and professional development? When I shared with him that I wanted a job change and outlined the job I wanted and what it could do for the business, he gave it to me – though on his terms. When I debated his terms, he acknowledged my concerns, conceded what I identified as challenging, and still asked me to take the path as he outlined it. I did.
• If he has a vice, I never saw it. Well, it might be the Yankees. When we invited the Red Sox brass to our headquarters to celebrate EMC’s sponsorship, he even made it clear to them that he would not back off being a Yankee fan.
So what is it like working for Joe Tucci? In my opinion, pretty darned good, just like Joe himself.