a Businessman: Mao’s Musings (Circa + 5 Years)
I am a businessman. People think that I am an engineer – which I am by training and profession – but in fact I am a businessman. I am “the money.” The thing that excites me is not making the greatest chip ever, or achieving the highest performance in a smallest die size, or any of the other metrics that turn on normal engineers. The thing that excites me is making money – or more specifically, making a product that makes a lot of money. It has always been that way for me. Ever since my father – back in Taiwan – shared his “do not look forward, do not look backward, look where the money is” pearl of wisdom. He was referring to bikes and motorcycles, but the “pearl” stuck with me. Life was hard for him. He and mother came to Taiwan in 1949 with the Chiang Kai-shek’s migration, and things were difficult. He was not some general or a politician – just a man protecting his family from communists and war. So, after moving, he started a bicycle shop with the little money that he had saved up. With a lot of hard work, and maybe some luck, he expanded the business first into motorcycles and then cars. He ended up owning a successful chain of dealerships and provided a good living for the family; put both me and my sister through school – first National Taiwan University – and then graduate studies in the USA. But back then, when I was a child, he worked hard – 7 days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day. I remember his hands – always oily, with the black grease permanently stuck under his fingernails and in the cracks of his skin. And our home above the garage that was completely full of broken bicycles and parts. Everywhere – except in the kitchen. Mother would not allow him there. At one point, just as he was expanding the business into motorcycles, there was a flash fad for more powerful motorcycles – even models from Europe and the USA. James Dean rebel-without-a-cause look, sexy girls, and big bikes on billboards everywhere. Fashionable. At the time he had an option for an exclusive dealership of BMW motorcycles – seemed like a great and timely opportunity. But he decided to decline it, saying “do not look forward, do not look backward, look where the money is.” He stayed with the bicycles and low-end Japanese motorcycles for another 10 years – and did very well. So that stuck with me. I worked hard in school and then studied engineering – because that is where the money was supposed to be. I came to the USA, worked hard, and started my first job as a design engineer – because that is where the money was. I changed companies and assumed different positions – because that is where the money was. And now I manage a team and a product line like a businessman – following where the money is. Seems like his pearl of wisdom has served me well.