Monthly Archives: January 2007

Our (real) hiring profile.

Last night we had a open meeting for law students interested in our intern program. This one was focused on the Bay Area, but we hold similar gatherings in other locations. Last year, we were a bit surprised when over 150 people attended. And this year it looked like about the same size turnout.

Interns are an important part of our organization. In the past, like most companies, we hired primarily attorneys with 5-7 years of experience – usually with a law firm. But with recent announcements like this, it’s clear that this model can’t continue. Our approach has been to increase our investment in training so that we can bring employees on board much sooner after they graduate. As part of this, we have ramped up our intern program. Some of our interns work just during the summer; others continue through the school year. They do valuable work and provide a great pipeline of talent for future hiring.

And, the talent coming out of law schools today is truly impressive. While graduating from top schools with strong a GPA is important; to me, a better indicator of success is “real life” experience. We can train people on the technical side of our practice, but, it’s much more difficult to teach them the “soft” skills, things like – communication, collaboration, intellectual curiosity, initiative and leadership. Last year, the interns we hired included:

a former HR manager who speaks 4 languages;

a couple of experienced Java programmers, including one who had previously started his own company;

a student who had already passed the patent bar and had several issued patents; and

an accomplished musician who had spent several years working for the Nepalese government (and who, in his spare time, had summited Everest).

I recall leaving my first meeting with these individuals feeling very, very inadequate, but also energized by the passion and enthusiasm in the room. I had the same feeling after last night’s event. Many of the students had previous experience in business, investment banking and teaching. A significant number had spent years in hardware and software engineering and had decided to go to law school – reflective of the interesting dynamic that occurs at the intersection of these disciplines. Most not only had business cards, but some handed out USB flash drives complete with resumes and writing samples. It’s definitely a different world than when I graduated.

To all of you who attended last night, “Thank You” for joining us and for your interest in working at Sun. I can’t help but feel optimistic about your futures.


Filed under Sun

Our new hiring profile?

We spend a great deal of focus and energy on hiring the right people into our organization. We want individuals who are strong technically, but who also have the other less tangible skills necessary to thrive at a company like Sun. Given our announcements of the last few days, it occurred to me that perhaps we can make the hiring process easier by focusing our efforts on recruiting the people who drive these. Why? Because they exhibit amazing stamina and perseverance in the face of constantly changing conditions and intense time pressure. All are qualities of a successful in-house legal professional.

This was evident in Monday’s announcement about our new alliance with Intel. This was a very comprehensive negotiation lasting more than three months, which resulted in Intel’s endorsement of Sun’s Solaris Operating System (including as an OEM) and Sun’s agreement to deliver new products based on Intel’s Xeon line of processors. The alliance also includes Intel’s support for the Java programming language and Netbeans IDE and provides for engineering, design and marketing collaboration between the two companies. Given the broad scope of this agreement, we had a cross-functional team, including more than a dozen attorneys, focused on the transaction. They’ve worked around the clock, including weekends and holidays to get this one closed. To all of them a big “thank you”. Bruce a “thank you” to your team as well. I’d had several people mention how much they appreciated the effort and professionalism of your folks. This always makes the long hours more tolerable.

We also announced this. To be candid, in-house attorneys rarely have the opportunity to work on such a complex transaction. In this case, KKR invested $700m in Sun in exchange for convertible senior notes and a right to propose a nominee to Sun’s board of directors. Concurrently with this transaction, Sun is also entering into a series of separate transactions known as “call spreads” which hedge the option inherent in the convertible notes. The effect is to offset potential dilution and raise the effective conversion price of the notes. Sound complicated? It is. But, thankfully, we have some people on the team (assisted by able outside counsel) who are not only smart, but who also view this type of work as “fun”. They also haven’t slept in several weeks.

And, lastly, this week there was this bit of news. All 34,000 Sun employees were behind the wheel for this one.


Filed under Sun

Where do you work?

Upon graduating law school, I joined a law firm and was excited because I had my own office complete with a large window and massive oak desk. I recall spending hours arranging my various certificates and diplomas to ensure that everyone was impressed with my scholastic accomplishments. As my career grew, the size of my office did as well. It was an important component of my recognition. And, it wasn’t just me that felt that way. When I was a hiring manager at a local law firm, I recall many conversations with candidates in which they asked pointed questions about the size and location of offices. Sometimes, this was of more importance to them than compensation. (There’s an intelligence test.)

Nowadays, I am so over the “office thing”. In fact – I don’t have one. Let me let that sink in for a second. I’m General Counsel of a Fortune 500 company with approximately 35,000 employees around the world. And, I don’t have an office. When I mention this to my peers at other companies, I generally get two questions: “Why would you want to give up your office?” and “How can you do it?”.

As to the “why”, there are several reasons:

1. You become a better manager. I believe that as you lead larger and more geographically dispersed organizations, the value of a dedicated office diminishes and can even be a hindrance. Where I work is dependent on who I need to meet with (assuming a face-to-face meeting is necessary). As a result, I work in multiple locations. Last Friday, for example, I worked out of six different offices. While that may sound hectic for me, it significantly increases the of number informal connections I make with clients and employees. It may be just a hallway conversation, a quick cup of coffee or spontaneous meeting in a conference room, but all are opportunities to exchange information and increase social connectivity. It’s a valuable way to identify and resolve issues before they become more serious.

2. You can get rid of all your “stuff”. Attorneys are by their nature – pack rats. I have many ideas on why, but my point is that we tend to save every professional periodical or treatise. Look up on the shelf in your office. See that manual on copyright law that you received when you attended the CEB class in 1986? Trust me on this – the law has changed since then. All you are doing by keeping these materials is taking up office space and providing an opportunity to commit malpractice.

3. Your family will remember who you are. For years, our Chairman has been saying that there’s no such thing as work/home balance – it’s just “life”. He’s absolutely right. As technology increasingly enables more people to be connected to the internet with mobility, where and when you work matters less. For me this means that while I’m waiting for my son’s 5th grade school play to begin on a weekday afternoon, I can be sitting in the audience working. Or, when the traffic on Highway 101 has brought the morning commute to a standstill, I can connect from home instead. I work more hours now than at any other time in my life. But, it doesn’t feel that way.

The answer to the “how” question is technology and a progressive thinking employer.

For over two years, I’ve been participating in a program at Sun called “OpenWork” that allows employees to work from home or drop-in offices located throughout Sun facilities. A key component of this program is our SunRay technology. These systems are located in all our offices, cafeteria, conference and break rooms around the world. I also have a SunRay at home. I just insert my employee ID card, type in my password (it’s a dual authentication system for greater security) and up comes my user interface complete with whatever I have been working on. I also use this system to retrieve my voicemails and forward calls to the office in which I’m working on a given day.

I use a smartphone as well. In my case, it’s a Treo 680. When I’m on the road, this is how I check my email. As a result, I no longer use a laptop for business travel. It’s great. I don’t have to worry about lugging around the extra weight or, worse yet, losing it. If I have a business trip, I pull my card out of my SunRay, use my Treo to check e-mail while I’m in transit and then when I arrive at my destination, for example, Tokyo or Moscow, I go to our nearest Sun facility, find a SunRay and log in again.

The other tool I use is my MacBook Pro. With its WiFi capability, I find it is a great way to sit in the back yard on a nice winter day and write a blog.


Filed under Sun