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Tom Erickson of Acquia, on the Philosophy of ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ [March 30, 2014]

Submitted on
Sunday, March 30, 2014
,
The New York Times

Corner Office, By Adam Bryant

This interview with Tom Erickson, chief executive of Acquia, an open-source software company, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.

Any leadership lessons early in your life?

I grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin, a classic Scandinavian town where it wasn’t encouraged to brag. My father was a leader just by virtue of his personality. He ran a store that’s still in the family. He was president of the City Council, president of the school board, and was a leader of the business association. He was one of those quiet leaders who just did his thing.

He had a very different leadership style than me, because he was blessed with a patience that I don’t have. He was able to help people, over an extended period, think about things differently. We were one of the very first schools in our part of the state to receive a computer. My dad had been really active about saying, “We need to be on the forefront of what’s next.” I glued myself to that computer.

What about early management experience?

I got a job out of university with a small company called PSDI. I had eight other job offers, but I chose them because they said, “You’ll be promoted if you work hard.” Within a year, they sent me to Australia to open an office there. I was 23.

I was a technical guy with an engineering background, but I learned how to sell there. That was probably a pivotal point in my career — learning that it wasn’t magic. Coming from a small town, I just assumed that there were certain tracks in life, and that moving across them was hard. But I learned that I could sell.