CAREERS

  • 01/21/2009
    9:20 PM
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Castrating Bulls

When I opened NetApp co-founder Dave Hitz's first book, How to Castrate a Bull, I didn't put it down until I was almost half way through
11:20 AM -- No, Castrating Bulls is not the new management style. It refers to the title of Dave Hitz's first book, How to Castrate a Bull. In a recent conversation with Hitz, a co-founder of NetApp, we spoke about the book. To be honest, I put off reading my advanced copy for as long as I could. The last thing I wanted to do at the end of a day immersed in storage is take another lap in the pool. Finally, because the deadline was approaching, I opened the book and didn't put it down until I was almost half way through.

My read on the book was that it feels like I am sitting there talking to the guy. It reads, well, almost like a blog. What I think makes the book unique is that it is written from the perspective of a guy who not only was on the executive management team at a startup, but also was on that team as they went through explosive growth, then weathered the tech crash of 2001, and then grew into a mature technology company.

Most of the time a book like this is written by Mr. Super Startup or Mr. Manager, and you don't get the full flavor and life cycle of a company. With Hitz's book you do. He breaks things down into eras -- five- or 10-year spans that represented shifts in the way the company, the environment it competed in, and the solutions customers required evolved.

The other aspect of this book that I liked was how well it explained what we in the technology business in general, and storage in particular, do. Whether you are a user or a supplier, sometimes it is difficult to explain what it is we really do. When I try, I usually get blank stares and have to settle for some response like, "So you're into computer stuff?" At that point, it is easier just to say, "Yeah, that's it," and move on.

I'd suggest you give them Mr. Hitz's book, it might make life easier. As for your take-away, whether you are a NetApp employee, user, competitor, or just someone trying to survive in a technology infatuated business, this book is a well written description of the full cycle of a business with plenty of lessons to be learned.


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