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Tom Siebel and C3.AI

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“When I graduated from college in the late 1990s, I took a job at a medium-sized, publicly traded software company that marketed and sold Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. We were one of the first batch of enterprise software companies in the emerging CRM space. We were good at it but not great. The most aggressive and successful CRM company at that time was Siebel Software. They hired some of the best engineers, marketers, and product managers in the market. They were a sales machine that beat their numbers quarter after quarter. Their company culture was intense, professional, and aggressive. They required everyone to wear a suit and a tie in the office, which was very unusual in Silicon Valley. But that was their way of telling their customers and employees that “we are professional. We are serious about serving our customers.” If you’re interested in learning more about Siebel System’s management approach, you should read the Harvard Business Review (HBR) article “Tom Siebel of Siebel Systems: High Tech the Old-Fashioned Way.”

Tom Siebel was the founder and CEO of Siebel System until it was acquired by Oracle. I had the fortune of listening to him live when he visited the Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, IL. I was a student at that time. I vividly remembered he said that “any of you can get any job in the world.” The way he said it, I could feel the confidence, determination, aggressiveness, and self-belief. Some people would say they could feel a sense of arrogance, but I was inspired. In fact, his speech inspired me to research how to apply sales methodology in recruiting and enabled me to land multiple job offers in one of the worst job markets. I wrote about the story in my book “Secrets of People Who Always Get Job Offers.

Twenty-plus years have passed since I worked in the enterprise software industry. I have been following Tom Siebel for the past two decades. He sold Siebel System to Oracle for $5.8 billion dollars in 2005. He almost died from an elephant attack during a safari trip in Africa in 2009. He started and took it public in December 2020. Today, at age 70, he is still running the company.

Nobody paid me to write this post about I’m writing this post because I’m fascinated by Tom Siebel’s story. For folks who are in your 40s and 50s, please don’t feel that your prime is behind you. If you stay healthy, stay hungry, and keep learning, your best career years are ahead of you. With the accelerated speed of innovations, there will be a lot of opportunities in front of you.

Also, for folks who have been focused on getting into FAANG companies, I recommend you take a look at and similar high-growth companies. I saw a tweet the other day that “Google might become the Xerox of the 1990s.” I think there is a real possibility the best days are behind for companies such as Google, Meta, Amazon, etc. A new generation of tech superstars will replace FAANG.

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