Tag Archives: Andy Grove

Swimming Across: A Memoir by Andy Grove

Summary

  1. Andris Grof (Andy Grove) tells us about his childhood in Hungary and how he lived through and dealt with WWII, Russian communist influences, and how he escaped to America. “I was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1936. By the time I was twenty, I had lived through a Hungarian Fascist dictatorship, German military occupation, the Nazis’ “Final Solution,” the siege of Budapest by the Soviet Red Army, a period of chaotic democracy in the years immediately after the war, a variety of repressive Communist regimes, and a popular uprising that was put down at gunpoint. This is the story of that time and what happened to my family and me.”

Key Takeaways

  1. But I could see in my mother’s face that there was something else. She went on, “I think it’s time for you to become Andris Grof again.” I was stunned. I had become Andris Malesevics so through and through that for a moment I was confused. But only for a moment. Then the significance of being free to use my real name engulfed me.
  2. The sensation of being in a dream kept me from feeling fatigue and also kept me from wondering what would await us at the end of our journey. I just kept walking, numb. After a while, I was neither particularly surprised nor unsurprised by anything we encountered.
  3. My father was an outgoing man. I was impressed and also a little envious at how easily he struck up conversations even with complete strangers. He was able to find a common bond with everyone he encountered — the waiter at the restaurant, the conductor on the streetcar, or somebody sitting at the table next to him. He seemed genuinely interested in these other people. Every once in a while, in his enthusiasm, he got me involved in these conversations. Most of the time, I would listen for a while, but I would soon get impatient to go home.
  4. I discovered C. S. Forester’s books about the nineteenth-century British navy captain Horatio Hornblower. Something about the character really intrigued me. Although I wouldn’t tell anyone this, I fancied myself as a latter-day Captain Hornblower, a man of few but deeply thought-out words, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, pacing an imaginary deck with my hands behind my back, living a rich inner life that my classmates never suspected.
  5. I felt distinctly inferior in comparison with my friends. I didn’t play the violin — or any instrument, for that matter — and I wasn’t a math or physics genius. While I was a good student, I wasn’t particularly outstanding in any one area. And I was still bad at all sports except swimming. But they accepted me as their equal. I think that the main asset I brought was that I was more comfortable with the rest of the class than they were. I served as their bridge to the wild bunch. We had something else in common: All five of us were Jewish. We weren’t the only Jews in the class. There were a few more whom we had not become friendly with. But as we gravitated to each other’s company, and hung around with each other at recess and after school, a subtle wall formed around us. No explicit acts of anti-Semitism were ever expressed toward us. But the separation was real. We never discussed the fact that we were Jewish. We just knew that we were, just as the other members of the class knew it, too. Hungarians almost always knew who was or wasn’t Jewish, kids or adults. It became a sixth sense for all of us, never a subject of explicit discussion, but one of constant tacit awareness.
  6. Even the places that specialized in chemical compounds generally didn’t have them in stock. In an economy that operated by central planning, shortages of just about everything were commonplace.
  7. One reaction to the growing political oppression was the number of jokes that sprang up about it. They acted as a safety valve for feelings that couldn’t be expressed otherwise. Jokes about current events in Budapest were an art form. They were created and transmitted almost instantaneously.
  8. (The most annoying slogan was “Work is a matter of honor and duty.” It was posted everywhere — on factory walls, in stores, and even on street signs — right above the heads of people who were listlessly trying to get away with the minimum amount of work.)
  9. I realized that I needed help. Everything, from getting a job to getting a telephone, required “connections.” My father found somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody inside Chinoin. This person moved my application along, and I got hired as a laborer.
  10. I realized that it’s good to have at least two interests in your life. If you have only one interest and that goes sour, there’s nothing to act as a counterbalance to lift your mood. But if you have more than one interest, chances are something will always go okay.
  11. This evening, I was hanging on the outside as usual, looking ahead in the gathering May dusk, but I didn’t see the traffic or the familiar streets going by. My mind was filled with atoms and molecules and experimental schemes. Then, all of a sudden, I got it. I don’t know what set it off. The experimental results that were floating around in my head suddenly jelled and the confusion of the previous weeks coalesced into a solid vision of where I was and where I needed to go. I jumped off the tram and ran home. I took out my notes and checked to see whether my recollections of the past experimental results were correct. They were. I couldn’t wait to get back into the lab the next day. With complete confidence, I planned the next sequence of experiments to confirm my hypothesis. They worked.
  12. Political parties that had long been disbanded came back to life, and dozens of newspapers sprang up to publicize their beliefs. It was as if the gradual thaw that had slowly been taking place over the past couple of years had suddenly turned into a flood.
  13. The coffee we got was made from real coffee beans. In Hungary, “coffee” was made from ground, roasted hickory nuts. Since coffee wasn’t produced in any of the Communist-bloc countries, we didn’t have it. Real coffee tasted very good.
  14. I’ve never gone back to Hungary. To be sure, as the years went on, political and economic life both improved, at least as far as I could tell. Hungary even ended up becoming a member of NATO. But although I’ve retained fond memories of Hungarian music and literature, and I still look with some warmth at picture postcards of Budapest sent to me by friends who visit there, I have never desired to revisit it myself. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe I don’t want to remind myself of the events I wrote about. Maybe I want to let memories stay memories. Or maybe the reason is something simpler than that: My life started over in the United States. I have set roots here. Whatever roots I had in Hungary were cut off when I left and have since withered and died.
  15. I went through graduate school on scholarships, got a fantastic job at Fairchild Semiconductor, the high-flying company of its day, then participated in the founding of Intel, which in time has become the largest maker of semiconductors in the world. I rose to be its chief executive officer, a position I held for eleven years, until I stepped down from it in 1998; I continue as chairman today. I’ve continued to be amazed by the fact that as I progressed through school and my career, no one has ever resented my success on account of my being an immigrant. I became a U.S. citizen. I was named Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1997. My two daughters now have children of their own. In fact, it was the arrival of the grandchildren that stimulated me to tell my story. As my teacher Volenski predicted, I managed to swim across the lake — not without effort, not without setbacks, and with a great deal of help and encouragement from others. I am still swimming.

What I got out of it

  1. Amazing what Grove went through by the time he was 20. You can see the foundation, the grit, the perspective he got from these difficult times and how it later informed his life at Intel, becoming one of the most respected CEOs of all time. 

Only the Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove

Summary

  1. This book is about the impact of changing rules. How to find your way through uncharted territories and how to recognize/act on a 10x strategic inflection point
Key Takeaways
  1. Strategic inflection point – a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. Every strategic inflection point is characterized by a 10x change and each 10x change leads to a strategic inflection point
    1. A bit of a misnomer as it is not a single point, rather a long, tortuous strugle
  2. Understanding the nature of strategic inflections points and what to do about them will help you safeguard your company’s well being
  3. Action after review – immediately review your decisions/actions and learn from them. What could you have done differently, better, earlier, etc.
  4. Middle manager tend to be the first people in the business to realize that the rules of the game are changing
  5. Everybody needs to expose themselves to the winds of change – expose selves to customers,
  6. Six forces affecting a business – competitors, suppliers, customers, potential customers, substitutes, the force of complementors
  7. Transitions in business have no party, no celebration, they are subtle, gradual changes
  8. Difficult/impossible to know “right” steps to take in these situations, judgement and instinct are all you have
  9. As an industry becomes more competitive, companies are forced to retreat to their strongholds and specialize in order to become world class in whatever segment they end up occupying
  10. By learning from the painful experiences of others, we can improve our ability to recognize a strategic inflection point that’s about to affect us. And that’s half the battle
  11. Whether a company is a winner or a loser depends a large part on its degree of adaptability
  12. No surefire way to determine what is a signal or simply noise
    1. Is your key competitor about to change?
    2. Is your key complementor about to change?
    3. Do people seem to be “losing it” around you?
  13. Cassandras – early warning system
  14. Avoid the trap of the first version – can’t judge the significance of strategic inflection points by the quality of the first version
  15. Broad and intensive debate the most important tool to draw out strategic inflection points
  16. Fear, fear of speaking out, voicing your opinion, debating bosses, etc., may be the most detrimental culture within a company
  17. How management reacts emotionally to a crisis is one of the best tellers for how the company will deal with strategic inflection points
  18. Inertia of success – senior people in a company have gotten where they are due to some characteristics but some of these characteristics may hold them back and cause them to fail during a strategic inflection point
  19. Takes a strong person to admit the magnitude of the problem you are struggling with
  20. Strategic dissonance – saying one thing and doing another
  21. Must form a mental image of what the company will look like when you “get to the other side” – clear, crisp so you can communicate it to others. Must also define what the company will not be
  22. For anybody, but especially mangers, how you spend your time has enormous symbolic value
  23. The most effective way to transform a company is through a series of incremental changes that are consistent with a clearly articulated end result
  24. Your tendency will almost always be to wait too long to take action. Being an early movers entails risks but the rewards often outweigh the risks
  25. Take one major task on at a time – doing one thing well requires all your focus and energy
  26. Only the paranoid survive – people are always chasing you so commit to one direction and run as fast as you can
  27. The greatest danger is standing still
  28. Almost impossible to over communicate or oversimplify – especially with large groups. Don’t worry, you’re not repeating yourself, your reinforcing the strategic message
  29. You can’t change a company without changing its management
  30. Avoid random motion
  31. Improvement almost always only comes through small, consistent steps with clarity and conviction
  32. Looking back is tempting but terribly counterproductive
 
 

What I got out of it

  1. Interesting and telling story of Andy Grove and Intel – the battles they went through, how many times they could have gone out of business or missed a major trend. Really good lessons for anybody in the business world