Tom Mendoza: Technology and Culture from a Silicon Valley Pioneer


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TSC 91: Tom Mendoza: Technology and Culture from a Silicon Valley Pioneer

Episode Summary

Tom Mendoza – NY kid who boot-strapped a career of impact; philanthropist; evangelist for building strong corporate cultures and how to do it (“Catch Someone Doing Something Right”); former senior Silicon Valley executive at NetApp; story-teller; teacher; engaging conversationalist. In other words, the perfect Sydcast guest.

Syd Finkelstein

Syd Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Professor Finkelstein has published 25 books and 90 articles, including the bestsellers Why Smart Executives Fail and Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, which LinkedIn Chairman Reid Hoffman calls the “leadership guide for the Networked Age.” He is also a Fellow of the Academy of Management, a consultant and speaker to leading companies around the world, and a top 25 on the Global Thinkers 50 list of top management gurus. Professor Finkelstein’s research and consulting work often relies on in-depth and personal interviews with hundreds of people, an experience that led him to create and host his own podcast, The Sydcast, to uncover and share the stories of all sorts of fascinating people in business, sports, entertainment, politics, academia, and everyday life.

Tom Mendoza

Former Vice Chairman, NetApp Inc.

Tom Mendoza is the former Vice Chairman at NetApp. He joined in 1994 and was responsible for sales until becoming president in 2000. In 2009, he became vice chairman. In that same year NetApp was voted the #1 company in America to work for (and was in the top 10 places to work for more than a decade).

Tom has given talks on the power of corporate culture and leadership all over the world to people in such diverse organizations as the U.S. Marine Corps, West Point, CIO forums, Oracle's Leaders Circle, and Stanford University. In 2009 he was the co recipient with NetApp Chairman Dan Warmenhoven of the Morgan Stanley Leadership Award for Global Commerce.

Tom holds a BA degree from the University of Notre Dame and is an alumnus of Stanford University's Executive Business Program. In September 2000 Notre Dame renamed its business school the Mendoza College of Business after an endowment made by Tom.

Insights from this episode:

  • Reflections on how to honor and remember the fathers in our lives.
  • A look into the cutting edge of the technology industry in the early 90s, the impact of immigrants on the tech industry over the years, and why Tom loves Zoom.
  • What’s behind the American philanthropic spirit and Tom’s experience donating 30 million dollars to Notre Dame.
  • How to have high expectations, recognition of the individual, and humanity in business and in life and the power of catching someone doing something right.

Quotes from the show:

  • “More than 50% of the top 200 startups in the last decade are founded by immigrants… technology or leadership can come from anywhere.” Tom Mendoza [16:51]
  • On his dad: “He always felt the need to make sure that people felt appreciated, which had a big influence on me.” — Tom Mendoza [19:06]
  • On the conditions of his endowed scholarship: “Number one: I don’t care if it’s man, woman, Black, white, it’s got to be the kid’s dream to go to Notre Dame. So if you give the kid the Mendoza scholarship, and that kid says I’m going to consider it, you blew it… Whatever school you’re attached to and care about, there’s an amazing amount of people really wanting to go there.” — Tom Mendoza [21:44]
  • “If you’re going to give back, I felt education was the best thing you could give to the people. Anyone who criticizes what people give to probably don’t give to anything… I felt that that’s a gift that really does keep on giving. If you give people an education that might not have got it, you’re helping the planet, you’re helping the people.” — Tom Mendoza [30:40]
  • “You don’t get to choose how your money’s being spent when you pay taxes. You get to choose how your donations are being used.” — Syd Finkelstein [33:05]
  • “What’s networking about? When you help other people, that’s actually the best way to help yourself.” — Syd Finkelstein [34:50]
  • On NetApp’s success: “We grew from 0 to 1 billion in revenue in six years.” — Tom Mendoza [39:48]
  • “What is the behavior that we want to witness wherever we do business in the world? That’s the culture that we want to promote, which means if we sign up for it, that’s the action we will take, that’s how we will act, that’s what we’ll hire to, that’s what we will rate people against.” Tom Mendoza [45:33]
  • “It’s a great filter when you make decisions to ask yourself if you’re proud of that decision Tom Mendoza [46:07]
  • “No matter what you’re doing there’s always room to help out other people, to influence other people.” Syd Finkelstein [48:51]
  • “People emulate the behavior you recognize. That’s why it’s important you’re thoughtful about how you give recognition.” Tom Mendoza [54:53]

Stay Connected:

Syd Finkelstein


LinkedIn: Sydney Finkelstein

Twitter: @sydfinkelstein

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Tom Mendoza

Linkedin: Tom Mendoza

Twitter: @TomMendozaTalks

Forbes: Tom Mendoza Contributor Profile

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