Posted by: hmchang | October 3, 2007

Business: Oracle Chairman Jeff Henley’s talk at UCSB

This evening, I attended a talk given by Oracle’s Chairman, Mr. Jeff Henley, at UCSB. As an UCSB alumni, he has involved quite a lot in advising and funding the school. He also moved himself to Hope Ranch. We are fortunate to get him to talk in our class on the topic: “Competing in a Flat World: Challenges and Opportunities for Today’s CEO.”

As read from the title of his talk, one may immediately captured that the speech is affected by the book “The World is Flat.” Oracle is an enterprise software giant, and it has been involved in globalization for years. Not only do they sell products outside U.S., they also outsource a lot of programming jobs to India and other countries. One important reason is of course the great difference in labor cost: hiring a programmer in India is around one-forth of that in U.S. He said that the book has depicted what they experienced in a organized way so he is in fact living in such a flattened world.

In his talk, he pointed out that although many works has been outsourced abroad, it does not mean that the job market in U.S. has become very bad. In fact, he thinks that it is now the best employment time for us young generations. We can choose to work not only in U.S. but can choose to work in any other countries. Additionally, any job in U.S. may require some sort of interaction with other people around the world. In the future, U.S. citizens may be hired by a Chinese or Indian enterprise, and the U.S., although still an important economic body in the world, will not have that much impact as it has in the late 20th centuries. This is an foreseeable trend and we should need to accept it and adapt ourselves to such a shift.

Companies will constantly look for places with lower-cost labors. Perhaps one day the GDP in China and India will exceed that of U.S. and the labor work will then move to other countries. As we utilize the cheap labors in these countries, we also increase the wealth level of these countries. This has been the case for Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Nevertheless, decreasing poverty in these countries is good for the world’s economy because more people have stronger purchase power and thus more sales on diverse products can be expected.

Top professional skills to acquire in this flattened world is to “gain expertise, go global, collaborate, diversify and focus on project management.” His son for example, found someone on the Internet and re-designed his website for only 200USD, which may cost him more than thousands in U.S. Even a small company should think about how to source work in the fastest and cheapest way to get things done. Globalization is not only a giants job but a small company or even a startup should think globally at the very beginning.

Although the world is constantly changing, the core skills a successful person should acquire have not changed much. Specifically, he pointed out that “common sense, sound business adjustment; hardworking, enthusiasm and discipline; leadership and communication skills; integrity; a positive attitude and belief in one’s self” are among the top lists of what we should equipped. Whatever the talent level you have, it would be important to acquire these common skills to survive in this competitive world.

He also recommended two other books for leisure reading. One is “Wooden on Leadership” and the other is “Winning.” These books are not only good for understanding business perspective, but for leading ourselves to a fulfilled life.

It is always good to learn from others about their different point-of-view, especially those who have great impact on several important aspects of the world.

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