Top Ten Lessons learned from the Greatest Technologists of All Time


David Bradford

Today, David is Executive Chairman of HireVue, the leader in providing on-demand digital interviewing. In his role, Bradford leads the board and guides the future of HireVue, as the company pioneers the digital interviewing market to bring faster, convenient, standardized interviews to businesses around the world.

Prior to taking the Chairman’s role, Bradford served as chief executive officer of HireVue. During his tenure at HireVue, company sales increased over 200 percent, the company raised over $47 million in capital and the Company became the de facto standard in digital interviewing.

2009 and 2010 saw Mr. Bradford serving as chief executive officer and chairman of Fusion-io (NYSE: FIO), the leader in data storage memory platforms. Under his giuidance, the Company was prepared to go public which it did to large acclaim in June of 2011. In his roles at Fusion, Bradford sourced and brought together an S-1 ready management team, helped raise over $100 million in growth equity, sourced and recruited Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Inc., as the company’s chief scientist and helped secure key strategic partnerships with IBM, HP and Samsung, driving exponential sales growth. Under Bradford’s leadership Fusion-io was named the “No. 1 innovation up and comer in the world” by BusinessWeek in 2009 and the “second most promising IT company” of 2010 by the Wall Street Journal.

Webinar Transcript

Host: David R. Bradford is executive chairman of HireVue, the leader in providing on-demand digital interviewing. Bradford leads the board and helps guide the future of HireVue as the company provides faster, convenient, standardized interviews to businesses.

Previously, Bradford served as chief executive officer of HireVue. Bradford is known for accelerating the growth and performance of technology companies. He previously served as CEO and chairman of Fusion-io. In this role, Bradford sourced and brought together an S-1 ready management team, helped raised over 100 million in growth equity and sourced Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, as the company's chief scientist and helped drive exponential sales growth. Bradford graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor in Political Science and a Juris Doctor. He received his MBA from Pepperdine University. And now please welcome to Elevate 2015, David Bradford.

David: Good afternoon. I'm delighted to be with you today. I want to thank the host of this, HireVue and BambooHR, and others that have participated in this online event. I think it's fantastic. We're given so many wonderful tools these days to utilize and to share our ideas and backgrounds and expertise. And so today I'm going to talk to you about the top 10 lessons that I've learned over time from some of the greatest people that I've ever encountered in my life, names you'll be familiar with and other names you might not be so familiar with.

So let's get started here. You can see my first slide, David Bradford The Bottlecap Kid. And I've got a book out there called "Up Your Game: 6 Timeless Principles for Networking Your Way to the Top" of any organization. And so as HR professionals, I want to emphasize that you are an absolutely key card to any organization. I've been privileged to be a CEO on a number of occasions and I will tell you that people are the most important thing in any organization. And we'll get to that a little bit more as I talk through this, but...

So I want to share with you these lessons that I've come across over time. The first lesson that I have learned is that doing favors for other people are absolutely essential to moving forward in any organization. I remember when I got the original job to become CEO of Fusion-io, it had like a $10-billion or $10-million valuation. Four and a half years later, we were valued by the New York Stock Exchange on the New York Stock Exchange at $3.6 billion.

So quite the story and quite the run at Fusion-io, but I will tell you that it could not have been done without surrounding myself with the best and brightest people in the industry. And I'll tell you as we go along, we actually hired Steve Wozniak to be our chief scientist, the man who really changed computing forever as he invented the Apple many, many years ago along with his colleague Steve Jobs. So it's been a great run and I've been associated with some terrific companies.

So I want to talk to you about principle number one, about how to increase the efficacy of your organization. Number one, hire smart people. It seems very obvious at this phase, but I want to make sure that you're hiring both smart people and people that work smart. So IQ is one thing and that's great and the one thing that I always respected about Bill Gates was his ability to hire great people.

I was senior vice-president and general legal counsel for many years of Novell and people forget, but Novell was the hottest thing since sliced bread back in the late 80s and early 90s. We had a market cap that exceeded $8 billion at one point and Bill Gates actually went on to offer $10 billion to buy our company back in 1991, early 1992. And I was privileged to travel to Redmond, Washington and meet with Bill Gates in a setting with my CEO and myself, his general counsel, and Bill himself.

And over time, that transaction never happened and there were a variety of reasons for that and we eventually got into litigation with Microsoft and there was a long 10-year period where things were pretty tense between Novell and Microsoft. But I will tell you this, regardless of what I thought about Microsoft sound like competitive conduct or whatever, what they did do was hire extremely smart people.

Look at Steve Ballmer and where Steve's wound up now. He's the president of the LA Clippers. And you've got Bill Neukom who was my counterpart in Microsoft that worked directly for Mr. Gates. Bill Neukom was their chief legal counsel and he wound up being president of the San Francisco Giants and they went on to win the World Series. He hired smart people and he was a known for surrounding himself and giving these brilliant test of people. And so that is something I've always admired about Bill Gates.

The other thing that I would say is when you hire, hire for passion first, and then for skill second. So intellect is very important but I will tell you, when you get people in your organization that believe in your message, that are passionate about what you're doing, it can make all of the difference. And we'll talk about that a little bit more as we move along here. But again, I respect Bill Gates and what he did.

I've got a little note here about Tim Doner. So I have a wonderful company that I'm running these days along with my PhD Doctor Linda Bradford, my PhD wife, Dr. Linda Bradford. It's called Fluent Worlds and it is a game changing app on your phone, which allows you to teach a foreign language while in a 3D virtual environment. And so think about going into a game and playing that game but moving your character around while interacting in a foreign language so that you can learn that language. The best place to learn a foreign language is being immersed in those environments.

I only mentioned that in passing because in starting that organization, I went out and found the best and brightest individual. His name is Tim Doner. And Tim is remarkable. He was born and raised in Manhattan but from an early age had a fascination with language. At the age of 14, he came out to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and took an entire summer studying Middle Eastern languages.

Today, Tim is in his second year at Harvard University and he's known as the world's younger hyper polyglot. Hyper polyglot, you probably never heard that term before, but a polyglot is someone who can speak say three, four, five languages. A hyper polyglot is someone who can speak seven or more languages. In Tim's case, he speaks 20 languages. It is amazing. You should go out and look at his YouTube video. I've got a little link to it there on the screen. But that's what I'm talking about. In building your organizations, find people that can truly add value, people that can be difference makers, people with smarts and people with passion.

The next thing I want to ask you or talk to you about is a fellow by the name of Gary Kildall. I gave a speech last week in Washington, DC. And at that speech, there were about 500 people in the audience and I asked the audience, "Everybody who knew Bill Gates in the audience, please stand," and of course, everybody in the audience stood up, and so forth. I then asked the question, "How many of you know the name Gary Kildall?" And I would ask you that, you folks listening today, do you know who Gary Kildall is?

Let me tell you something. Gary Kildall is the man who should have been Bill Gates. And the thing that I learned unfortunately from Gary is that character means everything. Your integrity, your reputation is absolutely essential to everything that you're doing. By the way, as an HR professional, your reputation was spread, right? So the network that you're building today, the things that you're doing today to create value in your organization, those sins will spread, that reputation will spread.

Well, Gary was not known as someone with a great reputation, unfortunately. And when it came time for IBM to build its personal computer back in 1981, they looked around the landscape and they said, "Oh, who's building operating system? We need an operating system for this personal computer that we're building." And the man who's name came up consistently was Gary Kildall. He was a PhD studying at the Naval Research Laboratories in Monterey, California in 1977.

When he took an Intel chip and combined it with his software code, which he called an operating system and he named it CPM for Control Program Monitor. And he began marketing that and it was the operating system in the early days among personal computer users. So IBM flew out to Monterey, California, met with Kildall. The meeting blew up unfortunately and we won't have time today to go on to all the reasons why that meeting blew up, but it did and IBM essentially said, "We will never do business with that man Gary Kildall."

So they went back to Boca Raton, Florida where they were building their PC and they looked around the landscape. They didn't know who to turn to. Bill Gates was very smart. Bill Gates went out and bought an operating system. He didn't build one at Microsoft. He bought one from a company called Seattle Computing Products and a fellow by the name of Tim Patterson. So they buy this. It was nicknamed at a time QDOS for Quick and Dirty Operating System. Gates renamed it MS-DOS, went to IBM, and signed the most important contract arguably in the history of the world.

Think about that. It made Bill Gates the richest man ever to walk the earth at the time. And because he got that contract with IBM and it's only because Gary Kildall's negotiations, etcetera, blew up. The sad story about Kildall is in 1994, he died unbelievably in a bar fight in his early 50's in Monterey, California at the Monterey Bar and Grill. And it was sad. He had some demons in his life, etcetera. But that's why you've heard Bill Gates today and you haven't heard of Gary Kildall. So remember, character and integrity mean everything.

The thing that I've learned from Steve Young, Steve Young is a dear family friend. In fact I'm sitting in my home right now in Provo, Utah and just outside here, he blessed his first child in our home, Braden, 14-year old Braden Young. And so we're very close to Steve. And Steve eventually won the Super Bowl in 1995. We were there in Miami. It was an incredible event and Steve eventually was named the top passer in NFL history in terms of pass efficiency.

But folks, it just didn't happen overnight. In fact I was introducing someone yesterday. It took 17 years to become an overnight success, right? It takes time. It takes effort and it takes accountability, and that's the point that I want to make with this slide. And Steve tells his story how he was struggling. He was replacing Joe Montana, a legend. And as he was replacing Joe, he was put into the starting role for the San Francisco 49ers.

And things weren't going great in '92, '93, '94. He was getting better and better and better. But Bill Walsh one time took him aside and said, "Steve, you have to take accountability for this team." Up to that point, if there were interceptions, Steve would go and he would blame his offensive alignment for not blocking properly or he would blame the weather, the ball slipped off his hand, and he was not able to complete his pass and so forth.

Until he took accountability for that team, there was no trust in him as a teammate. But eventually he learned from Walsh that he needed to go over when an interception happened or a fumble happened or anything happened, he took it upon himself, "Guys, this is my team. I'm accountable. I blew it. I blew it. I won't let it happen again. Let's go out there and win the game." You have to be accountable, in any organization, whether you're an HR executive or vice-president of sales, it falls on you to deliver the goods. So be accountable in your life.

The next thing I learned from some great people, Steve Covey, the father of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and his son Stephen M.R. Covey, great folks. Stephen M.R. Covey actually at one point served on one of my advisory boards for one of my companies and he wrote a great book called "The Speed of Trust." And I really want you to get this message in your organization because it's absolutely essential to what you're doing as an HR executive.

Listen to this. When trust exists in your organization, everything accelerates, but the opposite is true. If trust doesn't exist and isn't built deeply into the fiber of the organization, people are going to be covering their rear ends all the time. That email that they might have sent to try to improve a product or do something better or increase sales, that email won't get sent because they're too frightened that, "Oh, if I send email, I'll get criticized," etcetera, etcetera, i.e., trust doesn't exist.

You have to imbue trust into your organization. And when it exists and when people are confident that they won't be thrown under the bus the next day for something they said or they wrote, that's trust. And you need that in an organization and so forth. So I want to emphasize the importance of having fundamental trust in your company.

The next principle I want to talk about is everyone matters. Folks, for many years I was on Governor Romney's national campaign finance committee when he ran for the presidency. And after the 2012 campaign where he failed to get elected against Obama, Romney began to organize a series of bi-partisan meetings in Parks City, Utah, they ran for three days, and he brought in the best and brightest folks from both sides of the aisle.

I remember one year, I met David and Susan Axelrod there. Of course, big Democratic donors and supporters and spokespeople, and he out now called Romney a liar during the campaign. But Mitt oversaw, forgave him for all that, brought him to the conference and so forth and brought a number of people from all over many different walks of life. And one of the people that Mitt would have come and speak at this conference is Cindy Crawford, of course the supermodel, and Cindy has built a wonderful brand around her, a marvelous business, multi-million dollar business.

But she got up and she said something that really struck me. And she says, "Everyone in this room matters," and she paused and she said it again, "Everybody in this room matters." And over time, I've come to realize that every conference you go to, every meeting you attend, someone in that room knows something that you don't know. There's no monopoly on knowledge or information.

And so bottom line is you have to respect everybody. It was illustrated to me some years after this. I was contacted by a fellow that was in out-of-work sales rep and he was desperate for a job and I'm thinking to myself, "Oh heck, I don't have time to go lunch with him despite his many requests to go lunch with me." He finally says, "I've got seven kids. I'm desperate. I need your help. Can I take you to lunch?" I finally consented, we go to lunch, we have a nice lunch.

I gave him the names of four different CEOs with whom he can connect and so forth, gave him their email addresses and whatnot. And I said, "You know, feel free to use my name," and so forth. And he did and he got a job from one of them and that was great. But that's not the end of the story and that's not the reason I'm telling this story. The reason I'm telling you this story is after our lunch meeting, as I'm walking out of the restaurant, this guy grabs me and kind of grabbed me by the arm and he says, "Now, David, thank you. Thank you so much for going to lunch and taking up your valuable time and so forth to do this for me and introduced me to these folks and I'll represent you well."

And I said, "That's great. Not a problem. I wish you the best." And I'm thinking to myself, "Oh, I've got to run to my next meeting." He says, he grabbed me forcefully and shook me, and he says, "No, David. What can I do for you?" And I knew he was kind of bigger and I knew I wasn't going to get out of that room and so I quickly thought, and at the time I was working with David Checketts, who had been president of the Utah Jazz and formerly president of the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden and we've been putting together an international sports fund.

And David asked me to come in and do some consulting work for that organization. And so I was helping him in that endeavor. And so I off the cuff said, "Hey, you know, we're putting together this international sports fund, you happen to know anybody who's a high net worth individual, who loves sports, who might be interested this opportunity."

And he paused for a second and says, "Well, let me give it some thought." And of course, I'm kind of, "Okay, fine." So I went my way and he went his way. An hour later, I'm at home. I get an email, pops up, and it's from this guy that I've taken to lunch or gone to lunch with, and he says, "I want to introduce you to Jim Phipps." Jim is the chief financial adviser for one of the Saudi princes, Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Prince Abdullah from Saudi Arabia. Now, I hadn't heard of this guy. They quickly did a web search, learned that he loves sports. He since became the Minister of Sports in Saudi Arabia. He maybe even be that today. But Jim then follows up with an email to me once this guy had told them a little about what I did. And Jim said, sends me an email, he says, "What are you doing tomorrow?" He says, "The prince is in his mansion in Beverly Hills and if you can make your way down there, he can set aside a couple of hours to meet with you about your international sports fund. He's very interested."

Folks, the next day at 11:00 a.m., I found myself in Beverly Hills, California pitching a Saudi prince on this international sports fund. You never know who it is that might give you your next lead, your next opportunity, etcetera. Value everybody. Everybody knows something that you don't know. A couple of other things, my mother Kate Bradford. She's 92 years old. She's an amazing woman, lives in Utah these days, has 47 grand kids, and it's just a fireball.


This morning I have no doubt she's already done Tai Chi, she's already done her swimming class, and she's already done her literature class. And so she was telling me the other day about reading Malcolm Gladwell's most recent book. It set her crazy at the age of 92. And now in the afternoon I'm sure she's over donating her time to the old folks home, and she's 92.

The point is, my mother has been a giver throughout her life. And as she has done that and as she's blessed the lives of others, they have reciprocated to Kate Bradford in a big way. And as I've observed this from the outside, I learned that to build your network and to increase your influence in the world, you have to first think about other people. What it is that you can do for them to bless their life?

First and foremost, when you go that next HR conference, look around the room and think, "Who in my network? What knowledge that I have that can help them out?" Think about those other people first, and believe me, as you get interested in them, as you ask questions to them, they will reciprocate over time. Maybe not the next day, maybe not the next week, maybe 20 years later, but the law reciprocity is a true principle. And as you give to others and think about them first with no thought of getting for yourself, that's when the law of reciprocity will work for you.

Let me just run through a couple of final slides here. Eric Schmidt, Dr. Eric Schmidt was my boss for four years at Novell from 1996 to 2000. We both left in late 2000 and went off and did other things. Eric went to Google and had some phenomenal success there. But I remember he came in my office one day. He said, "David, I'd want to organize a fundraiser for Orrin Hatch," and I turned to Eric and I said, "But you're a Democrat, why would you want to do that?" And he says, "I want to build a relationship with Senator Hatch. Can you help me do that? I want to host a fundraiser of my own."

Two months later, we are in the Silicon Valley holding a fundraiser for Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. I have no doubt that that connection, that relationship that formed that night between Eric and Orrin Hatch served Google well as they moved forward in the province in China and so forth. So networking is key. The final thing I want to say and then I'll wrap this up is the 60/30/10 rule. 

This is what you can learn for me. Let me emphasize this very carefully. The success of your company is going to be based upon the people that you bring in. That's your job in the Human Resources section. You're the most valuable people to your organization because you bring the talent into your organization. And so that's an absolutely essential key. So 60% of the success of any enterprise that you're involved in relates to its people.

Now 30% certainly relates to the product, the service, the technology that you're marketing, whatever that might be. And so that's important. But I am telling you, people mean the most. Ten percent is dumb luck frankly and what the market trends and the confluence of those things are coming together and how they can benefit your company or go against your company. But think about people and the necessity of building them up in your organization and hiring the best and brightest talent of all time.

It's no surprise that once we hired Steve Wozniak into Fusion-io that a couple of months later, Business Week named Fusion-io, my company at the time, as the most innovative company in the world. Now, to be sure we had innovative technology, but when we brought Woz in, that just reinforced and provided air cover. Well, I want to thank you folks for listening today. Those are my principles.

I hope you go out and get my book "Up Your Game: 6 Timeless Principles for Networking Your Way to the Top" and keep up the great work in your organizations. Would love to come, visit with your companies as a speaker or whatever you'd like me to do. But I'm there to help you out. Wish you the best. Please connect with me on LinkedIn. I'm available. I have 15,000 connections with there about on LinkedIn and it's a big platform for me. So again, I wish you the best. Thank you very much.