Bob Farrell (chief of Kewill) in “The Corner Office”

FarrellAdam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Bob Farrell, the chief of Kewill, a transportation software company, says he has learned to be a good listener — partly by taking lots of notes: “A big reason I do that is to hold myself back, to keep my head in the meeting.”

To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.

Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

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What were some early lessons for you?

I grew up on Long Island. My dad worked for Grumman Aerospace, and when I was about 11 we moved to Iran for four years. I was still young enough to absorb a lot of it and accept the diversity for what it was, as opposed to having preconceived notions about what it should be.

We traveled all over. That really shaped how I look at the world as a global marketplace. Early on in my career, it helped me get some assignments that I probably wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise. I’ve always gravitated toward situations that were multicultural, with a lot of diversity, and I think that has served me well.

And after you returned from Iran?

During my high school years, I took up commercial fishing. It was clamming, and there was a plentiful amount of harvest available. In 12th grade, I set up my class schedule so that I finished up at noon, and I could almost get a full workday in after school.

You were working for others?

At first, I used my parents’ boat, but it wasn’t a professional setup. But then I made enough money to buy a boat. I continued to do that for six years. It’s like farming. There are so many forces outside your control that impact what you do on a daily basis. So you have to control really tightly the things that you can control, like your schedule, having the right equipment, being at the right place at the right time. It’s not much of a science, but if you do all those things you can control right, you can certainly deal with those that you can’t control a lot better. It’s the same thing in our business today — focus on what you can control and put yourself in the best position possible to deal with the things you can’t control.

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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.comthat he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here.

His more recent book, Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation, was also also published by Times Books (January 2014). To contact him, please click here.

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