Adam 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 Dan Ruch, chief executive of Rocketrip, a business travel software company. To read the complete interview, check out other articles, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times
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What were your early years like?
I grew up in Manhattan. My mom is an architect, and she would buy these distressed multi-tenant unit houses and renovate them. We’d live in them and then sell them, so that was fun — living in the projects that she designed. My dad started a venture capital fund the year I was born.
I went to private school and didn’t love my experience there. It was a very structured, disciplined curriculum, and there wasn’t a lot of flexibility for someone like me. I was the guy who was forcing my parents to invest in every hobby and spending three weeks at it until I got bored and moved on.
My family jokes that it was mostly about destruction because I spent a lot of my time taking things apart to figure out how they worked. I had every hobby there was, but only for short amounts of time before I sort of exhausted my expertise on the subject and wanted to learn something new.
Tell me more about your parents.
My dad was born in Belgium, and grew up in South Africa. My mom was born in Hungary, and grew up in Venezuela. They met in college in Israel and then moved to Boston. They basically had just the money in their wallet, which got stolen the day they arrived, so they had literally nothing.
Slowly they did very well for themselves. She worked nights to put him through business school, and then he worked nights to put her through architecture school.
As kids, we’d get an allowance, but they were always very strict about us managing our own money. They both struggled significantly in the early years. I don’t know if it’s because they’re the offspring of Holocaust survivors on both sides, but the survival instinct was always very present.
You have to be independent, you have to always push and fight for what you want. I have two brothers, and we all have this tenacity, this innate need to push the limits, to always want more. In a way, that sort of breeds success, but there’s a lot of stress that comes with that as well, because there’s something to be said for complacency, and I’ve never had it. I don’t even know what that means.
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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.com that 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 of hundreds of business leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.