Greg Schott (chief executive of MuleSoft) in “The Corner Office”: “Threats to a Positive Workplace”

Schott-1Adam 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 Greg Schott, chief executive of MuleSoft, a 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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Were you in leadership roles or doing entrepreneurial things when you were younger?

I played a lot of sports. I wasn’t a great natural athlete, but I learned that the harder I worked, the better the results. That was a good feedback loop for me.

I also started working from a young age. I would cut lawns and shovel snow, and in high school I worked in a frame store. I was in the back room making frames, and always trying to figure out a way to do it simpler and faster.

When the owners opened another store, they said, “We want you to go over there and set up the whole store and figure out the flow of everything.” It was a cool experience as a 16-year-old to design a little factory. It was a good reminder that if you put your mind to something and work at it, people will recognize it and maybe ask you to do something more important later.

And were you doing those jobs just for spending money?

I had this drive for independence. I liked having my own plan and my own money. I wanted to pay for college myself. I was on a mission to do that. I don’t know where that came from. In our family, there was this push to start something and do something.

Tell me more about your parents.

My father was a Navy pilot. He was the first person in his family to go to college. After the Navy, he joined Xerox for a while, and then he was an entrepreneur. He’s the most high-integrity person I’ve ever known. There’s no pretense or spin. I learned from him to be incredibly direct. My mom spent years raising us and then worked in office administration roles. She was just behind you the whole time. With my mom, you felt like you could do anything.

What was your first management role?

I managed an assembly line with 17 employees at Westinghouse. We built radar systems for B-1 bombers. I was 22.

How did that go?

It can be tough when you’re managing a group of people who’ve been doing something maybe for 20 or 30 years, and you’ve been doing it only for a year or two. But I always walked in with this attitude of, let’s just make it better. We were always trying to figure out ways to improve the process, because in the defense business, accuracy and reliability have to be great.

But you also learn that just because you think something is the best thing for the organization, others don’t necessarily share the same motivation.

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

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 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.

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