Saturday :: Jan 17, 2009

Commerce Secretary Rumor on John Thompson

by eriposte

According to the San Jose Mercury News, one of the leading candidates for the Commerce Secretary post in the Obama administration is Symantec CEO John Thompson. Symantec, for those who are not familiar with it, is the Silicon Valley company well known worldwide for its security technology portfolio (especially the Norton brand of security software) and is one of the 10 largest software companies in the world today. The Mercury News goes on to say that Thompson - who has an MBA from MIT's Sloan School of Management and is evidently the only African American currently leading a major technology company today - was recommended by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), is strongly favored by her and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and is popular in leadership/business circles in Silicon Valley. The article also points out:

Thompson, a Democrat and one of the nation's highest-ranking African-American business executives, nurtured Symantec from a much smaller software company to a powerhouse in computer security, storage and systems management. He has been active in Silicon Valley trade groups, and he and his wife, Sandra, were "dynamos" for Obama's California presidential campaign, said Steve Westly, co-chairman of Obama's California campaign.

In November, Thompson announced plans to retire in April, while continuing as a nonexecutive board member.

I don't know Thompson personally, but Silicon Valley is a small world. Friends whose judgment I trust and who know Thompson tell me that he is an amazing person. He came into Symantec when it was a software company that was not very focused and transformed it through strong leadership and a decisive focus on not just security technology but also customers - now Symantec is one of the world's leaders in that space. He is evidently a motivating leader and a person of great charisma. Despite his major successes rising to the top echelon of IBM, and his subsequent CEO position at Symantec, Thompson is apparently down-to-earth and humble - unlike some of the "Superstar CEO" wannabes in Silicon Valley.

Even more fascinating to me is the fact that under Thompson's leadership, Symantec released its first "Corporate Responsibility Report" last year - as a mechanism to update the world on its progress following Symantec's signing, in March 2006, of the UN Global Compact. Why is this significant? Well, the UN Global Compact has 10 essential principles that center around Human Rights, Labor Standards, Environment and Anti-Corruption. Here they are:

Human Rights

  • Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
  • Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.

Labour Standards

  • Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  • Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;
  • Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour; and
  • Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.   


  • Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
  • Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
  • Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.    


  • Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.  

To see a CEO push his company to sign this compact and drive his organization continuously to try and meet these progressive goals is impressive.

Bottom line: I hope President-Elect Obama picks John Thompson as his next Commerce Secretary.

eriposte :: 3:11 PM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!