Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What I Learned From Sun (and Others) DRAFT


I am feeling somewhat nostalgic now that Sun Microsystems is being swallowed by Oracle. Sun was a great place to work. But it was also a very hectic and unfocused organization. Sun was among the best and worst places I have worked.

That said, these experiences taught me a lot. In reflecting on the lessons I learned there, I have captured the following key points:

1. A Small Group of People Can Change the World(java)

2. Founder CEOs should have term limits of 10 year.

3. Bad executives do enormous amounts of damage.

4. Good executives can get organizations to achieve more than they were naturally capable of.

5. No amount of “vision marketing” can move you out of an uncompetitive position

6. Never take a job with “Strategy” in the title.

7. Bad organizations can make good people behave badly

8. Threats from Management Are Failures By Management

9. Beware the “game changing” new product release.

This is a preliminary list, and I will be updating each of these with a paragraph or 2 of exposition/explanation. If you are a Sun refugee and would like to add your 2 cents, please do.


  1. I like your last caveat, especially. The Sun experience taught us that there can be game-changing product releases - think SPARCStation 1 and Java. However, the mere existence of one can create a cult of Gamechange that substitutes superstiton for reason.....

  2. I really like this. I would also add mine: When multiple undeserving people are getting promoted to senior positions, it is time to leave.

  3. So you wanted Scott to have been gone well before you and I joined? I am not sure if Scott stayed too long but I do believe his founder status made it harder for him to make the big cuts when they had to be made.

    I subscribe to all nine points. I can visualize situations or persons with each. Scary, no?

    Since JavaSoft I also favor small teams.

    A specific one for me is, you have to know why you're doing something. If you can't articulate what success is, you won't achieve or recognize it when it comes along.

  4. Very well put - I think these are applicable to any industry. Hope you are doing well

    Nick Simha

  5. Bill - you left. Having Scott stay in role would have been x000,000 times better than PonyTail. You missed the real tragedy... Even now Sun has a game changing play w/the new solid-state storage arrays - unfortunately it's only going to benefit Larry...

    PonyTail, Ingrid, Anil - three reasons Sun is dead.