In our “Ask me anything” series, Dell Technologies executives sit down with rising talent to answer questions about their career journeys, work-life balance and advice that’s guided them. Here, Jeff Clarke, vice chairman and co-COO, chats with Jessica Lass, communications analyst.
Jessica Lass: You have been with Dell for 35-plus years. Within that time, your remit has expanded to lead the company’s biggest transformations. Did you ever imagine being in a leadership position like you are in today? How did you get here?
Jeff Clarke: The easy answer is, of course not! Early on, I cared about being an electrical engineer—what I went to school to learn. Now, I love what I do and love our direct, open, customer-first culture. This has driven and fed my intellectual curiosity throughout my tenure. It’s our unique culture, coupled with high-level responsibilities and learning experiences early in my career, which has allowed me to drive transformation and change. Dell is a place where I can be my authentic self, which I believe is key for people doing their best work.
Being early in my career, I am curious: What is something that you know now that you wish you had known as a young professional?
As a young professional, I wish someone would have told me it all works out. The path, your journey…it will all work out. I wish someone would have told me to slow down and enjoy the moment. Step back and take the time to do the things that you enjoy doing. There’s more than just work.
I believe there are five secrets of success, which are also the fundamental reasons why people work:
- You are challenged.
- You are learning every day.
- You take roles that make a difference, that matter.
- You have the right balance and perspective to do the things you love and be your authentic self.
- You are rewarded and recognized accordingly.
According to a recent Forbes article, 76% of people think that mentors are important, but only 37% have one. Do you think mentors are an important part of growing in a career? Can you tell us about a person who has been a mentor or role model for you in your career? How do you feel they impacted your development?
It’s not the name “mentor” that matters. What you need is to surround yourself with truth-tellers who will be direct, honest and give you actionable feedback. Someone who looks after you and understands your skill set and who will make sure your name is in the conversation for the next role or the next opportunity. That’s what you need. Some notable people in my life: my dad, who was a huge advocate for me and ultimately the person who convinced me to leave Motorola to start my Dell Technologies journey. And our first Dell vice chairman, who taught me the real notion of accountability and what’s expected of senior leaders.
The technology industry is all about change. It’s part of our DNA. At Dell, I believe we can take anything thrown at us and adapt, improvise, overcome and prevail.
—Jeff Clarke, vice chairman and co-COO, Dell Technologies
Currently, we are facing challenging economic times. How do you stay adaptive and responsive to change?
The technology industry is all about change. It’s part of our DNA. At Dell, I believe we can take anything thrown at us and adapt, improvise, overcome and prevail. That’s what we do, and our culture supports this mindset. I always focus on what I can control. This includes my work, our customers, learning, being a better teammate and collaborator and innovating for the future. I think a fundamental attribute in a world of change is the ability to think about the “how to” of a situation (how we are going to do things and what’s needed to do it) versus thinking about the “why not” excuses around why something can’t be done.
Being at Dell gives you a front-row seat to the development and adoption of tech and AI. How do you envision the future of the industry, and how do you plan to stay ahead of the curve?
At Dell, we get to shape the “what happens in technology,” which is certainly fun and why I love what I do. Technology is becoming important in every role, company and business model. It is becoming foundational, and the world is digitizing at an unprecedented rate.
In terms of trends: Wide-scale connectivity is undeniable. Distributed computing and the emerging edge will continue to accelerate in an exciting way. We will have automation and embedded intelligence everywhere. Data-driven insights will be commonplace rather than the place of experimentation. We will have autonomous machines, smart everything, and the underlying technology to do the work will get less expensive. AI will fuel the future. These trends showcase why our strategy is focused on six things: multicloud, edge, 5G telecom, data management, artificial intelligence/machine learning and security.
Read more “Ask me anything” interviews.