I worked for Digital Equipment for 17 years. Having done my A-Level project implementing a subset of the Joss language interpreter in PDP-8 PAL-III assembler at Grammar School, I left on a Friday and started at Digital the very next Monday. I ended up running their UK Software Products Group, the source of around one third of the UK subsidiaries profits.
This was the place where you were trusted “to do the right thing” and “to seek forgiveness, not permission”. We even had a Field Service Engineer in Welwyn told to get a part over from Galway Manufacturing to fix a fault in a customers downed DECsystem-10 as quickly as possible, “whatever it takes” said his manager. He chartered a plane, and when his boss found out, he just quoted the “seek forgiveness” line – which was an edict we had from Jean-Claude Peterschmitt, who ran the whole of Europe for the Company.
My Division also had a written policy that said we should always look after current customers before starting to chase new ones. Not to mention that the Salesfolks were not commissioned, so their honesty shone through and we got far more than our fair share of evangelistic senior customers.
Above all, we were taught to throw responsibility to our teams, and to help them grow. And to value honesty above all else, with no retribution if anything screwed up. If it did, it was probably my fault along the way anyway, so a good learning experience.
These traits last with me to this day. I’ve had many fantastic employees, and have pride in what virtually all of them have achieved – be they from my time at Digital, Metrologie, Demon Internet, BT, Trafficmaster, CCD or Computacenter.