USA: Techknow - Ask Bill Gates.

USA: Techknow - Ask Bill Gates. - Q. Are you, or have you ever been worried about failure?

by BILL GATES.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q. Are you, or have you ever been worried about failure?

A. Worrying about competitive threats is an important part of my job. I concentrate on them and make sure my organisation is aware of them. It's part of our corporate culture to articulate the threats that face us. If a company is in a competitive industry and forgets that it is, it's gone. The speed with which customer expectations change is faster in software than in any industry I know of. Any software company, including mine, must worry about its ability to stay ahead of the market. There's no place for complacency. Also, Microsoft stock has been a good investment, but I worry about unrealistic expectations by shareholders. So I worry a lot. That's what I'm paid to do.

Q. What do you think about creativity? Do you consider yourself a creative person?

A. Finding solutions to problems is a creative activity. Part of the fun of my job is working with the other creative people to come up with new ways to design software. We bring together new elements and find ways to take advantage of the rapidly growing power of computer hardware and the communications infrastructure. There's always fresh territory to explore. Organising employees to work together, and finding ways to foster great partnerships with other companies, demands creativity too. If you don't have a creative attitude, a job like mine becomes pretty stale. It is doubly important that I be creative - if I don't set a positive example, then the people who work for me won't be creative either.

Q. How many times a day, typically, do you personally keep an eye on Microsoft's stock price, if at all?

A. I never look it up. Sometimes people mention to me what it is.

Q. What advice will you give your children when they are ready to choose a career?

A. I hope they find something they feel excited about, and have some special talent for doing, so that they won't go through a lot of confusion. It is okay to be confused for a while. Early in college, I wasn't sure about my own career. Maths? Science? Law? Economics? These careers all seemed exciting. But then my old hobby - software - turned into my job. So that was that. I didn't consider medicine while in college, but I realise now that being a doctor would be rewarding. Good doctors enjoy a lot of personal and professional latitude, and have great positive impact on people's lives. It's a terrific profession in terms of self-satisfaction. So I would suggest my kids think about medicine, along with a lot of other fields. But I don't really believe in pushing children into a particular career. I would slightly discourage my children from a career in software because of the expectations people would impose on them. I would worry: would they be evaluated on their own merits? would they feel that there's some comparison that has to be made? would they feel that I chose their career for them?

Ask Bill Gates questions: askbill@microsoft.com.

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