If there’s one rosy takeaway from today’s brutal business climate, it may be that it serves as a magnificent test of executive mettle — albeit a test that no tech executive, regardless of how successful, is likely to relish.
After all, this year has seen far more than its fair share of widespread layoffs, crippling product delays and reluctant customers. Yet in the tech sector, the crisis has shown a spotlight on executives who not only succeed in keeping their businesses humming along, but who are overseeing innovations sure to have a lasting impact on the industry.
In a way, the current Darwinian business conditions have made our jobs easier in selecting the ten tech luminaries — nominated by you, the readers — who best capture the ideals of today’s successful, visionary chief executives.
They’re skilled. Fearless. Inspired. And foresighted.
The InternetNews CEO Vision Awards seek to acknowledge the industry’s leaders who have demonstrated an ability to do more than deftly manage their business: Instead, they shape the direction of the technology sector itself, no mean feat in even the fattest economic years, let alone 2009.
For starters, look no further than Salesforce.com, Red Hat and Twitter. While the three may all be, in varying degrees, far removed from the garage startup, each is nonetheless an upstart seeking to gain ground against entrenched, larger competitors or blaze a trails into territory as yet unmapped.
They’ve changed the conversation, making Software-as-a-Service, enterprise Linux and “tweets” part of the everyday language of the IT decision-maker.
But make no mistake. They’re not the only ones with their eyes on the future. While some companies are struggling to mitigate the damage of the recession, others are busily looking to the period after growth returns — setting the pieces in motion even now for their future expansion.
Think Amazon and Apple, who manage to captivate with new products even as conventional wisdom dictates that the retail and consumer hardware sectors should be digging in instead of expanding.
Consider also O’Reilly Media. With all things print in decline and disarray, upended by the recession and a tardy reaction to digital alternatives, at least one major publisher continues to deliver while finding new ways to reach an increasingly media-saturated audience.
Then there’s Intel and Cisco. With its hand in nearly every industry, chipmaking colossus Intel faces broad exposure to the downturn. And yet, even as most IT buyers sit on the sidelines, the company is still finding a way to make money while keeping its eye on the next opportunity. Likewise for networking giant Cisco, which is not merely bucking the industry’s downward trends, but brazenly embarking on an ambitious plan to seize a wider, more profitable role in the datacenter — putting it into contention with an array of deep-pocketed rivals and onetime partners.
That same boldness comes into play at VMware and Yahoo. Among the more controversial choices of our winners, both face sizable challenges ahead. But even with relatively new CEOs at their helms, both companies have set a course for the center of their markets — and each is already well underway.
Here’s to the CEOs of these 10 firms, who have held fast to a vision for their business and their industry at large, all the while working to ensure that their companies don’t just weather the economic storm — that they emerge stronger than when it began.
Page 2: Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com
Page 3: Jim Whitehurst, Red Hat
Page 4: Evan Williams, Twitter
Page 5: Steve Jobs, Apple
Page 6: Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Page 7: Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Media
Page 8: Paul Otellini, Intel
Page 9: John Chambers, Cisco
Page 10: Paul Maritz, VMware
Page 11: Carol Bartz, Yahoo
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