John W. Thompson

While the big news coming out of the tech world this week was the appointment of Microsoft's new CEO, Satya Nadella, what went underreported is that John Thompson, one of the few high-ranking African Americans in the technology sphere, is slated to become only the second chairman in Microsoft’s history, replacing tech genius Bill Gates, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

"This is the capstone, the cherry on top," said technology analyst Charles King. "I don't know where you go after this. He's a good man and a very able leader, and he should be exactly what Microsoft needs at this time."


According to the news site, Thompson, who is well-connected and deeply respected, marks a change in the direction of the company. Industry experts speculate that Microsoft, which has been suffering because of the decrease in demand for personal computers, is attempting to move quickly toward mobile devices to regain its former glory.

Microsoft reportedly has its hopes set on borrowing ideas from Silicon Valley, and Thompson, as one of the top executives in the area, seemed like the perfect person to reach out to, Mercury News notes.

"They are going straight to a core Silicon Valley executive to be chairman, and I think part of that speaks to where the technology trend is going in terms of mobile," FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives told the news site.

As for Thompson, who will also become the company’s first black chair, he is looking forward to his new position and bringing the company back with a bang. "One of my key contributions, I hope, will be to engage with shareholders and keep focused on how together we can bring great innovation to the market and drive strong, long-term shareholder value," he said, according to the Mercury News.


Thompson started out at IBM in 1971, where he remained for 28 years, working his way up the ranks from charming salesman to charming head of sales and service for the Americas. But he didn’t stop there. 

In 1999 he became the CEO of Symantec, where he remained for about 10 years, overseeing a huge increase in the company’s revenue (from $632 million to $6.2 billion) and labor force (from 2,3000 employees to more than 17,500), the Mercury News reports.


After retiring from Symantec, he went on to become the CEO of Virtual Instruments, another tech firm, where he remained until tapped for this new position.

Raised in South Florida by his teacher and postal-worker parents, Thompson played the clarinet and saxophone in school before earning a band scholarship to a Missouri college. However, the aspiring entrepreneur wanted to study business, having noted that all of the successful adults he knew in the black community were small-business owners. Thompson aimed even higher and is now one of the few African-American CEOs in tech. 


Read more at the San Jose Mercury News.

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