Born: Kharkiv, Ukraine. Of course, at the time, it was called Soviet Union.
Education: Kharkiv Institute of Radioelectronics, master of science in digital electronics and quantum physics.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
I was right out of college. The job was in a very remote part of Soviet Union in what is now an independent country called Turkmenistan in the Karakum Desert. The job was in land reclamation and trying to get more land to be arable to use in agriculture around the desert areas where the soil is extremely salty.
[It was] different from what I studied, actually, and (from) what I ever did in my life after that. What I learned from that experience is that your academic skill set is useful only to a certain extent. But it is the way you train your brain and your approach to looking at things which defines your success.
What’s your favorite stress relief?
I’m an avid photographer. I’ve been doing it for 25 to 30 years, including a lot of underwater photography. I’ve been diving for almost 20 years, and I’ve made thousands of dives all over the world in most of the interesting places on Earth and have taken a lot of underwater pictures. I have a website (www.michaelbleyzer.com) where I publish my underwater photography but all types of photography travel photography, cityscapes, landscapes, sunsets. Photographing people and places is certainly one way in which I change the pace and provide some stress relief.
And the other one is very important for any CEO or any senior executive, and that is the state of health and fitness. I’ve always been working out like crazy, but over the last couple years, I’ve discovered something new, which is gymnastics and yoga and acrobatics. Most people start gymnastics when they’re 7. I started doing gymnastics when I was 57. I’m about 50 years too late. My initial plan was to do at least a handstand, a flip and a back flip. Now I’ve accomplished that. It’s pretty crazy for somebody my age, but I enjoy that. I do it essentially every day.
What advice do you have for leaders in this economy?
Since I am a former refugee from Soviet Union, that particular system is something that I want to make sure we will avoid in this country or any other country. My advice would be: Give market economy a chance. Private business is the way to go. There’s absolutely no question about it in my mind.
The government cannot run businesses as effectively as the private enterprise. All attempts to use government to run businesses or play larger role in general in people’s lives have always, historically, failed. But most importantly, the dangers of moving toward larger and larger government, they far outweigh the short-term perceived advantages. Unfortunately, in a number of cases, when they fail, they cost us millions of physical lives. So these failures are not inexpensive failures.