The Leer File Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2009

Born: Vermillion, S.D.

Education: Bachelor of science in electrical engineering, University of the Pacific, Stockton, Calif; MBA, Washington University in St. Louis

What was your very first job?

I grew up in California, picking tomatoes at a farm in the Central Valley as a freshman in high school. My father used to get up and he would drive two of my buddies and myself. We had to be at the farm at 5 in the morning and you then got on a bus.

You get on the bus, and no one spoke English and we didn’t speak Spanish. You were picking tomatoes from 6 in the morning until you got back on the bus at 5 at night. It can easily hit 100 to 105 degrees. After doing that for two months, he asked me, ‘Son, do you think it’s important that you get an education and perhaps do something at a higher level? Or do you want to do good, honest, hard work in the field all your life?’

He got his point across.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

Steve Jobs. He has really taken an unconventional approach to many of his businesses. Having grown up on the West Coast, I had some roommates and folks go to work at Apple, and it was interesting how they described the early days of Apple.

This would have been back in the mid to late 1970s. To see what’s been accomplished today is really incredible. The creativity and shareholder wealth shows there are many approaches. If you looked at Steve, you wouldn’t say he has taken your stereotypical approach to being a CEO.

What would be the first thing on your bucket list?

I think it’s a combination bucket list with my wife and I. Both of us would like to visit every one of the national parks in the United States. She’s visited more of them than I have, but it’s something we have talked about doing but haven’t done.