How Carol Bartz gave Autodesk’s Carl Bass his big break


bassAll this month, we’re asking tech founders, investors and CEOs to share with us their Big Break: the person who or moment which set them on the path to success.

Yesterday, while taping our latest Autodesk PandoCast, I asked Autodesk CEO Carl Bass who he’d credit with most influencing his career. Below is a transcript of our conversation.

[Note: The entire series is being sponsored by Braintree’s Ignition program, offering $ 50k in transactions free of fees, so you’ll only see their ads around “My Big Break” pieces. But the series was conceived, commissioned and edited entirely by Pando. Braintree had no input whatsoever in the editorial. For more on our policy towards single sponsor series like this one, see here.]

Carl: The person I’d give credit to is actually Carol Bartz.

I got to Autodesk by way of selling a small startup to Autodesk and I had no aspiration to work in a big company, stay in a big company, and certainly become an executive in a big company. None of that had any interest to me. But she was the one to push me along to be a Vice President within the company.

I think I told you this story but when she first time she wanted to make me a Vice President I hid from her for, like, a week because I didn’t want to be Vice President and I knew it was all downhill from there. And so, I hid for a week until she sent the thugs to kneecap me.

But she actually believed in me and thought I could do a job like this when I think I was not only not that interested but personally didn’t think I could.

Sarah: What do you think she saw in you that you didn’t or others didn’t?

Carl: I have such a low tolerance for convention and doing thing the “normal way”, and you know, the rules and order. I’m such a rule break that for many people that’s automatic disqualification. When you see someone who is throwing spitballs in the back of the classroom, you don’t really imagine them becoming the teacher. And I think somehow she saw that despite the charm of throwing spitballs.

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