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I Am American Business

Carol Bartz

Producer Notes

Photo: Getty Images

Autodesk, the San Francisco based software company, is not exactly a household name. But if you know an architect, animator, product designer or engineer, there's a good chance they are working with Autodesk software right now. Carol Bartz is Executive Chairman of Autodesk, after 14 years as Chairman, President, and CEO. During that time, company revenues grew from about $280 million to over $1.5 billion. She is still one of the few women at the top of a major technology company. In person, her optimism and energy is contagious. She likes to quote her grandmother's motto. "Get over it!" And when she says we should not be daunted by a tough economy, it is not from a lack of awareness or empathy. She has faced tremendous personal and professional obstacles and seems only to have grown more enthusiastic. She isn't dwelling on her past, or her difficulties, she's still looking ahead, eager to figure out what's next.

Video Interview

The "I Am" Q&A


What kind of car do you drive?
Lexus.

Where’s your favorite place to go?
Bali.

What web site do you like to visit?
Autodesk.

What was your worst moment in business?
Bad product release.

What’s your favorite drink?
White wine. Cheap white wine.

What’s your favorite food?
Anything Indian, Mexican, Thai, exotic.

What’s your idea of fun?
Gardening.

And at work?
Having an ‘a-ha’ moment. A breakthrough.

What personal weaknesses do you forgive in someone?
Making a mistake.

Who is a business hero of yours?
Well I admire people at different times. Of course I admire Jack Welch, John Chambers. These are people that have made a difference in business. I actually like what Gates did. These people have done special things.

What personal qualities do you admire in business?
Confidence, humor, humbleness, and the ability to say you were wrong.

Are you doing anything for the environment?
Autodesk both has an opportunity to itself reduce carbon footprint for the company, but also to help all of our customers reduce carbon footprint. So we have a dual role. It’s fun.

What was your greatest moment in business?
Anytime I see the employees so excited, jazzed up. When a time was good, a product was good, there’s no better feeling. It’s like your child. It’s like when they succeed, when the company succeeds, because we’re all in it together.

What is your dream?
My dream is that people can talk things out, be logical, and be willing to change their mind.

Do you have a motto?
One that I really like is “get over it and move on.”

What is your present state of mind?
Excited. I’m always excited. I’m kind of a junkie on what’s going to happen next.


Transcript

CNBC:
So tell me a little bit about what you’re doing when you travel to different countries? What is the role that you play?

CAROL BARTZ:
I'm busy traveling to the emerging countries or as I call it, the exciting growth countries, because that’s where a lot of the action is for Autodesk infrastructure builds. Recently I was in Brazil, Poland, and the Czech Republic. There is a lot of excitement there; those people are on the move. So I get to talk to universities, which are where the engineers of the future are coming from, and I talk to the government officials, obviously our customers, and our partners. Just to get a sense of what's going on and how we can be involved in those countries. I wish everybody would have the chance to travel like I do because it gives you such a broad perspective on people. Not that, they’re taking our jobs away or this or that, but they're just people in their own right trying to make their way, and it would help the world if we all understood that better.

CNBC:
You are talking to people who are building the infrastructure?

CAROL BARTZ:
They’re doing the railroads, the transportation systems, the ports, the airports; they’re talking about putting roads in areas that now only have very tough paths, almost not roads. They’re also putting in electricity and water. I'm going to Africa in a month and South Africa to talk a lot about what's going on there, which I think is going to emerge faster than most of us think.

CNBC:
What are some of the most active countries?

CAROL BARTZ:
Actually what’s interesting is the Polish students are the fourth largest surfers of our student web sites behind the US, UK, and Germany. I got there and said, “Wow these kids are with it.” I was able to speak with a group of them and their questions were outstanding. I could have closed my eyes and been at Stanford. It was just fantastic. However Africa is still dark for a lot of reasons, and a lot of it’s frankly, the electricity.

CNBC:
Where do you think the real growth opportunities are?

CAROL BARTZ:
Well the real growth opportunities are where the middle class is coming on. What do I mean? They’re coming on strong. They’re past food and basic shelter, now they want a cell phone. Then they want to be entertained and then they get serious about other things to purchase that they’ve always wanted. That means more factories and transportation systems. Which in turn means infrastructure of all sorts, which means better power and better water supply. So when you have the move from rural to urban, in countries like that, you're seeing more opportunity, it's just a fact.

CNBC:
Can you give us some examples?

CAROL BARTZ:
Frankly anywhere in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet, India, China, the Indonesia’s of the world, and the Middle East. My gosh what's happening in the Middle East and seeing a picture of Dubai does not accurately represent the excitement that’s going on there. The very fact of the matter is that there are a lot of people coming into a different kind of lifestyle in these places that again require goods and services. It shouldn't be a frightening concept to US citizen, it should be part of the excitement of serving the whole world and taking economic advantage of these growth places. The real growth opportunities in the world are where there’s mass movement from rural to urban. Just like by the way, there was in US at the beginning of this century. Those people are going for opportunity, they're joining the middle class, and they’re joining the world purchasers. Which is an opportunity for every company in the US. It’s not a threat, it’s an opportunity and we just need to see it that way.

CNBC:
Can you talk a little bit about the flat world economy, and what companies need to do to stay relevant in the flat world economy?

CAROL BARTZ:
I love the concept of the flat world and I think perhaps I jumped on it pretty quickly because as I travel, I really see the fact that we're much more the same than we're different. All of us should take advantage of what the whole world has to offer because we all are getting access to the same information, the same kind of goods and services, of course tailored to the things we like, but why not take the opportunity when it exists in front of us. The opportunity now is all over the world. Things aren't that different anymore. In fact, it irritates me because I can't find good shopping anywhere anymore because it’s all the same. I used to go and find these really special things and you still can find special things, but it’s starting to have a sameness. That just shows us that there’s opportunity for all of us. That’s why I have a good feeling about what can happen in India and Africa, because I think they will have information access. Which I think means better understanding, hopefully better temperament, and a better place.

CNBC:
So let’s talk about the role technology serves in emerging economies.

CAROL BARTZ:
Technology is very important in emerging economies. Everything from the technology that serves up medicine to the technology that helps build infrastructure, which of course Autodesk is part of. The technology of communication and information such as cell phones and the Internet are using most of these places to leap-frog, they’re not going to land line phones, they're going right to mobile. They’re going to the latest systems, because they want to be on the latest and greatest, and get as quickly as they can up to standards. So the opportunity for a technology company is fantastic in the emerging economies.

CNBC:
How is Autodesk taking advantage of that, what's your strategy?

CAROL BARTZ:
Autodesk is in a wonderful position in the emerging world because our products build the world and our customers build the world. Which includes everything from a building, to a water treatment plant, to energy plants, to roads, bridges, airports, transportation systems, and houses. I like to say if God didn't do it, our customers did, because frankly the built world is what we do and I just think that’s thrilling. I think it’s thrilling to go when people proudly show a new building, this is the plan for a manufacturing plant, and this is our new ring road around the city. I just sort of puff up, it’s almost like it’s been part of Autodesk to do that, so it’s wonderful.

CNBC:
How have you seen things change?

CAROL BARTZ:
When I was in Poland, and I hadn't been there in ten years and they said what are the differences? I said I can't even begin to tell you the difference how, first of all the temperament of the people. The first time I went there I didn't see that many smiles, I'm a big smiler and I didn't see that many smiles. People were actually quite stern. Now they were smiling and the business people were well dressed, they were energetic, and they were excited about their future. It doesn't mean that it’s going to be an easy future. You still have governments to deal with, you have funding to deal with, you have political situations, but they can see better ahead and you just feel that. The first time I went our sales rep had one suit. It was this thick wool suit. Now he looked like he walked out of the most wonderful men’s shop, everyday he had a different suit, everyday had a different shirt and tie, and I thought to myself how far he has come. With big smiles on his face, and I just felt just wonderful. You can’t believe the difference. It’s really thrilling. I'm actually a student of the world. I think you can only really understand people and places by going there and doing as much reading as you can. When I go to India I read history books about the Moguls and all the different periods, just to understand how they think? How can I think? And how can I actually join in on the conversation? When you go and you actually know something about the history the people really appreciate it. They say, “oh you’re not just coming here to bestow some American knowledge on us you’re actually interested in what we're about.” Frankly, it just is fun to do that. I always say, “If you’re not an interested person, you’re not an interesting person.” In other words, if you’re not interested enough to read, to talk to people, to listen, then why does anybody want to listen to you? What do you have to say? Do you just talk about your golf game yesterday? Who cares? Do you talk about just your issues? What about everybody else’s issues? And so I think you have to stay interested.

CNBC:
What’s your perspective on business cycles?

CAROL BARTZ:
I have a very basic concept of business cycles and that is that they just will happen. You don't know how long they will be or how good or how bad. After an up there will be a down, it’s a fact. These people that believe it will always get better, I don't think they actually have stopped to think. It’s always interesting to understand that this is going to be a really deep time down or really bubble going up and try to get that under examination and consideration. To believe that we don't have business cycles, to believe we don't have personal cycles, political cycles, weather cycles, it’s just not understanding how things work. So we have to get over moaning about the fact that things have changed and talk more about how we can change it the other way. If it’s down, how we can get up, if it’s up, how can we keep it up for a little longer, but not the fact that it will never change. That’s just irresponsible for all of the press, the politicians, the business people, and us on the street to somehow believe that things will stay perfect. Business cycles will happen, they always have and I promise you they always will.

CNBC:
That’s actually reassuring.

CAROL BARTZ:
Well it is reassuring. I wish people would understand and have the confidence to buck up and say things are tough now, but you know what, we're going to work out of it. That’s America. So this idea somehow America is not relevant and that we're going down; sure the is dollar weak, oil is bad, but let’s get over it and do we have to do to make it better and solve it. I think this time what’s got people so freaked is the word bank. I think that the average person thinks oh my God, the banks are in trouble. That takes them back to 1929 and all of what was going on back then and it's just another transition for banking. The good news is usually every industry isn’t in transition at the same time, so you have a little bit of what I call the buoys or floats under the dock. This time, somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that the whole dock is sinking. It’s just not credible.

CNBC:
Do you feel that when a business is hurting another one is benefiting?

CAROL BARTZ:
Businesses always benefit. Look at the agriculture now. The farmers who grew up on a farm, that have sucked the wind for so long and now somebody actually wants to buy their stuff. In fact more than they can make. So yes, when somebody’s hurting, somebody else is benefiting. Somebody wins and somebody temporarily loses, but you know what, maybe they win next time and somebody else temporarily loses.

CNBC:
What do you think businesses should do in a down cycle?

CAROL BARTZ:
Well I think what businesses, employees, and people should do in a down cycle is use that as an opportunity to really get good, to really take a look at what your products are, what you’re doing, get really close to your customers, and get ready to just get market share. Also to drive out of there as quickly as you can, rather than wallowing and feeling sorry for yourself. Corporations can feel sorry for them selves, not just individuals, and instead use that as the time to get enough paranoia to change. Change is so important to everybody, to governments, to people, to corporations, the ability to use the change muscle, to say,”time to change.” I call it kind of the heart attack syndrome. That is, if you’ve had a heart attack, the doctor says, “oh you have to stop eating this and that and salt and red meat.” People get all energized and you do that until you get comfortable again. Then you say “oh that hamburger would be good,” and you forget that change was important. And so you have to kind of use downturns to create the opportunity and the tension for change.

CNBC:
Because there will be another up cycle.

CAROL BARTZ:
There will be another upside, and frankly,what do you need to change to take advantage of the upside? So any time you’re feeling too comfortable, I call it kind of the boring period. That’s when you start saying uh-oh, if we don't do some change here, maybe change is going to happen to us, the kind we don't like. So, always feel a little unsettled. I call it being on the balls of your feet. Most athletes don't stand flat-footed. Companies shouldn't stand flat-footed. What are you going to do to be ready to move? I mean you don't stand like this you stand ready to go. If you’re like this, you’re going to get caught. You don't have the right products or the right services or something happened, you always have to be ready cause that way you can go any direction. If you’re flat footed somebody can push you over, if you ever try standing flat-footed once and see if somebody can push you, you fall, if you’re on the balls of your feet, you actually have some resiliency, it’s a very interesting metaphor, but it works.

CNBC:
What do you think is the best use of a down cycle?

CAROL BARTZ:
Well the absolute best use of a down cycle is to get ready for the up cycle, because it’s coming.

CNBC:
Do you think that businesses get defensive as opposed to taking the offense?

CAROL BARTZ:
Absolutely.

CNBC:
How did Autodesk go from one product to a huge number of products?

CAROL BARTZ:
When I started, Autodesk had one product, albeit a wonderful product, AutoCAD and we looked at what our customers did and said, “what they need to do in manufacturing, in building construction, in infrastructure is very diverse and goes beyond one product.” So we started thinking about better ways to serve them. Now it takes a long time, and you don't just snap your fingers and say, “oh, we're going to have another good thing to sell. We’re getting our customers into the world of 3D modeling. How can you get a product that you know is ready to go? So instead of making a real world prototype, you can make a digital prototype. You can actually understand through the modeling, analysis, and simulation that the building’s going to be good, that it's going to be eco-friendly, that it’s going to work for the people. That the part you want to manufacture can be manufactured, instead of wasting time. So we went from one product to multiple products to a really great strategy of allowing our customers to do digital prototyping. Not to sound too technical, because the concept is simple but, rather than making a life-sized car, why can’t you do that model in a computer? And we really moved to products that were very specific to bridges, the entertainment field, gaming, to creating movies, to buildings, mechanical parts. Almost anything in the built world or the entertainment world is done with an Autodesk product. We’ve been very fortunate to move and be a 26-year-old company that actually is just hitting its stride.

CNBC:
Can you talk a little bit about 3-D animation?

CAROL BARTZ:
Well the whole 3-D thing now is just going to be wild. It’s just wild. I mean people want to be entertained. It’s the same thing, they want comfort in meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and a good movie.

CNBC:
How is software helping with energy conservation?

CAROL BARTZ:
From an energy point of view and a conservation point of view, we’re all trying to understand how to make buildings. Building construction uses forty percent of the world’s carbon consumption. And twelve percent of energy in the building. So fifty-two percent of the energy consumption in the world is from buildings.

CNBC:
How come nobody says this?

CAROL BARTZ:
Because they are all worrying about an ethanol car and nobody realizes that forty percent of the world’s energy is consumed by buildings. People don't understand how important it is to design the building correctly and to understand what it’s going to do with heat transfer, fresh air, and all the things that happen in the building. So we focus a lot on gasoline and cars, but we really need to focus on our buildings.

CNBC:
So how do you integrate that into your software?

CAROL BARTZ:
Part of the strategy in our software is to help our customers really analyze how the product’s going to work. So in a building, is it going to be energy efficient? In a manufactured product, can I actually manufacture it? So in other words, can I do this correctly the first time and not waste? So analysis in our software simulation within our software is very critical.

CNBC:
Is there greater interest in energy conservation right now?

CAROL BARTZ:
Most of our architects now say that customers are asking them for sustainability concepts in their building. By the way, it’s happening all over the world. That’s another part of this wonderful flat world, is this is not just a U.S. phenomenon. In fact Europe’s ahead of us, Asia’s very interested because these products use so much energy.

CNBC:
So in this case technology really can promote conservation.

CAROL BARTZ:
Technology, in this case is the only thing that can help buildings get more energy efficient because it really can do the up-front analysis and simulation.

CNBC:
How important is education?

CAROL BARTZ:
The only thing I want to say is that, to make sure we’re encouraging our young folks, our kids, and especially our girls, to stay with math and science. So they have an option to be an engineer. They have an option to build the world, because I’ve seen young women turn on when they really understand, but if we don’t keep them interested in fourth grade or fifth grade we’re going to lose them, and that’s not good for us. It’s not good for future generations. It’s not good for our world. It’s not good for our country. So get our kids into science and math. Don't shy away from that.