I recently read Fred Wilson’s post on The CEO Mentor and Coach. As usual his post and the high number of comments are interesting. I would just like to add one of the best descriptions of a mentor I have read. It is what Robert Noyce represented for Steve Jobs. You can find the full account in the book The Man Behind the Microchip by Leslie Berlin or in a shorter account she gave for the Computer History Museum (pdf file – 6MB).
So here is a short account of Noyce’s mentoring!
“Bob Noyce took me under his wing. I was young, in my twenties. He was in his early fifties. He tried to give me the lay of the land, give me a perspective that I could only partially understand. You can’t really understand what is going on now unless you understand what came before”
“When Noyce left daily management at Intel in 1975, he turned his attention to the next generation of high-tech entrepreneurs. This is how he met Jobs.” Noyce was not attracted initially by the hippie style, “but over time, Noyce’s feelings about Apple began to change. This was due, in no small measure, to Steve Jobs, who deliberately sought out Noyce as a mentor. (Jobs also asked Jerry Sanders and Andy Grove if he could take them to lunch every quarter and “pick your brain”). “Steve would regularly appear at our house on his motorcycle” Bowers [Noyce’s wife] recalls “Soon he and Bob were disappearing into the basement, talking about projects.”
Noyce answered Jobs’ phone calls – which invariably began with “I’ve been thinking about what you said” or “I have an idea” – even when they came at midnight. At some point he confided to Bowers, “If he calls late again, I’m going to kill him,” but still he answered the phone.
Jobs agrees that his relationship was almost more filial than professional. “The things I remember about Bob are the personal things. I remember him teaching me how to ski better. And he was very interested in – fascinated by – the personal computer, and we talked a lot about that.