January 11, 2005
Distinguished Alumnus Jeff Henley ('67) Looks at Globalization and Innovation
LOS ANGELES - Jeff Henley (’67), was named chairman of Oracle in January 2004 after 13 years as the database giant’s CFO. During Alumni Weekend last October, Henley received UCLA Anderson’s 2004 Outstanding Alumnus Award. In a recent interview with Anderson Assets editor Paul Feinberg, Henley demonstrates the thoughtfulness and vision he brings to his post at one of the world’s most successful companies and offers his thoughts on a wide range of business and economic issues.
Q. First things first, what role does management education play today, as institutions seek to provide the human capital that will drive business here and abroad?
A. I think one of the reasons America is a leading economic power is because of its higher education in business and the sciences. International students come to the United States for technology and business training. It's been true for Japan and Japanese students for years; now you're seeing it more and more with other countries, such as India and China.
International students learn good business management — things like asset allocation — and they apply these lessons to their businesses back home. As these things helped the American economy, they also help foreign economies. I view (this) as a good thing. We’re helping the world become a more rational place by exporting quality economic ideas.
Q. So, what about the globalization of U.S. corporations? Are you as concerned as some seem to be about job outsourcing?
A. It makes people nervous to see jobs moving offshore to countries like India and China. But, of course, jobs have been moving overseas for decades, only now we're seeing new types of jobs going to other countries - things like call centers and IT jobs. But there is a diversity of jobs in the United States and no one knows what future jobs are going to look like. I don’t think there is a danger of all our jobs going to India.
People fear the unknown. When I was in business school, the great fear was automation. That was pervasive in the ’60s. We wondered what people would do when their jobs became automated. A hundred years ago many Americans worked on farms, and there were fears as industrialization eliminated farming jobs. But the great thing about the American economy is that it is constantly evolving. We find new jobs — whole categories of new jobs — in new industries. One thing America does well is that it keeps reinventing itself.
The movement of jobs offshore raises the living standard in countries like China and Brazil and as the living standards go up (the citizens) become consumers of American products. In the 1960s Japan was relatively poor, but as their GDP on a per capita basis went up they became some of the biggest consumers and biggest savers and investors. It is great for underdeveloped countries; it lifts their GDP and helps us export goods.
Politicians fan the flames of fear. Is there any cause for concern? Of course, if you’ve lost your job, you have a reason to be concerned. People need retraining and education during their lifetimes, so they can find new jobs.
Q. In the past, corporations touted their stability. Today, while stability is important, being on the cutting edge seems equally essential. What’s the key to staying one step ahead?
A. Standing still is a risky strategy. I’m a believer in new marketing, new products. It’s especially true in technology but I think it’s true in any business. You need to listen to your customers; you need to know all about your competition. That’s the way the world works. That’s one area where business school really helps: learning to look at the underlying elements and how to consistently evolve your strategy. We’re constantly grappling with ways to stay ahead and evolve.
Q. We’ve heard you speak about how changes in the corporate culture of Oracle helped improve the company. How does something “intangible” like culture impact something “tangible” like the bottom line?
A. Oracle is a global company and we decided that in all of the countries, in all of the divisions, we would do things the same. The same best practices, same data storage. By changing the culture and going to a uniform model, people had to accept that everyone would be doing things the same way and we would work together for best practices.
Interestingly, a lot of Oracle’s customers are doing that now, it’s a trend, and it’s more efficient from an information standpoint. The issue is a lot of employees rebel; they don’t think it is possible. People need to accept that they can operate differently. More and more we’re going to see centralized business models.
Q. Andrew Groves wrote Only the Paranoid Survive and you’ve quoted him before. Do you believe that’s true?
A. I really believe it. It’s particularly true in technology where there can be abrupt changes. One danger is not adapting to change; when a competitor gets ahead, you have to be really careful.
There is a global threat as well. We’re going to see more software companies in India and China. You can never be complacent. It’s a wonderful way to think about things. Complacency is the kiss of death. Wang/Xerox — there are companies that are not around anymore or have gone through a downgrade because they couldn’t stay ahead. Reinvention is inevitable.
Q. Finally, what did winning the Distinguished Alumnus Award mean to you?
A. When you reach a certain point in your career and your life achievements, you receive some recognition in the business community — you get a title and you get recognition from your school. Everyone enjoys being recognized. It’s an honor.
But it’s good for UCLA Anderson, too. Over the years they’ll be honoring a lot more people. The program is great, they’re bringing in good people and they’re getting good skills and training. Over the next 30-40 years a lot of UCLA Anderson alumni are going to rise to the top. There’s going to be lots of CEOs, lots of chairman of the boards who come out of the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
About UCLA Anderson School of Management
UCLA Anderson School of Management is perennially ranked among the top-tier business schools in the world. Award-winning faculty renowned for their research and teaching, highly selective admissions, successful alumni and world-class facilities combine to provide an extraordinary learning environment. UCLA Anderson students are part of a culture that values individual vision, intellectual discipline and a sense of teamwork and collegiality.
Established in 1935, UCLA Anderson School of Management provides management education to more than 1,400 students enrolled in MBA and doctoral programs, and some 2,000 executives and managers enrolled annually in executive education programs. Recognizing that the school offers unparalleled expertise in management education, the world's business community turns to UCLA Anderson School of Management as a center of influence for the ideas, innovations, strategies and talent that will shape the future.Contact Information
Alumni Relations, (310) 825-9448, firstname.lastname@example.org