Paul Shorthose
On the Fast Track in the Promised Land
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Bill Gates is not the only high-powered, high-tech executive to drop out of college and jump on the fast track to success. Paul Shorthose, chief executive of Art Technology Group (ATG), put down his business administration and computer science books after two and a half years at Derby College in Derby, England, and left for a job opportunity in Nottingham. Eight months into his career, however, he spotted a job ad for a tobacco manufacturing company in the United States that read "Come to America"--an opportunity to go to the "promised land," he recalls. So in 1979, at the age of 22, Shorthose packed his bags and crossed the Atlantic. From the tobacco manufacturing company he moved on to hold various positions at technology and consulting companies. In his 23-year career he has held positions in sales, marketing, and service. "Every two or three years I tried new types of challenges to get exposed to the full business life cycle," Shorthose says. Shorthose, who never went back to complete his degree, was hired by ATG as the company's vice president of worldwide services in 1997--at a time when free-spirited dot-commers viewed college drop-outs who traded in their education for an early jump on their career as entrepreneurial types. Shorthose fit right in to the free-spirited environment of the start-up. Since then he quickly climbed the corporate ladder, becoming ATG's chief operating officer in June 1999, president in February 2000, and finally chief executive in October 2001. But when he took the reins as chief executive, Shorthose, at this point a seasoned executive, opted to abandon what he calls the free-spirited environment common among Internet companies of the late 1990s. Instead, he chose to lead with the more process-oriented approach he learned as a consultant. His first task was to "get the management team to understand my leadership style and ask them to give me a shot," he says. Shorthose also brought in some new top-level talent, including a chief financial officer, and an executive for North American sales, international operations, and channels. Along with the managerial modification came a change in focus for ATG. Part of the change included shaking the image of merely being an Internet commerce company. "We had a commerce product in 1995 to 1996. While commerce software has suffered a bit over the past year or so as the Internet gold rush has suffered, ATG has stayed the course. We're starting to get more entrenched in our coverage of business-to-consumer and business-to-business solutions supporting the business life cycle from selling, marketing, transacting, and supporting customers from the front to the back instead of back to front," Shorthose says. Shorthose's ability to transform ATG while weathering an economic storm proves that sometimes the school of hard knocks beats what they teach in the classroom.
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