A Career Turn, Not on the Map

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I WAS born prematurely with hyaline membrane disease, also called infant respiratory distress syndrome. The doctors kept my mother from seeing me while they waited a day or two to see how I'd do. She wasn't happy about it, and climbed out on a window ledge to force the issue. Police cars converged, as the officers didn't know she was just trying to make a point. A female doctor worked with my mom to resolve the situation, and then my dad brought me to my mom. My parents named me for that doctor.

As a child, I suffered from exercise-induced asthma and couldn't play sports. When I was around 10, however, I started running, and my dad helped me track my progress. He kept me focused on the process and monthly goals. In junior high, I joined the track team, and I broke a cross-country record for the course at my high school in Beverly, Mass.

My parents divorced when I was young, and I was able to see two sets of entrepreneurs. My dad had a recruiting firm that was a family business -- he employed my aunt and my future stepmother. My mother and stepfather had another business, a small regional airline, also in Massachusetts.

In 1985, after graduating from the University of Maine with a degree in business, I entered the financial management program at General Electric. I left three years later to get an M.B.A. at Dartmouth, then took a position at Gemini Consulting.

In 1992, I wanted a new challenge and ended up in the high-tech industry by accident. My dad had advised me to work for people I wanted to learn from. I always remembered Eric Herr, who had been a managing partner at the Michael Allen Company, a consulting firm where I had worked one summer in business school. I contacted him and he mentioned a position at Sun, which I assumed meant Sun Oil. I told him I'd take it, that I trusted him and that I didn't need to know any more. I told my friends I was taking a leave from consulting to work at Sun Oil for a year. When the offer letter arrived, however, it was from Sun Microsystems.

That misunderstanding changed my life. For the next 12 years, I worked at a variety of technology companies. I loved the innovation in this industry; merging my business skills with colleagues' technical skills allowed us to move very quickly.

A year after joining Sun, I followed Eric to Autodesk and became director of strategy. I founded two divisions there. Next I was president of the Internet division at Cadis, a software company, then spent a year as executive in residence at the Internet Capital Group. After serving as a senior vice president at VerticalNet, I started consulting in 2000 for my friend Vic Verma, then C.E.O. of Savi Technology.

In 2004, I returned to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth as an executive fellow, and in 2005 joined the private equity firm TPG, which had invested in XOJet. I joined the airline as president in 2009 and became C.E.O. in 2010.

XOJet was started in 2006 and has grown quickly. Our challenge is to educate potential customers about our business model. Unlike charter jet companies that offer corporations and individuals fractional ownership of an airplane, XOJet owns its aircraft. Our customers pay per trip, or pay an annual fee for a certain number of hours, just as customers do in a fractional arrangement. We have also introduced a plan in which customers are guaranteed that a plane will be available when they want it.

I might have worked at my family's aviation company after college, but I would have lacked the knowledge I've gained in a number of industries. I've brought to XOJet everything from algorithms I developed at Savi to pricing strategies and marketing techniques from other industries. I'd like to think that my dad, who died before I joined XOJet, would be proud of me.

As told to Patricia R. Olsen.

employment

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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