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The Changing of the Guard:
Novell Data Systems Becomes Novell

In March 1983 the three directors of Novell—Ray, Pete, and Dolf—met for the first official meeting of the board. Dolf was Chairman, a position he would hold until January 1986, when Ray became Chairman. After reports on the progress of the company, the first order of business was the election of company officers. Ray was officially installed as President and CEO, and Harry Armstrong was elected Vice President. Scott Loveless, a Utah attorney, was elected Assistant Secretary. The other officers were all Safeguard people: Ray Kraftson was Secretary, Bill Gillan was Treasurer, and Gerald Wilk was Assistant Vice President. The officers were elected for a term of one year.

Ray’s choice of Harry as Vice President indicates the importance of his role relative to the roles of others in the company. Harry was personally responsible not just for the manufacturing and shipping but also for many of the sales that kept NDSI’s head above water. In contrast, Craig was still Director of Marketing at this point and would not be elected Vice President until 17 months later, in August 1984.

Much has been made of Ray’s willingness to entrust great responsibility to little people. Part of the Noorda legend is his ability to discern among the mob those individuals of genius and talent, the diamonds in the rough. In interviews and speeches Ray made a point of encouraging this idea. “Finding the best players has been one of the most important things in the companies I’ve been in,” he said to an interviewer in 1988.

As mentioned (p. 79)at the beginning of this chapter, Ray went to the trenches for his players.

By May 1983, Ray had, as suspected, found that people like Craig and Judy, plus some of the programmers, knew far more about the company than those who were managing it. Needless to say, management was “streamlined”.

SuperSet, Harry, and Craig formed the core management team, although “management” was a somewhat ambitious description of what these six individuals actually did. Ray had picked them not for their managerial skills—because they had never demonstrated any—but for their ability to make things happen. They were all “do-ers.” In any case there were no employees to manage. If something needed to be done, it was up to them to personally handle it.

Among the support employees were Judy (whose job now was to help manage the office and to dress up the Novell booth at trade shows), her husband Reid, Diane, and Lorraine. Other employees were hired about this time, some of whom had previously worked for NDSI. Kelly Spencer was hired in March to help Harry in the plant. Jim Bills, who had headed Technical Service in the NDSI days, rejoined in June. David Owen, an engineer who had worked for NDSI for a year, rejoined in July.

Although Ray cared little for titles, the differences in rank do reflect the relative standing of each individual in the company.

Harry was Vice President of Sales.[Footnote 1] Craig was Director of Marketing. Dave was Director of Engineering. Kelly was Materials Manager. Jim was Director of Technical Services. Judy, at first Manager of Corporate Communications, was made Director of Corporate Communications.

The individuals Ray picked to fill the key roles in the new Novell were, without exception, relatively young and inexperienced people. All except for Harry (age 40) were under 30. The four members of SuperSet were recent graduates of the “Y” and Craig was a college drop-out. They shared similar qualities: A burning faith in the destiny of NetWare and Novell; a willingness to commit themselves totally to their work—to eat, sleep, and dream Novell; an ability and desire to make things happen without waiting for direction; and an absolute personal loyalty to Ray.

Ray’s critics attribute different motives to his choice of managers. They see him not as a great liberator of human potential but rather as a CEO who would not brook the independent ideas of experienced professionals. In elevating people with no career histories to key management positions, he guaranteed their loyalty and their good behavior. They were his creatures: He made them and if necessary he could break them.

Footnote 1: In Novell’s Form S-1 filed with the SEC at the beginning of December 1984, Harry Armstrong is listed as Director of Operations and Sales from January 1983 to November 1983, when he was elected Vice President. However, the Delaware franchise report submitted by Novell in March 1983 lists Harry as Vice President. Further complicating the record are the frequent statements made by Ray and others in various interviews that Harry was Production Manager when Ray arrived in January 1983.

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