Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Analysis: The Hand Of Retired CEO Andy Grove Is Seen In Intel's New Leadership

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 3, 2013

Renee James 2

Foremski's Take: Most Intel watchers are agreed, that Intel's new CEO, insider Brian Krzanich, is a safe choice but that Intel needed someone to "rock the boat." 

They miss the fact that Intel is a supertanker, you can't rock a supertanker no matter how much you jump up and down - you can just gradually change its direction.

What they also miss is the new Ms. in the executive office: Renee James, the new President, the partner to Mr. Krzanich in Intel's  "two-in-a-box" leadership team.

 "I work for Brian, but the rest of the company works for Brian and I," James said. "We put the strategy together as a team."

Intel goes inside for new CEO: Brian Krzanich | OregonLive

Her appointment shows the enduring influence of Andy Grove, former CEO and Chairman, and the creator of Intel's notorious "Marine Corp." culture. Ms. James worked as his technical assistant for four years - a mundane title that disguises the fact that it is always a fast track position into the top ranks of Intel.

Take a look at what Andy Grove said about Ms. James in a rare 2009 interview:

[Grove] says his onetime apprentice has found her own style, and a unique voice, in a potentially inhospitable environment. "That kind of puts hair on your chest, to do that and survive, as a woman in software in a company that's a manufacturing company. To do that, you have to have strength."

"Renee has an incredible ambition to do things and succeed and then do something harder and succeed. It's a driving ambition and it makes her undertake high-risk things. And it's not that she doesn't worry about the bumps...But she takes them on."

"I would like to see her in the top role, or one of the top roles, at Intel."

Rewriting the rules: Intel's software chief challenges convention | OregonLive.com

Mr. Grove got his way.

It's significant that she was head of Intel's software group, the company employs more software engineers than hardware engineers.

And its also significant that she is not an engineer, but has qualifications in business and marketing, similar to Paul Otellini, the retiring CEO, who was sometimes criticized for not being a technologist.

Intel's alchemy...

Mr. Krzanich has a Chemistry degree as did co-founder Gordon Moore, because making chips is all about chemistry -- it is an alchemy that transforms common sand into shiny square slivers of advanced technologies, worth more than their weight in gold.

Intel's board, which by-the-way is very much a "Grove" board - it was completely restructured by Mr. Grove in the mid-2000s - essentially went back to basics with the appointment of chemist Mr Krzanich, but made sure there would be an"outsider" perspective in Intel's strategy with the appointment of Ms. James as co-leader.

Another significant point: Ms. James is based in Hillsboro, Oregon, where Intel is the state's largest employer. Its Silicon Valley HQ, where Mr. Krzanich works, is hundreds of miles away from its massive manufacturing operations in Oregon, and Arizona.

[Paul Otellini has an office in San Francisco, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge but still commutes every day to Santa Clara, more than 50 miles away. A former Intel executive tells me he was always the first one in to work.]

Ms. James's desk is next to Andy Bryant, Intel's Chairman -- she's much closer to the working heart of Intel than the distant Santa Clara HQ.

Andy Patrizio at Networked World, writes

She should be the CEO because these [Intel's business challenges] are all areas that require vision. Krzanich is an ops guy. That would have been something if Intel picked her, because then three of the largest firms in this industry - IBM, HP and Intel - would all be led by women. But for now she's the number two and really the one to watch.

 Please see: 

Where Is Intel's New CEO? Should There Be Two? -SVW

Renee James background:

Grew up in Los Gatos, Calif.; came to Oregon to attend the University of Oregon (Class of 1986), where she ran track, majored in political science and later earned a master's degree in business administration.

Joined the company in 1989 when Intel bought the small California company where James worked, Bell Technologies. James spent four years as technical assistant to Andy Grove in the 1990s when he was Intel's chief executive and chairman. Later, she ran various Intel software initiatives and ran its Microsoft group before being promoted to head of the software group in 2005. She is a member of The Committee of 200, a group of 400 women business leaders.

Here she is at Intel Developer Forum in 2012:

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