Much has been said on the importance of education to the success of an individual. This is a debatable topic as successful people emerge like mushrooms in this present day and age – people who are unable to get a degree or even push through with getting a few units of a college education. Such is the case of William Henry “Bill” Gates III whose business success story is like a fairytale for geeks and businessmen wannabes alike.
Bill, the son of William S. Gates, Sr. and Mary Maxwell Gates, was born in Seattle, Washington. His family belonged to the upper middle class, with his father being a prominent lawyer and his mother serving on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and had two sisters – Kristianne (Kristi, the elder sister) and Libby (the younger).
He was already fascinated with anything that is related to computers while he was on prep school, and by age 13 made his first computer program using an ASR-33 teletype terminal and the block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer that has been acquired using the proceeds from the Mothers’ Club rummage sale: a form of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games versus the computer which became a huge success.
Since then, he has made numerous codes albeit the initial doubt and jitters. He co-wrote a payroll program in COBOL for Information Sciences, Inc., wrote the prep school’s student scheduling program, and studied source code for various programs such as FORTRAN, LISP and machine language. By age 17 he already made traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor and served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives. After creating a BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800’s platform (later dubbed as Altair BASIC), he and his good friend Paul Allen decided to name their partnership Microsoft. This only meant his inability to push through with his studies at Harvard.
His interrupted schooling opened up a whole new world of vast opportunities that went beyond anyone’s imagination and was a huge step towards his business success. Microsoft’s early years saw the development of the BASIC program and its partnership with IBM wherein MS-DOS was born. Through it all, Gates oversaw the company’s business details while writing code as well, personally reviewing every line of code and often rewrote them as he saw fit. The IBM-Microsoft partnership didn’t last that long due to creative differences and by May 1991, the partnership was announced over.
Microsoft wasn’t a business success for nothing – and Gates’ eclectic management style made it to be just that. From being verbally combative (interrupting presentations with remarks like “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”) to broadening the company’s range of products, he was never predictable in his management style, making the company’s long-term interests his primary goal and imbibing it to his employees as well.
Amid all the business success, accolades and recognitions he has received, he decided to pass the torch to Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie in 2006, dividing between them the company’s day to day operations and long-term product strategy. He had decided to be more active with philanthropic work through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (the largest transparently operated charitable foundation in the world), only doing part-time work for Microsoft, and has never regretted his decision since.
Attaining business success and being one of the top billionaires of the world did not blind Bill Gates of the true essence of living. His business success story shows that his accomplishments were only the beginning of a worthwhile personal and public journey – a journey that has already been carved in history as his personal legacy for many years to come. Giving back has indeed made his business success story brighter than the rest, and an inspiration to those who want to follow after his lead.