Michael Fields has a very patient wife. Sandra Fields is originally from the Virgin Islands and has been waiting 38 years to move back to her warm-weathered isles. But it looks like she’ll just have to keep waiting.
The family has followed Fields’ career from Long Island to New York City to Massachusetts to the Bay Area, where they have been since the late 1980s.
“We came out to California and my wife saw that she didn’t have to wear a coat,” said Fields. “She loved it and after that she informed me that she and the kids were moving back to California.”
So Fields put his roots down in Blackhawk as one of the founding members of Redwood City’s Oracle Corp. (ORCL) in 1989.
“I was actually only at Oracle for three years but it was that time when Oracle had to reorganize itself to become a real business,” recalled Fields. “I was president in 1990 and was part of the team that turned the company around.”
Fields had been in technology since 1963, when he took his first job as a programmer/operator in New York City before he joined the Air Force in 1965 as a programmer/analyst. He worked for nearly four decades in technology before he retired and set his sights on moving to St. Croix with his wife. But that wasn’t in the cards.
Fields and his wife had just sold their Blackhawk home when he was asked to join the Board of Directors at Kana Software Inc. (KANA), a customer service software company in Menlo Park, in 2005.
At first, he was not interested, but eventually the director position snowballed into temporary president, which eventually transitioned into Fields becoming the company’s chairman and CEO.
“My initial reaction to that was no, because we had sold our house in Blackhawk and were moving to St. Croix, but I said I’d be acting president until we found a solution for CEO,” said Fields. “But that gave me the opportunity to look into the company and see a great market and technology that our customers are gaining real business values for. I came back to the firm with a short-term strategy so they asked me to become the permanent CEO and I agreed and that’s how it started.”
Fields is the kind of person who loves the challenge of growing a company. He doesn’t do it for the money. He does it for the thrill. His first task as new CEO at Kana was to prune the tree a bit.
“When I got here, the company was too top-heavy,” said Fields. “We had 22 VP’s and 130 people and you don’t need that, so we didn’t downsize, we right-sized. Now we’re using that capital to hire more salespeople in the U.S. and Europe. We did that because it was the right thing to do.”
Fields spends his days flushing out his management strategy, which he says involve a combination of responsibility, authority and accountability.
“Most people believe they have too much responsibility and not enough authority,” he said. “I believe that with authority and responsibility comes accountability. So you get the responsibility and the authority but you’re held accountable. It’s a lot of fun and I try to adhere to that example myself.”