‘Andy Grove was my best teacher, great hero and a ruthless critic,’ Lakshmi Pratury, INKTalks

By Lakshmi Pratury
March 23, 2016, Updated on : Thu Sep 05 2019 07:25:23 GMT+0000
‘Andy Grove was my best teacher, great hero and a ruthless critic,’ Lakshmi Pratury, INKTalks
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I often hear people say that one should keep their personal and professional lives separate. I could never do that. I have always been intensely personal about my work and I always take work home.

Andy-Grove

When I worked for 12 years at Intel, some of my friends would call me a fossil. They would ask how I could work for one company for so long when I am in the midst of Silicon Valley where startups were popping up everywhere. To be honest, even I wondered about it sometime. But what kept me firmly rooted in the same place was the fact that I loved to work for a company with leaders like Gordon Moore and Andy Grove.

Andy became the CEO in 1987 and I joined Intel in early 1988. Over the years, as I graduated from being a rookie to being a senior leader, I had many opportunities to work with Andy. We would interact occasionally at work and our paths would cross at social outings or weddings.

On one of those occasions in 1995, Rajat, my husband, then “date”, accompanied me to a wedding. When I introduced Rajat to Andy, he did not say much but asked me rather incredulously the next day, “Do you HAVE to date someone from AMD?” In those days, Intel and AMD were arch rivals and Andy simply could not understand how I could date a guy who was the architect of a chip that was competing with Intel head on.

A year or so later, when we met at another wedding, Andy was super friendly and even sat and had a drink with Rajat when he found out that Rajat had left AMD and joined LSI Logic.

Fast forward to September 24, 2015. Andy was being honored at the Churchill Club in the Bay Area and Rajat was visiting. I wanted to be at that event so badly but could not fly across the Continent to be there. So I got online and reserved a ticket for Rajat to attend the event and told him that he had to go to there and see Andy on my behalf.

At Intel when any of us did a great job, we would get the famous 'Andygrams' – a short hand-written note from Andy. I wanted Rajat to get me an Andygram. So he attended the event, braved the crowd and stood in front of Andy to talk to him. As soon as Rajat introduced himself as Lakshmi’s husband and even before he could finish the sentence, Andy said, “Oh yeah! AMD.” Rajat was completely blown away by Andy’s ability to remember such details even after a couple of decades.

The 'Andygram' that Andy Grove signed for Lakshmi in 2015.
The 'Andygram' that Andy Grove signed for Lakshmi in 2015.

Despite his shaking hands and uncontrollable movements, Andy sent me an Andygram.

Parkinson’s could have tried to rule over his body but it could not touch his mind.

Despite his deteriorating health, Andy only thought of others and he never forgot how fortunate he has been to escape to America and make it on his own merit. His words after accepting the award were,

“As we sit here and go through what each of us have done, our colleagues have done, my contemporaries have done, let’s remember that millions of young people who had the misfortune of being born in the wrong national boundaries are going through all the horrors that Ben (Horowitz, who introduced him earlier) described happened. Let’s try in our little way to help them make it.”

When you have an opportunity to work for a leader like that how can you ever keep your professional and personal lives separate? I have lost my best teacher, great hero and a ruthless critic -- all rolled into one.

 

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