I interviewed John Rollwagen, former chairman and CEO of Cray Research, for a Minnesota business magazine article titled “Full Circle.” John’s story is a perfect illustration of the value of connections, synchronicities and how we often find ourselves in someone else’s orbit.
Androcles, the Roman slave who removed a thorn from a lion’s paw, was later spared from death when the lion recognized him in front of a bloodthirsty crowd in the Coliseum. If Androcles had been a Twin Cities business leader, a seemingly isolated incident early in his career would undoubtedly have led to his company capturing the lion’s share of the market years later.
These three stories from Twin Cities businesspeople illustrate the inscrutable relationship between connection and coincidence. Call it karma, reaping what you sow or what goes around comes around; inexorably, like a circle completing itself, scales are balanced and debts repaid.
JOHN ROLLWAGEN’S STORY
When I was 12 years old, George Hanson was my scoutmaster at Cleveland Avenue Methodist Church in St. Paul. In the summer of 1959, when I came back from my first year of engineering school at MIT, I was looking for a summer job and my dad said, “Why don’t you call George Hanson?” I said, “George Hanson, my old scoutmaster?” He said, “Yeah, I read in the paper that some new company is starting up. It’s Control something. George is involved and maybe they’d have a spot for you.”
The company turned out to be Control Data and I (more…)