An interview with Jeff Rosica, CEO and President of Avid Technology (USA).
— When and where were you born?
I was born in a town called Novato, California. It is just out of San Francisco. My mother was an interior decorator, and my stepfather was an engineer in the US Air Force. I didn’t see much of the military life as a child — we didn’t live on a base or in that environment.
— Did you go to a public or private school?
My parents always believed that we should go to public schools. My daughter also goes to public school. I think it depends on where you are. We’ve been living in Boston since my daughter was five, and the schools here are fantastic. I grew up in a very accepting area, and there was less of a class divide. Private schools can get a little too selective, and I like that my daughter can grow up surrounded by different types of people and backgrounds.
— Were you a good student?
I was a decent student. I wasn’t perfect, but I did well because I did all my work. I was interested in lots of things outside of school, so there were distractions that got in the way of class. One of these was technology, which I’ve always loved.
— What subjects did you like in school?
Math has always been something that I was interested in. I liked English but not science as much when I was in school. I like it more now.
— What did you do after you graduated from high school?
I went to Sacramento State University — it’s in the capital city of California. I started in 1979.
— Who paid for your university studies?
— My parents paid for it. Because it was a state university, it was heavily subsidized by the state.
— What did you study at university?
I started out thinking I was going to be an architect. I was a very impatient student — I was keen to get on with my professional life. One of my teachers, who was also my counselor, essentially scared me out of doing architecture. He told me I wouldn’t be able to design buildings early on in my career, and I couldn’t see myself at a drafting table for ten years. When I was in my third year, I switched. I decided to get a business degree and just be done with college.
— How did you get into the industry?
A friend of mine recommended an internship at a local TV station because I was artistic and technical. I was lucky because they didn’t have enough editors, so they asked me to start editing. I thought it was fun, but I didn’t enjoy it that much. But I did like media — the combination of technology and art is really exciting.
— Where did you work when you were out of university?
While I was working at the TV station, the manufacturer who made the editing system they were installing invited me — I was one of the young kids trying to try out as much as I could. They had me go to NAB and do demos for them only a few months after I started working at the TV station. I thought NAB was great! I liked it, so I found a job in marketing. This is how I got into the business — I loved the combination of technology and media so followed it.
— What was your job in this company?
I started there in the marketing department. The couple who owned the company had become mentors and friends for me throughout my career. They wanted me to get international experience and sent me on missions around the world to get experience. I then went to the sales department and became a part of the international sales department. After this, I started a new broadcast and media hiring company — I started the division from scratch and built it into a pretty significant company. At the time, the company Philips Electronics was still in business. They hired me, and I went to work in a business development function for them. I rose through the ranks there and got a lot of experience around the US and England.
— How did your career develop at Philips?
Philips had lots of training programs, and they told me I scored well around business management and development. So, they put me on a career development program for that. They ended up promoting me to be the Vice President and General Manager of their professional media division for the Americas and Asia-Pacific.
— What role did you have at Philips during the various acquisition processes?
Philips ended up selling the company to Thomson Electronics in France. I was part of the team that helped sell this division. They asked me to come with the company, so they signed me on a contract to run the combined groups of Philips and Thomson for the Americas and Asia-Pacific. Pretty soon after that, we acquired Grass Valley Group. Because of my experience of doing the Philips deal, I was sent in to help with the acquisition. We then merged all of the companies together.
Jeff Rosica with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh
— When did you join Avid?
I got sent back to Grass Valley to sell the company, and they installed me back as President to clean it up before selling. I stayed for a couple of years after I sold it, and during that time, Avid invited me to join them. I was actually hired by the board of directors at the time. They wanted to make a big change in the commercial function. They knew me because Avid was one of the bidders when I was selling Grass Valley. They didn’t buy the company in the end, but they did get to know me. So, when they were looking to make some changes, they asked me to join.
— Have you always wanted to be a President or CEO?
I got to know the CEO of Thomson when I was working with them, and I shared that I felt I didn’t understand finance and operations as well because I hadn’t gotten an MBA. So, he put me in the mergers and acquisitions group and I got to work there for about four years. It really sharpened my financial skills. I didn’t know at the beginning of my career that I wanted to be a President or CEO. Over time, I realized I had more skills and abilities, so here I am.
— What were your goals when you became CEO of Avid?
I got to put the company on a new trajectory. When I came in, my goals were around fixing the commercial side of the business. The company felt like the sales engine, marketing engine, and customer-facing functions needed to be revitalized and focused. My goal was to get the organization more effective and efficient and deliver better numbers.
— You have a lot of experience with companies in different countries. Can you compare the business styles?
Fundamentally, the business is the same. When you compare what people are looking to do, it is very similar. There are differences, as every market has its own unique requirements and priorities, but when you boil it down it is very much the same. You can really see the differences in culture, business models, and laws. I think our industry almost has its own language and way of doing things, outside of cultural and governmental boundaries.
— Are you married?
I got married in 1989. In the first 12-13 years of our marriage, my wife and I really focused on our careers. She is in the fashion industry. We wanted to have children, and having our daughter was a bit of a miracle. She just turned 14, and she’s a fantastic figure skater.
— Do you have any hobbies?
I love to do remodeling, so we built a playroom for my daughter in the attic when she was younger. Now, I’m remodeling that whole space so she can have more of a teenage hangout spot. I love spending time with my family. I like watching my daughter skate. We also travel a lot as a family.