With all that’s been going on, I was nervous that I wouldn’t even make the interview with Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak last week.
When I did, I was pleasantly suprised.
Dressed informally without a tie or jacket, Ishrak is comfortable in his own skin. Despite running a multibillion-dollar company, he did not have any airs. He didn’t mind when I ordered him to switch seats because I wanted a perfect video and not one where his face appeared too dark because of the light.And despite the worry of his corporate communications chief, Ishrak was a natural on camera. No umms, buts or awkward pauses. Clearly those YouTube videos at GE helped his on-camera demeanor.
And there were few talking points. OK, so when asked about the underperforming business that is Kyphon, his initial response was the business has “stabilized.” But when pressed he did admit candidly that the facts are that Kyphon revenue fell even last quarter and that, if necessary, he will look at restructuring options – but not before the business was given a fair shake.
That is refreshing given that I have encountered people occupying far less prominent positions who refuse repeatedly to admit a negative truth even though they are being hit over the head with it. That type of recalcitrance doesn’t engender respect from reporters.
Of course, what heartened me most is that we conversed in both our mother tongues before the official interview. Ishrak was born in Bangladesh and I in Kolkata (Calcutta) and we both speak Bengali. And his English accent is so like mine that I dropped the pretend pseudo-American accent when on the job (something that even the corporate communications chief noticed).
Finally, you could tell that ultrasound runs in his veins, using the term former GE CEO Jack Welch used to describe Ishrak in his book “Jack”Straight From the Gut.” Before I left his office, he asked whether I had taken 3D ultrasound images to see what the baby looks like.
Sorry Omar, those ultrasound pics are bit too freakish for me. I am glad to have one to know my baby is healthy, but don’t care for any lasting mementos.
Read from the interview with Omar Ishrak:
- Omar Ishrak’s Medtronic: Bigger in India with more R&D hiring in Asia
- Ishrak: Medtronic must take advantage of ’highly mobile’ world
- Q & A: Omar Ishrak talks healthcare reform, Infuse and beyond