HE HAS BECOME A FIXTURE in Canada’s high-tech scene, but in January Microsoft Canada president Frank Clegg will step down to take a nine-month sabbatical with his family. He will return to Microsoft in September, 2005 in an undetermined position.

David Hemler, vice-president of central region

for small- and mid-market solutions, will replace the outgoing president.

Clegg joined the company in 1990, when it had a staff of about 90 people and revenues of $55 million. Fourteen years later, the Canadian subsidiary has grown to more than 700 employees with $1 billion in annual revenues.

For the past four years, Clegg has been at the helm, responsible for initiatives such as a public education effort to help parents protect their children online and assisting the Toronto Police Service in building the Child Exploitation Tracking System.

Three years ago, Clegg led a fundraiser for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s “”That All May Read”” campaign, for which Microsoft Canada built a $33-million digital library for the blind, bringing together high-tech partners, providing content such as newspapers and magazines and offering $2.5 million in funding and expertise.

In the following interview with editor Patricia MacInnis, Clegg gets personal, and puts his money where his mouth is when is comes to balancing work and family life.

Computing Canada: : What are the most significant changes you’ve witnessed inside Microsoft in the past 14 years?

FRANK CLEGG: Microsoft Canada has changed from a subsidiary that was executing and implementing worldwide plans to being an enterprise within an enterprise that has an opportunity to influence worldwide behaviour.

When I started, we had a warehouse, distribution relationships, we had hardly anybody covering enterprise systems, no consulting team, no community presence.

So we’ve evolved over the 14 years and we’re one of the most respected companies in Canada. We have created a G7 within Microsoft and Microsoft Canada has a seat at the table.

CC: How does this influence manifest in other geographies?

CLEGG: We created a new way to cover enterprise customers this past year. Chris Stanley, the VP of the enterprise team, helped craft that, so when it came out worldwide . . . it’s about moving more toward solution selling. It’s a change from a primarily desktop, Office and Windows team to a more total solution team.

You need to change your coverage model, the skill sets of your team, the relationships with your partners, so those sorts of things had to be determined.

CC: Outside Microsoft, what advances have had the biggest impact on you, your company, your customers?

CLEGG: If you think 14 years ago, I remember the first time I went on a plane, I had my laptop doing e-mail. Everyone on the plane was asking me what that was. The thing weighed 14 pounds. Today, everyone is doing e-mail. It isn’t an anomaly. Computing is now part of everyone’s life. It’s integrated into business. Before it was an adjunct. If you did anything technical, you were a unique entity, and sometimes nerdy, whereas today, you can’t live without e-mail.

The other (advances) are handwriting and voice recognition. Fourteen years ago, it was a dream. Now, I sit with my tablet PC, I take notes in meetings, I scribble on PowerPoint slides.

CC: What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of at Microsoft?

CLEGG: My boss summed it up incredibly. He said Microsoft Canada has an incredible reputation of being an innovator and a leader and accountable for running its business. That’s the team, and I feel blessed to have worked with and created this team of amazing professionals.

CC: What advice will you give to David Hemler as he takes over?

CLEGG: Take your time to get your arms around the business. We’re doing fine; the company is in great shape. Don’t feel you have to come in and do a lot right now. I’d also say to continually balance more customer satisfaction work and partner satisfaction work.

CC: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself at Microsoft?

CLEGG: I do a pretty good job of getting the team to collaborate and make a decision. The thing I could have done better is sometimes I could have been tougher.

CC: When you come back to Microsoft in September 2005, in what capacity will that be?

CLEGG: Steve Ballmer was down in January and I’ve had incredible support. He’s been very clear that they want me back. There’s 50,000 jobs in MS, there’s going to be one with my name on it.

CC: What do colleagues/employees think of your sabbatical?

CLEGG: What I told the team was for the first time, I am prioritizing my family over my job, and (I got) a standing ovation.

I don’t know anyone when they retired who said, “”I wish I’d spent more time at the office.””

CC: What are some of the initiatives you created at Microsoft to support the work/life balance?

CLEGG: I made people take vacation. Our controller hadn’t taken a vacation in three years. I made him go. It’s about encouraging people to use technology, so if you have to be home . . . I like to be home for dinner, so I go home, we have dinner as a family, as much as we can, then I get back on e-mail. Allowing people to have flex-time in the workplace. We have a very easy process if something happens to a family member, you just let your manager know and they get to go.

CC: What’s the goal of your sabbatical?

CLEGG: I’ve been talking about family/work life balance since I joined Microsoft. Now I get to walk the talk. I want to reconnect with my daughters and my wife. Your relationship pays a price. We’ve had a busy year and we’re fine, but I want to reconnect with them. We’re going to go through these personal profiles as a family.

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