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Dave McClure – Multiple Reboot “Upgrades”

Dave and Sally McClure
Dave & Sally McClure
Dave McClure says he’s rebooted so many times he’s almost lost count. He’s one of those unsinkable Molly Brown kind of individuals whose enthusiasm and drive has propelled him through several careers and whose optimism remains a solid source of strength.

“Mine is a story of what you might call a lot of minor reboots, or maybe just upgrades, like software upgrades,” Dave says.

Right now Dave has several irons in the fire at age 64. A resident of San Carlos, CA, he has just launched a personal financial planning business and is affiliated with several consulting firms offering a variety of services.

His path has taken a number of twists and turns since he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Illinois, following in the footsteps of his older brother. He took an electronics job at Hughes Aircraft in California and dove into an engineering master’s degree program at the University of Southern California. He was halfway through before he decided he really preferred other things to the intense technical focus of engineering.

“What I really enjoyed were the things I was doing on the side – leadership roles in various organizations, being a team leader and the head of volunteer organizations, being class officer, that kind of thing,” he said. “So I started taking prerequisite courses for an MBA. Immediately after getting my master’s in engineering I enrolled in the MBA program at the University of California at Irvine.

“UC Irvine was a great school. We had a lot of ‘name’ professors who had left other branches of UC and had come to Irvine. I got a wonderful education. After I got out I landed a good job with AT&T and was placed in their management program. I was with AT&T for four years, in Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco. I got promoted twice and was heading toward being a district manager.

“Then affirmative action came along. From a social standpoint, I realized it was the right thing to do to bring more minorities and women into management. But for a white male, it was a disaster. It turned out the only way I could make it to the next level was to take a one-way trip to New York or New Jersey. They eliminated the possibility of my coming back to California.”

Dave left AT&T and went back into electronics again with a smaller company, California Microwave, and as he said, “That started my Silicon Valley saga.” In due course he caught the startup fever and was involved in launching two startups. One didn’t work out well, but the other one was bought by Cisco.

“That was the good news,” Dave says. “The bad news was that it was right before the dot-com crash. Cisco stock went from 65 to 8-1/8. My wife Sally said, ‘Our ship came in – and sank.’”

He stayed at Cisco for a couple of years, but grew restless and went out on his own with a consulting business in general management, business development and venture capital fundraising. As a consultant he had the opportunity to serve temporarily in a number of high level executive positions, including CEO of a nonprofit, Pacific Medical Research Foundation. He enjoyed that so much that he left consulting to become the CEO of the Hearing Society for the Bay Area in San Francisco.

Shortly after Dave became CEO his agency was approached with a merger offer from a larger nonprofit in the same field, San Francisco Hearing and Speech Center. The merger went through, and suddenly he found himself as the CEO of an organization that was four times as large as the one he had joined.

The larger organization had some financial difficulties which didn’t come to light until after the merger. About the time they were discovered, the San Francisco Unified School District, which had contracted with the center to run a program for children with hearing difficulties, decided to bring the program in-house. This loss of school-based funding necessitated a major step-up in efforts to raise money in the intensely competitive nonprofit world of San Francisco.

“That meant a lot of black-tie events, buying tickets to take donors and potential donors to football and baseball games, and a lot of schmoozing,” says Dave. “I like a little of that, but not a lot of it. So we brought in someone who could do it more comfortably and I stepped aside.

“And that brings me to where I am now. I’m associated with four different organizations – one doing angel venture capital funding; two providing management counsel, mentoring and advice for startups, with one of them focusing on encouraging women to lead startups; and one doing personal financial planning.

“I’ve certainly had a more exciting career than my brother, who worked for the same company for 41 years. I told him it sounded like he was bored and disgusted the last 10 years he was there. He said, ‘I was.’ Well, I can’t say that at all. I’ve never been bored. I’m still having a lot of fun.”

Dave says one of the most important factors in his career has been a great relationship with his wife, Sally, who has not only given Dave strong emotional support throughout their 41-year marriage, but who also went back to teaching after their children reached high school, providing an income backup and benefits coverage for the family.

“Another important thing has been having a strong belief in God and being able to pray about things. Sometimes I have to get literally hammered to my knees and say, I can’t handle this by myself. Then I realize that’s where I should have started.”

Dave would strongly advise potential rebooters to maintain and grow their personal networks. “Talk to people about what they do and how they got into it, and try to start generating a model of what your true interests are. A network has two big advantages. The first is information, and the second is the relationships you have – somebody buying into what you’re trying to do, encouraging you, offering an introduction to somebody else, telling you something you hadn’t thought about. I would encourage talking to a lot of people.

“Build a model of what you’re really interested in and what your skills are. I remember an acronym from a book on self-motivation I read a number of years ago – SIMS. It stands for System for Identification of Motivated Skills. Draw a Venn diagram of your motivations (what you enjoy doing) and skills (what you are really good at). Where your motivations and skills overlap – that’s where you need to go.”

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