Peter Mann: Shortly after that, the Gulf War began and so we were sent over the Red Sea for about six months. That was a changing event for me. I got married a year out of college. We got married very young. I missed the last six months of the pregnancy and I missed the birth. I didn’t actually find out he was born until a day or two after because we didn’t have Internet.
Sramana Mitra: What year are we talking of when you got back from the Gulf War?
Peter Mann: I got back at the beginning of 1992.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do when you got back?
Peter Mann: I started looking for a job. While you’re in the military, the notion is that you get a great experience and then you can get out and take a job. What I and a lot of other people found was that while you have skills, it’s somewhat difficult to transfer that to a relevant business experience. Leveraging my Statistics degree, I got a $20,000 a year entry level job at a manufacturing company in Florida, which is where my wife is from. I quit the job because that wasn’t my career aspiration. I felt it was easier to find a job when you had a job than to have a gap show up in your resume. I worked there for about a year.
I applied to a job for a similar position at Tech Data, which is a large computer distributor. This is more of an individual contributor position. It’s more about leveraging my Statistics degree and analytical skills. That was a great experience for me. The company was doing $900 million in sales. The seven years that I was there, we reached over $20 billion. I moved up in position from entry level to a director level.
Sramana Mitra: What year does that bring us up to? About the end of the ‘90s?
Peter Mann: That brings us up to 2000. From 1991 to 1992, I was at that manufacturing company. Then from 1993 to 2000, I was at Tech Data. When I was at Tech Data, our second son was born. I went to school at night to get my Masters degree in Engineering Management at the University of South Florida. It was a pretty busy and exciting time.
My son, when he was born, had asthma. It was just an awful experience for everyone. There were times when he just couldn’t breathe. He was helpless. How can you help someone breathe? That was really a challenging time for about a year when he was really struggling health-wise. That stuck with me. It led me to our current business.
Sramana Mitra: What happened in 2000?
Peter Mann: I was recruited by Dell to be a Senior Manager and develop dell.com. That’s how I ended up in Austin. I did that for about a year and a half. I had two positions there where I was responsible for strategy for all of the products and I was pretty heavily involved with the launching of Dell printers. Dell was getting into the printer market in a strong way. I had a big role in watching that product. That was a really good experience in terms of bringing a product into the market. I didn’t get it in MBA. Between Tech Data and Dell, I got experience on the job which was as good or better than what you would get in a business school.