What is Steven Anthony Ballmer best known for? Two things: his important role in Microsoft and his incredibly effervescent personality. As CEO of the giant corporation, Ballmer has been the befuddling protagonist of several viral videos that can be seen on the internet. He is a very passionate speaker and is famous for his loud and enthusiastic manifestations. In 1991 for instance, a famous incident led to the need of surgical interventions on his vocal cords. During a meeting in Japan, he repeatedly screamed “Windows, Windows, Windows” and finally ended up in a hospital where doctors had to “fix” his voice.
So who is this dynamic man behind Microsoft? And has he always been like this? The answer to that last question is “yes”. An unauthorized biography of Ballmer, written by Frederic Alan Maxwell and called “Bad Boy Ballmer”, reveals a manic Steve throughout his entire life (though not clinically so). He was born on March 24, 1956 in Detroit, to Frederick Ballmer , a Swiss immigrant who used to work as a manager at Ford Motor Company, and Beatrice Dworkin, a Jewish American. Steve also had a younger sister with whom he grew up in Farmington Hills, near Detroit, Michigan.
Always paying attention to details and always very methodical, Steve was a bright student. He graduated as valedictorian from Detroit Country Day School in 1973 and now he is one of the institution’s board of directors. In 1977 he graduated “magna cum laude” from Harvard, receiving a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics. He was more than a very smart young man (he got a score of 800 points in the mathematics section of the SATs): during high school he was also the manager of his school’s basketball team, and during college he managed the college football team and he worked for the Harvard Advocate and The Harvard Crimson.
While in college he lived down the hall from Bill Gates, who he later became friends with. They remained close even after Gates dropped out of Harvard to start building his Microsoft empire. After graduating, Ballmer became a staff member at Procter & Gamble, working in the company as an assistant product manager. He was pretty successful there, but after two years he decided to return to school for his MBA. So his next stop was Stanford Graduate School Business. But after one year of studies, Ballmer finally gave in to Bill Gates’ incessant appeal to join his company.
In June 1980, Steve Ballmer became the first business manager hired by Gates with an initial salary of $50,000, plus an ownership percentage in the company. When Steve started working for Microsoft, it was only a summer job. Bill however had his own ways of convincing his friend to drop out of Stanford and dedicate his career to the company that at that time had only 23 employees and just $12.5 in annual sales. Clearly, Ballmer’s decision was fully rewarded in the years that followed. He was the first person to become a US dollars billionaire in a company of which he was not a founder and neither was any of his relatives. Now he is the 46th richest person in the world, with an estimated worth of $14.5 billion.
When Gates stepped down from the position of CEO of his flourishing corporation back in 2000, Ballmer was chosen to replace him. Three years later he sold 8.3% of his shares in the company, keeping a stake of only 4%. He is now the longest-serving Microsoft employee and he has headed different divisions within the company over time, including Sales and Support, Operating Systems Development and Operations.
Ten years after becoming an active Microsoft employee, Steve got married to his wife, Connie Snyder and they have been married ever since. They also have two sons together. About his kids Ballmer once said: “My children – in many dimensions they’re as poorly behaved as many other children, but at least on this dimension [using Apple products] I’ve got my kids brainwashed: You don’t use Google, and you don’t use an iPod.” He is known to be a very vocal critic of Microsoft rival companies, so this declaration should come as no surprise to anyone.
Passionate, funny, sincere, dynamic, and focused, Steve Ballmer is one of the most successful businessmen alive, with an immense fortune and a glittering career. Videos of him are all over the internet, showing him manically chanting “developer”, enthusiastically dancing on stage, or passionately advertizing for a new version of Windows. He has a unique personality and he is worthy of admiration for all his successes. Actually, any person who makes it on Forbes’ list of billionaires (especially when there is no big inheritance involved) is worthy of admiration!