Policemen are getting younger, so are bosses

Delayering and downsizing, not to mention the cult of youth, are so prevalent that these days it is not just policemen who are getting younger. Company executives are, too, writes Roger Trapp.

Nevertheless, 32-year-old Tim Robinson still stands out from the crowd. For the past six months he has been managing director of the UK arm of Silicon Graphics, a Californian computer company.

Although the organisation (unlike IBM, his previous employer) is expanding rather than contracting, this must still be a daunting task for someone who many would regard as lacking sufficient experience.

To Mr Robinson, who joined Silicon Graphics in April 1995 as European marketing director, it all comes down to participation. "If you're going to spend the energy to employ high-calibre people, you might as well give them space," he says.

Although his job is made easier by the fact that the information technology industry is younger than most and therefore staffed, and often run, by people barely out of college, he points out that he is the youngest member of Silicon Graphics' UK team. He insists that he does not feel uncomfortable about this, but only because he does not expect to know everything. When it comes to new initiatives or decisions to be made he always consults, but he stresses that this process only goes so far: "I've got to make the decision."

Some would say that such a leadership style is easy enough to apply in a young company like Silicon Graphics where the technology is so advanced that no one can understand everything and where the type of people employed are likely to be creative and unsuited to the strait-jacket. But Mr Robinson says: "A huge amount of this is applied common sense. The balance of command and control and creativity will vary from organisation to organisation."

Mr Robinson knows this from being intimately involved in the integration with Silicon Graphics of Cray Research, after the merger that took place at the time he was handed the reins.

Bringing together the two cultures has been a challenge but he says that the Silicon Graphics culture is becoming infectious, with the phrases "Make a Difference" and "Make it Fast" particularly influential.

He is a fan of allowing people to do their work in their own way and in their own hours (as a father of young children he tends to leave at 5.30pm and work at home for a couple of hours later), but he insists that this is no "creative Nirvana".

"The company is largely driven by the business model, and if things don't fit into the business model they don't happen," he says. He is also keen to stress that his operation, which this year had revenues of about pounds 95m and employs about 275 people at its headquarters near Reading and in three other locations, is not just an offshoot of the $2.8bn (pounds 1.66bn) turnover US organisation.

"It's a fairly stand-alone subsidiary," he says, though he reports to top management headed by Edward McCracken, the chairman and chief executive. Customers of its "visual computing" simulation systems range from the BBC to Jaguar, which used Silicon Graphics equipment in the design of the XK8 luxury sports car. In an attempt to provide a top-class service to the film and television post-production suites that use its equipment, often for special effects, the company has also opened an office in Soho

Mr Robinson and his colleagues have been keen not to replicate more of the Californian way of life than British staff can bear, though he has followed the US headquarters in supplying mountain bikes as a means of helping staff travel between different buildings. Moreover, Mr Robinson is keen to foster the spirit of innovation that has proved so fruitful for companies of this type.

He says his priority is to work with customers and partners to maintain the momentum built up by Silicon Graphics in the UK. He adds: "I try to bridge technology and what it can do. What I like to be able to do is explain what technology is there."

This role utilises his old marketing training, but he also sees an opportunity for co-ordination. While the Cray deal was a straightforward merger, he sees the future bringing more of the partnerships and alliances that have begun to spring up in all sectors, from oil exploration to retail. Consequently, future growth will not necessarily bring more employees.

Silicon Graphics will prosper, he believes, by attracting people with a technical background to do interesting work in a company that has critical mass but is not so big that they are just cogs in the machine and have difficulty making an impact.

Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
Arts & Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'
tv
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
VIDEO
Sport
Jonathan Trott will take a second break from cricket after suffering a repeat of the stress-related illness that forced him out of the Ashes tour of Australia
sport
Life & Style
life
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Arts & Entertainment
Back in the suit: There are only so many variations you can spin on the lives or adventures of Peter Parker
filmReview: Almost every sequence and set-up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 seems familiar from some earlier superhero film
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Telesales & Sales Support Apprentice

£221.25 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a well established Inter...

Client Relationship Manager - SQL, Python

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Client Relationship Manager - SQL...

**Financial Services Tax**

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Take your chance to join the...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit