John Donovan - Three Careers and Counting
CALL Prof. John J. Donovan the Johnny Carson of the training circuit. The ebullient Mr. Donovan doesn't so much teach his seminars as "host" them, entertaining his audience of often skeptical corporate executives while he extols the virtues of replacing aging mainframe computers with technology based on powerful personal computer technology. Professor Donovan is president and chief executive of the Cambridge Technology Group, a three-year-old information systems training company in Cambridge, Mass., with about 50 employees, and is a management professor at M.I.T. With an armful of degrees, including a Ph.D. that covers medicine, engineering and philosophy, he has been an electrical engineer, an engineering professor and a clinical pediatrician at Tufts Medical School. Today, Professor Donovan is revving up for career No. 4. Question. How do you decide when it's time to leave one career? Answer. In each case, I finished what I wanted to accomplish. In pediatric medicine, I helped establish the birth defects center at the Tufts New England Medical Center. In electrical engineering, I wrote some of the fundamental textbooks. At the M.I.T.-Sloan School, I helped establish a research organization in information systems. Once I did that, I went into business. I had always planned to leave all those careers.
Q. Do you ever miss medicine? A. I can now make a far bigger contribution to medicine by being in business. If we can make providing medical treatment more efficient and affordable, that's more than President Clinton can do. I don't want anyone to think I'm a 1960's hippie or anything, but if you're going to share the wealth, you've got to have wealth to share. The technology I'm working on is directly affecting the economies of the areas I work in. Traditional business strategies don't work anymore. Look at Tom Peter's book, "In Search of Excellence," about 20 successful companies. Boom. Most of them are gone today. Q. What's your next career? A. My goal is that I'll make a major shift in five years; I'll leave the business world for the public service. There, I'll try to address the education problems facing the country -20 percent of children today are illiterate. If that goes on, the wealth of the country and its ability to do anything will dissipate. Q. Will you advocate the privatization of education? A. You never walk into a problem with a solution in mind. I don't have a solution; all I have is enormous resources. I am going to argue that we have to narrow the problem. Q. What's the secret to having such a full career? A. I've been given a biological gift that I don't need to get quite as much sleep as most people. I'm probably up to needing three to four hours a night now, which is a lot. John J. Donovan Born: Feb. 12, 1942; Boston. Education: Bachelor's, electrical engineering, Tufts; master's degrees, electrical and mechanical engineering, and Ph.D., applied sciences, Yale. Family: Wife, Linda; five children, Maureen, 28; James, 27; Carolyn, 25; Rebecca, 24; and John, 23. Noncomputer reading: "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," by Stephen R. Covey and "The Work of Nations," by Robert B. Reich. Favorite vacation: Staying at an inn in Kennebunkport, Me. Hobby: Horseback-riding and farming.