MySQL CEO Marten Mickos Interviewed

Posted in: MySQL, Technical Track

I just read this excellent review by Matt Asay of an excellent interview by Guy Kawasaki (of and apple fame) of MySQL CEO Marten Mickos.

Now although I started my career in Oracle in the early 90s, I’m a fan of MySQL and open-source technology in general (see my support of DBD::Oracle for an example.) That being said, I’m not really a fan of Monty Widenius, who in an interview in Fortune in May of this year shocked me and totally turned me off by admitting that “[he has]a very low opinion of human nature, which is that people are both greedy and lazy,” and that “Of course you have noble people, but they are a small fraction.” I vehemently disagree. Note that he was saying this while describing his interactions with his teleworking team, which is particularly disrespectful. I painted MySQL CEO Marten Mickos with the same brush. He’s quoted in the same articles as counselling hiring managers to “[a]void young men without a wife or girlfriend or dog or parents.”

OK. So that’s what we’re dealing with here – great software, cynical executives. So all that background serves to introduce that I really enjoyed Guy Kawasaki’s new interview. Either this guy is actually more balanced and reasonable than that original interview displayed, or he is successfully polishing his own personal image quite nicely in this interview. He really seems to get it, which is great. I still think nowhere near 50,000 people are getting up every day and working on MySQL (that’s the headcount at Oracle) and as a result, Oracle and MySQL are not close to serving the same market, but the reality is that historically Oracle was shoehorned into a market that MySQL now serves better, so in that sense at least they are competitors. Pythian supports both platforms (Oracle since our inception in 1997, and MySQL since 2002) and our availability monitoring suite supports both platforms natively. So we’re in the fun position to be able to say: sometimes you need a hammer, sometimes you need a jackhammer. More interestingly, sometimes you can get the job done with 10 hammers and you still don’t need the jackhammer! Use the right tool and you’ll do a good job.

Interesting stuff, good reading.

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About the Author

As Pythian’s Chief Executive Officer, Paul leads this center of excellence for expert, outsourced technical services for companies whose systems are directly tied to revenue growth and business success. His passion and foresight for using data and technology to drive business success has helped Pythian become a high-growth global company with over 400 employees and offices in North America, Europe, and Asia. Paul, who started his career as a data scientist, founded Pythian when he was 25 years old. In addition to driving the business, Paul is a vocal proponent of diversity in the workplace, human rights, and economic empowerment. He supports his commitment through Pythian’s hiring and retention practices, his role as board member for the Basic Income Canada Network, and as a supporter of women in technology.

3 Comments. Leave new

Marten Mickos
August 29, 2006 12:40 am


Thanks for the comments on the Fortune article. My quote about whom not to hire was taken out of context and many people have reacted to it.

What I said was that when you hire people for remote working, you need to make sure that they have a “civic” distraction other than work. If work is all they do, and if they live and work in the same place, it is too much. Younger people are more sensitive to this, and perhaps younger men are especially sensitive to this. And in open source, people are so passionate about their work that they may forget the other aspects of life.

So you need to encourage them to keep a hobby or have a pet or something. And if they have a spouse and perhaps a family, then they have plenty of non-work distraction. So I joked about this and said “don’t hire young men without …” and that’s the quote that got into Fortune. You should never joke in an interview (because it is so easy to be misunderstood) but sometimes I can’t help myself.

At MySQL we try to encourage people to be family-oriented and to be active in their hobbies. We believe that provides for a good balance between work and life. I think Markus Popp’s blog entry about joining MySQL is a great description of how we want things to be:

Make more sense now?



Thanks, Marten, and thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog. I always thought I might have been unfair to lump you with Monty’s humanity is greedy and lazy comment. As for that comment, I must say, if Monty really believes that and was not unfairly quoted, I am amazed at his undeniable success in life thus far. It has been my experience that 95% of getting people to work hard and passionately for you is giving them the secure feeling that you respect them, their contributions and share their passion. I can’t see how someone who is such a misanthrope can yet achieve that, perhaps it’s a testament to his leadership skills that he has been able to despite his misanthropy?

Marten Mickos
August 29, 2006 8:11 am

Yeah, I was upset with Monty’s comments, too. That’s not the way I know him and that’s not the way we run our company. I don’t know what went into him the day of the interview. People do work both hard and passionately for MySQL.



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