The Professor and the Deputy
Erik Gutenbourg was a middle-aged engineering academic who was known as the professor by his colleagues. After spending 20 years in the ivory tower, he decided to swap university life for what he hoped would be fame and fortune in private industry. He was a precise, energetic and small-framed man who had a beard and restored and drove vintage English sports cars as a hobby. And regardless of the situation, he always thought he was right.
I never had the privilege of lengthy conversations with him because he had been unceremoniously dumped from his position as CEO of Fabrica prior to my engagement. His offense was to have presided over the company’s first major — and very large loss-making — contract in specialized engineering applications, an action that did not endear him to executives at ADK Gruppen, the European conglomerate that counted Fabrica among its many subsidiaries.
Gruppen also decided to dispense with Max Klein’s services when it fired the professor. Max the deputy, as I always thought of him, was in his mid-30s, tall, jowly, balding and defensive. He had been with Fabrica for several years; before that, he had had a respectable if not exciting career in manufacturing. Becoming the assistant to the professor meant making it into the big leagues to Max. Unfortunately, this was to be the pinnacle of his career as, tainted with failure, he was fired alongside his supervisor.
While I favor firm and decisive action in ...