“Three Life Lessons I Learned in My Nearly Three Decades with Zebra” | Zebra Blog

“Three Life Lessons I Learned in My Nearly Three Decades with Zebra”

Chief Administrative Officer Mike Terzich reflects on his career and shares key lessons as he prepares to retire from Zebra.

Mike Terzich is retiring from Zebra on June 30, 2020, after 28 years.
by Your Edge Blog Team
June 19, 2020

In 1991, the year that Mike Terzich joined Zebra to support operations, Bill Gates borrowed a business book from Warren Buffet called Business Adventures and never returned it. If we didn’t know any better, we would assume that Mike got his hands on that same book, using it as a guidepost for his 28-year career with Zebra.

Before assuming the role of human resources (HR) lead in 2014, Mike held positions in nearly every global function of our business, including product, sales and marketing leadership roles. As Zebra CEO Anders Gustafsson recently noted, “Mike's agility, positive attitude and deep understanding of our industry has made him an integral part of Zebra's successful history.”

Mike’s passion for helping people prosper both personally and professionally have also made him an inimitable member of the Zebra community – and the local communities he has so selflessly supported over the years. He is a true advocate for inclusion, diversity, equality and human well-being!

Since Mike will be retiring from Zebra next month, we asked if he would be willing to impart some wisdom on us all one last time. Here is what he shared with us:

“As my retirement from Zebra​ draws near, I find myself reflecting and appreciating the impact that Zebra has had on both my professional career and life as a husband, father and citizen. The lessons I've honed over 28 years at Zebra are priceless to me and while simple, these are the three most important ones I'm taking with me on my next adventure: 

1.  Treat others as you expect to be treated.

It’s a simple concept, but not always easily executed. For me, this is the cornerstone to building solid relationships that are needed to effectively manage a complex business.

It starts with being respectful of others and includes valuing and encouraging their opinions, views and ideas and remembering everyone's perspective matters. People deserve honest feedback and want to do good work. I have always assumed positive intent and trusted our team at all levels and functions to do their job. I also gave them the latitude to do it. You cannot scale and develop an organization if your team has to be micro-managed to succeed.

Things don't always go as planned, so when that happens, spend the time determining the best path forward and don't spend the time looking for someone to blame. Recognize accomplishments in public; provide constructive feedback or correct setbacks in private. When colleagues feel valued, respected, trusted and constructively allowed to overcome setbacks, then amazing things happen to engagement and business performance.

The same can be said for managing your personal life as well. If you want to develop strong, confident and independent children, value their input and allow them to experiment and fail at times. Micro-managing your family will get you the same result as doing so with your work team. No kids? No problem. Show that same grace and support to yourself in whatever you challenge yourself to do.

These simple principles are exactly how I have appreciated being treated as I've grown in my personal and professional life.

2.  Know, then compliment, your limitations.

"None of us are as smart as all of us." Be humble and don't be afraid to ask others for help, advice, perspective or insight. Be vulnerable and recognize when you may not be the best person to lead an assignment, role or situation. If you treat others as you would like to be treated (see above!), then those colleagues will want to help you in return. If your ego is one that always has to be right or you have to be the smartest one in the room, then you can never truly be effective, no matter what point you are at in your career.

Surround yourself with highly skilled, intelligent people who are willing and able to help you navigate through difficult situations. Don't be afraid to ask for help at work or at home. I have been amazed by the insights and creativity that my wife and children have provided me in helping the family navigate through difficult situations. It really has spoken to me on the power of diverse thinking and perspective.

3.  Have the courage to re-invent yourself.

As the saying goes "Nothing lasts forever." That can be said for a business or for your career.  When I joined Zebra in 1992, no one had the vision that it would become the company that it is today. We felt that we had a great growth opportunity to expand barcode printing across vertical and international markets, and we were excited to do just that. We stayed focused and honestly, we could have hummed along as a happy printer company for a long time.

But we also knew that just staying on the same course, no matter how seemingly lucrative and stable it was, ran the risk of Zebra becoming less relevant over time. That's where our value of innovation comes into play with new ideas and strategies driving us to re-invent the business.

Zebra bet its entire future on the Eltron acquisition in 1998 and again on the Motorola Solutions’ Enterprise Business acquisition in 2014. Both acquisitions took Zebra to a new level, which enabled us to celebrate more than 50 successful years in business; a true feat for any technology company. 

Good companies do not stay static. They find opportunities to trigger new strategies and use that as the fuel for re-invention.

Don’t be afraid to re-invent yourself as a person, either. I joined Zebra in its infancy and had the good fortune to lead many functions. I found myself making stops in Customer and Technical Services, Product Management, Marketing, Sales (multiple times), Operations and Human Resources. By embracing change and testing my limits, I was able to gain an immense amount of experience and build important relationships that made me appreciate the diversity of our business and our great people.

There were plenty of times I feared the unknown and wasn't sure if I could meet expectations, but I always had the courage to press on and never regretted it. I encourage you to always be bold enough to re-invent yourself; you'll be surprised with how much you can accomplish.

Thank you, Zebra Nation, for the many years of friendship, inspiration, partnership and most importantly, for the many things you've taught me.”

Though Mike has learned much from his experiences at Zebra, we at Zebra feel we have learned even more from him! So, we just want to say “thank you” to Mike for your kindness, dedication, advocacy and unwavering spirit! You will truly be missed!

Editor’s Note:

Holly Tyson just joined Zebra in April 2020 as Chief Human Resources Officer. She will continue Mike’s legacy to help accelerate the company’s talent programs, Inclusion and Diversity initiatives and Employer Value Proposition (EVP) strategy.

Fun Fact:

When Mike joined Zebra in 1992, the largest shopping mall in the United States, the Mall of America, was opening its doors to shoppers for the first time. Just last year, Zebra was invited to take part in a “Store of the Future” pilot program led by McKinsey & Co. in that very same mall. Tune back into the Your Edge blog one week from today for an inside look at the types of digital shopping experiences that might be in store 28 years from now.

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