Spend any time with alum Mark Fuchs, and three things become immediately evident: his love for his family, his passion for his work and his self-admitted “over emotional” devotion to his University of California Golden Bears. Who else has the Cal logo painted across a wall in his basement, or has twice attended the Golden Bears football fantasy camp?
A while back, Fuchs ran into Austin Office Managing Partner Mike Blue, with whom Fuchs used to work in San Jose, Calif. In the course of the conversation, Blue stated that he believes Fuchs has “one of the top five accounting jobs in the world.” Upon reflection, Fuchs says he probably has to agree. And yet, Fuchs says, his position as Vice President and Chief Accountant at Google does not define who he is. In fact, when he first went into accounting, Fuchs didn’t really care for the work and wondered if he had made “a colossal mistake.”
After graduating from (where else?) the University of California, Fuchs joined the Ernst & Young San Jose office in 1984. Four years later he transferred to the Palo Alto office, attracted by Ernst & Young’s impressive high-tech client list. It was also at the Palo Alto office that Fuchs met his future wife, Becky. In 1994 Fuchs left Ernst & Young for Apple Computer, long before the iPod and iPhone became household names.
A chaotic start
Fuchs describes his Apple experience as “very turbulent, but very interesting,” including working for three different CEOs in as many years. Meanwhile, a friend invited Fuchs to join a high-tech startup in Austin, Texas. When Fuchs agreed, Apple tried to get him to stay. “I remember the CFO of Apple telling me that the returning CEO, a guy named Steve Jobs, was going to turn things around; that they were on the precipice of great things.” Fuchs left for Austin thinking that Apple would “never rise again.” He laughs. “And we all know how that turned out.”
Fuchs’s Austin years were no less tumultuous. The start-up involved a technology — “really just a concept,” says Fuchs — that would turn exposed camera film into digital images, optimizing each pixel in the process. But after filing for its IPO in early 2000, when the NASDAQ was at about 5,000, “everything did a one-eighty,” he says. With institutional investors no longer interested, the IPO was canceled and a difficult private placement ensued. Fuchs “hung on” there until 2001 and then headed east to take a position at the SEC.
Fuchs was enjoying his time at the SEC, and had been there less than a year, when he received a call from a headhunter who had previously worked with Fuchs’s wife, Becky. The call resulted in interviews at two San Francisco-based technology companies, job offers Fuchs turned down.
But in the process, his name came to the attention of Ernst & Young’s Dave Hickox, who happened to mention him to Andrew Cotton, then the Ernst & Young partner serving Google. Cotton knew of a position at Google and contacted Fuchs to see if he was interested. Calling it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” in 2003 Fuchs took the job. “I don’t know if it was just dumb luck,” he says, “or an exemplar of the chaos theory; you know, a butterfly flaps its wings in China, and next thing you know, I’ve got a job at Google.”
Welcome to fantasyland
Fuchs describes working at Google as a fantasyland, “a world within a world,” as he puts it. “When I first got here, I remember reading the company’s mission to ‘organize the world’s information’ and ‘uplift mankind,’ and, well, I just sort of rolled my eyes,” says Fuchs. But today, after watching how the company has “revolutionized the way people do things,” Fuchs freely confesses, “I’m a true believer.”
Innovation is “part of the DNA” at Google, says Fuchs. “There’s definitely an edge here — a constant drumbeat to innovate — that’s set from the very top.” In fact, through cutting-edge technologies such as cloud computing applications, mobile web access, and increasingly relevant search results and ads, Fuchs says Google has set a course to innovate its way to significantly increased revenues. He’s convinced that even in the current economic climate, “it’s Google and the next Googles, those entrepreneurial companies that haven’t yet emerged,” that will pull us out of the economic quagmire.
Fuchs reminds us that Google itself emerged in a down market. “Sometimes it takes conditions such as we’re currently facing to spawn the innovation that leads to recovery.”
What really counts
Fuchs points to the camaraderie of his Ernst & Young days, spending time crisscrossing the country with Google cofounder Larry Page as part of the company’s IPO “road show,” and standing at the NASDAQ podium the day Google went public, as the highlights of his career. But without hesitation, Fuchs says the absolute best part of being at Ernst & Young was meeting his wife, Becky. Today the couple has three children, ages 4 to 13. “I love my job and I’m blessed to work with some of the most talented people on the planet,” says Fuchs. “But being a husband and father, that’s what really defines who I am.”
Fuchs has a favorite quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Happiness is derived not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.” This has been true of his own life, says Fuchs. “My job and career have given me ‘great pieces of good fortune,’ but those little, everyday interactions with your family, your friends, your coworkers — that’s what life is all about.”