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Jabil CEO talks leadership and success with EMBA students

Jabil Circuit, a supply chain management and electronic manufacturing company based in St. Petersburg, is a very large company that few people know much about -- and that's according to its CEO.

Mark Mondello speaks to students

"Customers think, 'I don't see a Jabil on a shelf, I can't go out and buy a Jabil,'" CEO Mark Mondello said recently, when he came to campus to speak to USF Executive MBA students.

But, Mondello said, that relative anonymity is by design. The publicly traded company takes in about $18 billion in revenues by working with high-profile clients – company names that the public would immediately recognize. Jabil succeeds because its customers do, not because the public at large recognizes the Jabil brand, he said.

"We set a tone and carry ourselves with a lot of humility, and I don't ever want to get out in front of our customers," Mondello said.

That attitude of humility was on display during his presentation as part of the Executive MBA curriculum's Distinguished Speakers Series. Mondello, whose brother Mike Mondello is a professor in the Sport & Entertainment Management program, talked about his company, his career, and his views on leadership to more than 100 students and other attendees.

"The best way to learn is to just be quiet and listen," he told students. "I really think that good leadership is a servant role."

Mondello started at Jabil in the 1990s on the manufacturing floor, after graduating from USF's engineering program in 1987. He rose through the company, taking the chief operating officer position in 2002 and becoming the CEO in March of this year.

He said he believes the company's success has resulted from the diversification of the products it produces. The world is changing fast; a company could have focused on making the best CD covers in the world in 2000 and, without any other products to fall back on, would have found itself out of business a few years later, Mondello said. Jabil has succeeded because the company makes many products that serve different functions.

"As long as lumpy, three-dimensional things exist in the world, we've got a good business," he said. "Our folks always laugh because my moniker is 'we build stuff.' It doesn't sound very elegant, but it's what we do."

Mark Mondello speaks to students

Jeremy Shanklin, an Executive MBA student who is a supply chain manager at Jabil, introduced Mondello to the class, noting that one of Mondello's favorite places to be was where he started at the company – on the manufacturing floor.

"He's very down-to-earth and a great leader," Shanklin said of Mondello.

Sales teams from Jabil travel the world constantly, but Mondello said there is one conversation he never wants to have after those trips.

He said he'll receive a phone call saying, "The sales team was here for a couple days, but they didn't go to the manufacturing floor once."

"And I'll say, 'OK, what were the names? Thanks. That won't happen again," he said.

Mondello said he doesn't see the point in Jabil employees traveling thousands of miles around the globe if they can't realize what the company is all about.

"You're not so busy that you can't take five minutes to go down and say thanks to the people who are making a difference," Mondello said.