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Jabil CEO conversation kicks off new event series

Mark Mondello and Dean Moez Limayem

Jabil Circuit CEO Mark Mondello runs a company that far surpasses the term of "local business:" a publicly traded company, the St. Petersburg-based Jabil is one of the world's largest contract manufacturers, with more than 180,000 employees throughout 102 locations in 28 countries.

While Jabil is a complex global business, the lessons Mondello gleaned from his career are still fairly simple. He said to focus on listening more than talking, see leadership as a servant role, and be consistent in actions both work-related and personal.

Those insights were revealed as Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem conducted an informal interview with Mondello on March 24 about the three main factors that influenced his business journey and brought him to where he is today. Mondello was the first CEO to take part in the Conversation with a CEO event, which will become a regular series with events throughout the year. Audience members asked him questions on every subject from how he manages to stay sharp and relevant to the importance of mentoring in his life, with Mondello answering their questions candidly.

"I am just thrilled today to start this initiative with my very close friend Mark Mondello," Limayem said. "He's a visionary, very generous, but also extremely humble - my biggest challenge in arranging this was to convince Mark to be here," he said, adding that Mondello had jokingly asked how much attendees were paid to be at the event.

Mondello lived up to the humble descriptor when speaking about the lessons he had to share from his life and career.

"I've made every mistake you can make, I think - not too many twice, thank goodness," he said.

Mondello has been with Jabil, a Fortune 200 company, for more than 20 years. He 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 2013. His brother, Michael Mondello, is a professor and associate director of USF's Sport & Entertainment Management Program in the Muma College of Business.

In response to an audience question about the importance of mentoring in his life, he named his top three mentors, of which two were family: his father, a former boss and Jabil founder, and his wife. About his father, Mondello said a hard-scrabble early life had taught the Mondello patriarch things about life that can't be learned from textbooks.

"He taught us the value of a handshake ... and he also taught us the value of a dollar," he said.

Mondello said his wife has taught him about serving others - she opened a school in Pinellas County for special-needs children and also parents their three children - and helped him understand when to leave work at the office.

"I have no title inside the household," he said.

On a similar note, Mondello spoke about how often, when employees rise through the company, they start to get arrogant. He emphasized that in his view, leadership isn't about arrogance. He said that part of his leadership role at Jabil has been measuring not only financials as a benchmark of the company's activity, but also Jabil's activity in the community - reminding the audience that metrics on that community engagement are as important as the financial ones.  

"It's about taking care of others all the time," he said.

When asked about a decision he would make differently, he spoke about accidents years ago at Jabil factories in which a few employees were seriously hurt. He got emotional speaking about having to speak to a hurt employee's wife about what had happened. He said initially as CEO, he assumed that Jabil's safety procedures were adequate, but these incidents taught him that when a company grows more than 12 percent per year, extra effort is required. 

"That happened under my watch," he said. "Today, our efforts around safety are world-class."

Of Jabil's future, Mondello said that one of the challenges for the company is to be on the cutting edge in a world where that is incredibly difficult. 

"Our ability to figure out where everything is going in two to three years is almost impossible," he said. "I think about how quick the world is going by, and a big thing for all of us is to stay agile."

After an hour of conversation, including Mondello saying that "everything" kept him up at night, his parting words to attendees were to not take the events of a workday more seriously than warranted.

"If you can control 2 to 3 percent of your day, you're fortunate," he said.

"It's almost like an MBA in a few minutes," Limayem said of Mondello's career insights.

Visit our Facebook photo gallery to see more photos from the event.