I applied for SDSU's College of Business Administration because I heard good things about the school
Norm Fjeldheim had just quit college and his father was not happy.
Fjeldheim was enrolled at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's College of Architecture, but he realized that he wasn't happy there. After a couple of years, he left the university.
"My parents were not thrilled," said Fjeldheim. "My dad told me that if I quit school, I would be on my own if I decided to go back."
For two years the Bay Area native lived at home and worked as a carpenter to save money and before taking the plunge into higher education again.
"I applied for SDSU's College of Business Administration because I heard good things about the school," Fjeldheim remembered. "Plus, after two years of living at home, I was really ready to get away from the Bay Area."
Once he was accepted at the university, he packed up his car and moved to San Diego. "That was in 1980," he said. "I've been living in San Diego ever since."
One of his most influential classes was an introductory computer/information systems course. Fjeldheim originally took the course because it was required; however, he says the professor, Dr. Nell Cooper, made this course so interesting that he switched his major from management to information systems.
Getting some work experience or an internship while in college is extremely valuable.
Several years after graduating from SDSU in 1984, he first joined Burroughs Corporation. After a couple of years Fjeldheim left to join M/A-COM, which had been founded by Irwin Jacobs in the early 70's. Jacobs had already left the company to form Qualcomm Inc. and, soon, Fjeldheim's supervisor left to join Jacobs at Qualcomm. In 1987, he persuaded Fjeldheim to join the company as Qualcomm's first information technology (IT) employee. "There were less than 100 people at Qualcomm then," recalled Fjeldheim.
After holding various roles within Qualcomm, Fjeldheim was named Chief Information Officer (CIO) in 1999 – a position which he still holds today. With 185 offices throughout the world, one of his primary responsibilities "is to ensure that our employees have access to the data and the systems they need in order to do their jobs as efficiently and effectively as possible."
The position also has its share of challenges, one of which is a major issue in the digital world. Fjeldheim notes: "It is my responsibility to protect all of Qualcomm's data and systems, as well as employee and customer data. Cyber attacks are increasing in frequency and sophistication and it is a significant challenge to stay ahead of those attacks."
Many of the employees in IT at Qualcomm – approximately 140 – are SDSU graduates, some of whom had internships at the company.
"Getting some work experience or an internship while in college is extremely valuable," said Fjeldheim. "It can mean the difference in getting the job you want out of school or not."
The most effective leaders I have met, inside and outside Qualcomm, have all been effective communicators.
And while getting work experience is important, Fjeldheim says the most significant lesson that today's SDSU business students should learn – and every business person should learn – is to successfully communicate. "The most important classes I had at SDSU were the business writing classes. Learning how to effectively communicate, both in public speaking and writing, took me further than any other class I had," he said. "The most effective leaders I have met, inside and outside Qualcomm, have all been effective communicators."