All podcasts

Jim Gibbons, CEO Of ImmutriX Therapeutics

Are you weighed down by limitations and think you're not good enough to take on life's challenges? This is the podcast for you! In this episode, Jim Gibbons talks about how he has overcome blindness and made a mark as President and CEO across multiple organizations during his career and now as CEO of ImmutriX Therapeutics and Founder of Forward Impact Enterprises. Jim shares the story of losing his sight in childhood, how it affected him later on in life, and how he pushed through and led through influence rather than position. Tune in and be inspired by how he excelled as a leader and a visionary, even in the absence of sight.

---

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Jim Gibbons, CEO Of ImmutriX Therapeutics And Founder Of Forward Impact Technologies

On Blazing The Trail For Others As A Fully Blind CEO And Founder

My guest is Jim Gibbons, who I met in business school. Jim is the CEO of ImmutriX Therapeutics, a biotech firm focused on blood filtering that has applications in both human and animal health. Jim is also the Founder and President of Forward Impact Enterprises, a company he formed in late 2020 to develop a mobile app designed to gather and share immediate feedback from group settings.

Prior to his current work, Jim was the President and CEO of Goodwill Industries. Prior to joining Goodwill, Jim was President and CEO of the National Industries for the Blind. Before that, he held a number of roles at AT&T, including being the President and CEO of CampusWide Access Solutions. Jim is also notable for being the first fully blind individual to graduate from Harvard Business School after gradually having lost his sight as a child into early adulthood.

Outside of his nonprofit leadership at Goodwill and the National Industries for the Blind, Jim’s volunteer work has included board and advisory roles with Independent Sector, Charity Defense Council, Leadership 18, ACT, and Credential Engine. In addition to earning his MBA from Harvard, Jim earned his Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University. He and his wife, Tami, live in Indiana and are the parents of three adult children.

---

Jim, welcome. It’s great to have you.

It’s good to be with you.

You lost your sight in the later years of your childhood. How did that affect your teenage years in terms of your thinking about where to go to school and what you would major in?

I started losing my vision in third grade. I was totally blind by the time I was a junior at Purdue. My greatest influences on what to study and where to go were my father, brother, and brother-in-law. They were all engineers, so I felt like engineering was a good pathway for me. I was always pretty good at math and science.

It seemed like a career path where you could get gainful employment, so that influence was heavy on me. Purdue was a great school that was north of Indianapolis, where I grew up. I applied to a couple of other schools thinking, like any young person, “Should I choose pre-law, this, or that,” but engineering had the greatest draw for me at that age.

Purdue is one of the schools I applied to. I never got out there to visit it, though.

You would’ve come if you came out to visit us.

Probably! What options did you consider following school? I know you ended up at AT&T, but what else were you thinking about?

It was an interesting process. I had pretty good grades but had a tough time finding that first opportunity. I interviewed probably 50 times with on-campus interviews and got about 50 ding letters. We called them ding letters at Purdue. It wasn’t until close to graduation that I finally got a job offer. I got two, one with AT&T and one with IBM. I was having a tough time selling myself as a blind engineer when I was competing against everybody one-on-one in the stack of 200 resumes that would go back to the plant or the operation.

At both AT&T and IBM, I had great processes with them. Right after graduation, when I got my first offer, I ended up going with AT&T out of Cincinnati, Ohio, partially because of the geography, but in both cases, I liked the managers who were offering positions. The one at IBM had the first two years of my career planned out for me, which, for a 21-year-old, was pretty exciting, but I ended up weighing the opportunity in Cincinnati a little higher.

Granted that this was back in the mid-1980s, how did people deal with your blindness? You made the point about being a blind engineer applying against all these other kids coming out of school who had full sight. How do you feel like that process went?

 

CSCL 21 | Blind CEO

Jim Gibbons: You have to communicate, set expectations, and listen. That's how you lead with influence versus top-down authority.

 

With one of the interviews I had with a different division of IBM, I had what I thought was a great plant visit. I spent the day talking about robotics, programming, and automation. In my final interview, a guy said, “How do you dial a phone?” I thought, “I’m not going to get this job.” It was a barrier to overcome trying to get somebody to take themselves out of a position of what it would be like to be blind and let the person they’re interviewing tell them how they would handle it.

Probably two of the greatest mentors I had at AT&T took it on directly in the interview process. These were former bosses. They asked direct questions about blindness. I always found those were the best people to work for because they asked and accepted the answer. One guy asked me, “How would you do this, this, and this?” I said, “I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out.” They said that was the reason they hired me.

You have to deal with it. It’s a topic you have to work through in terms of the how. It’s good that you found people at AT&T who were comfortable having that conversation with you and helping you figure out the how.

It was a great company to work with.

You had a bunch of different roles there. I know you worked in network operations, product planning, M&A, and competitive strategy. Was it a formal rotational program or did it end up working out that way for you?

No. I did not hire into a leadership development program, but over time, I garnered mentors within AT&T in the different functional areas. I created my own path, hitting the different functional areas based on mentors’ advice and whatnot. Though it wasn’t a formal program, I hit the different rotations that somebody might do more at my own pace.

When did you decide that you wanted to go to business school?

My wife, Tami, and I were probably at a point of, “When do we want to start a family?” I was doing the debate between quitting to go to school and going to night school. Night school looked awfully hard to try and balance work, everything else, and school. I thought, “If I can get into a school like Harvard Business School, then maybe I’ll do that full-time.”

I applied once and didn’t get in, and then two years later, I reapplied and got it. I still remember that night when I got the acceptance letter. Tami and I went out to dinner to celebrate. We had the windows down going, “Woo-hoo,” because it was a pretty big deal for this kid out of Indiana to find his way to Harvard Business School. We were pretty excited.

It’s a great accomplishment to get into any of the top business schools. You had the notoriety of being the first blind student to attend HBS, right?

Yeah, but there have been a number since I was there. That’s good news.

You were a trailblazer. You proved it could be done.

I hope.

You did. How did the school support you in developing a learning approach that would work for you?

I thought the school was amazing. None of the cases would have been recorded at that point. It was before the time that everything was electronic. Everybody had a laptop. It was probably in the early days of every business school student having a laptop, but they worked with an organization and had every one of my cases recorded.

I did every case with a recording, and then I would use a scanner to scan in things they couldn’t get recorded in time: handouts or books not on the list at the beginning of the semester. It was a combination of electronic means, scanning, and cassette recordings. The shame of that was it was two years away from where they did that for every student. They modified their approach and made everything electronic for me, which would have benefited everybody.

It’s always a good thing if the technology for accessibility paves the way for everybody else, but I missed that window a little bit. The technology was not quite ready yet. I also had personal readers who helped. For anything that I couldn’t get through electronic means or recorded means, my personal readers would help them.

 

It's always a good thing if the technology for accessibility paves the way for everybody else.

 

Everybody in school was always impressed with your ability to recall some number, table, and exhibit on a such-and-such page of the case that we were talking about that day. Your son, Tom, has said that there was a little bit of circus theatrics to that. Is that true, or did you memorize all of the numbers in those tables?

(Laughs) I don’t know what he is talking about.

He said you would pick one number [to memorize] and would use that in your point.

I certainly didn’t memorize every chart and every number, but I tried to use what I could recall in the course of the conversation. I tried to learn braille as I was going into business school to be better with braille. I would try to take notes in braille and then I would bring those notes to class, but I could never read them effectively to use them in class. It helped to use braille to take notes, but the theatrics was trying to read the braille. I wasn’t comprehending it. I had to go off of what I studied and would learn. It was more trying to use what I could recall because those notes weren’t as useful as I would’ve wanted them to be.

You were amazing. It was an incredible thing to watch you go through school, keep up with all of us who have our vision, and graduate right alongside us. All your section mates in particular - we were proud of you that day.

It was a great experience.

Was going back to AT&T after school preordained or did you think about other options?

I did think about other options, but like an undergraduate, I interviewed with on-campus companies and had some of the same challenges even though, at that time, I had a lot of experience and this Harvard MBA. I did have a lot of the same questions. In fact, I ran into one guy from a company who was the recruiter on campus years later and he apologized to me.

He said, “I’m so sorry. I thought you’d be great for our company, but the folks at whatever division didn’t think you could do it because you were blind.” I was like, “Thanks for the apology.” I went to HBS on a program with AT&T where they supported part of it. I had an opportunity guaranteed if I came back and so on and so forth. It wasn’t preordained, but it was highly likely. I went back into a mergers and acquisitions group, which was a good experience for me.

 

CSCL 21 | Blind CEO

Jim Gibbons: Every time you have an opportunity for a person who is blind or has another disability to go demonstrate what they can bring to the party and demonstrate that to other folks and organizations, that helps move the needle a little bit further.

 

Before you left AT&T, you eventually became the President and CEO of CampusWide Access Solutions. Tell our audience a little bit about that business.

It was a great company. It was a company that AT&T bought that was a software developer and a systems integrator for the campus ID card. It had magnetic strip technology that would allow a student to buy things from a vending machine downtown at the pizza shop, the library, or the parking lot. AT&T’s vision was to provide the back of the card with an AT&T calling card. It was a pretty good idea, except the timing was probably a little too late. It came right about the time that cellphones started becoming ubiquitous, so the calling cards lost their way.

It probably wasn’t a great acquisition for AT&T, but it was an opportunity for me to go run a company at the stage of my career that I was at. Most of AT&T revolved around this big network, and this was a smaller $12 million subsidiary that had software development, systems integration, hardware, manufacturing, sales, marketing, and its own P&L. For me, it was great, and then that led to me moving on to other CEO opportunities within the social enterprise space.

Before we get to that, when you think back on your time at AT&T, you mentioned some good mentors along the way. What did you take away from your time there that you’ve carried with you and your career since then?

There are three key things that I learned at AT&T, and mentorship is important. I thought it had a pretty good mentoring culture, although I did get a lot of how-to-build-a-mentor tips from people outside of AT&T. I didn’t even know what the word meant at my young age. I learned how to build mentors and create an environment for people to want to advise and advocate for you.

The mentoring was probably one big lesson. The other one was that I learned how to lead through influence without authority in a product planning and quality management position, where it seemed like every team I led were higher-level people, and I had no direct authority over them. I learned that you have to communicate, set expectations, and listen.

That’s how you lead with influence versus top-down authority. I found that even in top-down situations, those same attributes are pretty important. I then learned a lot about technology applications without being a really techie person. I’ve always had a pretty good grasp of how technology can be used to improve productivity in a work environment, and that came from my experiences at AT&T.

With the tech background, you can use that pretty much in anything you’re doing these days. Back in 2001 is when you were transitioning out of AT&T, if I remember it right. You were in that at the peak of the dot-com boom back then.

Nowadays, you have a good sense of technology and how it can play into your organization and your work life.

How did you end up over at National Industries for the Blind?

I got a call from a headhunter. I had never heard of a NIB at that time, but he described it as an organization that’s focus was on creating job opportunities for people who are blind by getting federal contracts through a business development process. My job was going to be heavily on the business development side. I thought, “That sounds pretty interesting.”

I’d always thought, "Maybe when I’m older, I’ll do something for people who are blind by being on the board of an organization" or those kinds of things. At that stage of my life, it gave me an opportunity to be a direct impact player by doing things that I enjoyed in terms of business with impact. I threw my hat in that ring, and lo and behold, we ended up in Washington, DC.

Did you start there as CEO, or did you work your way up to that?

I started as CEO. NIB as an entity is a networked organization, so the real operations are through affiliated agencies. We had 80 when I was there. They had all the manufacturing and service capabilities. We did all the brand management, business development, and contract administration, and then we would allocate the contracts throughout that network of organizations based on capability and job creation. It was a business development job but had a lot of other leadership and administrative roles.

 

The non-profits that do the best have business discipline.

 

All these 80 entities operated somewhat like their own independent operators. You were just allocating business to them based on what you had won.

We could win [business from] the government. They [the affiliates] all had their own boards of directors, so when it came to the contract work, I was the leader, but not the boss. That’s where some of that AT&T experience of learning how to lead through influence versus direct authority came in handy throughout my career.

I can imagine. What kinds of products were the different groups making? What did you offer?

We had a whole office product line under the Skilcraft brand. We did a major effort in terms of rebranding and revitalizing a brand that was like a brown cardboard government box into a vibrant brand in the office supply solution space. We had strong textile capability throughout many of the organizations. We did a lot of service contracting and leveraging of technology to enable people who are blind to work, whether it was in call centers or warehousing distributions, picking, packing, etc. There was a wide array of capabilities.

When you took over the parent organization, what was your assessment of what they needed?

It was really about the brand and making a pivot to being customer-oriented, and then in terms of revitalizing the brand so that it was something that the customers wanted versus maybe felt required to utilize. Probably the big shift was shifting from more of a complacent semi-governmental mindset to more of a competitive mindset. Also, recognizing a bit of a need for speed, the ability to anticipate customers’ needs, and react to customer demands.

What did you end up doing to make that happen?

One of the big initiatives was a lot of work on the brand, from a major effort to repackaging all of the product lines, that was a pretty big undertaking. The other big area that I hopefully contributed to was the mission of NIB, which was focused on the employment of people who are blind in the workforce as direct labor. An important element I brought to the table was shifting the mindset for blind people to grow into the management ranks.

We launched a leadership development program that had a partnership with the University of Virginia’s business management training component to move people into the management paths. I know a number of those folks that were in the early days of that program who are now CEOs of those agencies throughout that network. That was another big element that I was always excited to be a part of.

You were, at that point, 15 to 20 years post-college. Do you feel like over the course of that 15 to 20 years, you saw a lot of change in willingness to put blind people into roles that maybe they wouldn’t have been considered for in the past? Certainly, technology has been an incredible enabler for people with many types of disabilities, but did the societal views change in those first 15 to 20 years from your view?

It’s hard to tell. I do think that over time, the views have been changing for the positive. Every time you have an opportunity for a person who is blind or has another disability to go demonstrate what they can bring to the party, to other folks, and to organizations, that helps move the needle a little bit further. There’s still plenty of work to do. There’s still high unemployment for people who are blind or have other disabilities. There’s still a big nut to crack there, and technology is a big component of it all.

How so?

Especially for people who are blind because it’s an information economy. The access technology gives you, as a blind person, the opportunity to gain some equal footing on garnering that information to be a part of the workforce and/or the decision process or the productivity process. It’s access to that information in a way that you can be productive with it.

With everything, there are undeniably hurdles people have to overcome. Irrespective of disability type, I wonder when it will become an even playing field.

 

CSCL 21 | Blind CEO

Jim Gibbons: You've got to give a lot of respect to the local organization because that's where the work gets done.

 

I don’t know when that happens, but a lot of the responsibility is also on the person themselves. You have to open your mind to how you might do things differently. In the blindness case, you have to develop the skills of mobility and access technology skills. On top of that, you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the interpersonal skills and overcome the challenges that come with being blind. To this day, I sometimes feel like I could have done so much more for myself. It’s like the braille example from earlier. With the way I lost my vision, I started using technology.

Nowadays, technology is much easier [to use]. The use of braille is less now than it was many years ago. Braille is probably a skill that I wish I had [developed] for note-taking, because even with technology, and I had a handy-dandy little note on my phone, if we were in a meeting, I couldn’t listen to that and engage with you. I’m still using my memory, whereas if it was in braille, I could be glancing at notes a little more easily. There are ways to do it. I can do that with an earphone and look things up, but when I’m doing that, I’m disengaging from a discussion while trying to find a little piece of information, so I try not to do that. There are a lot of things that I could have done better, and part of it is accepting the blindness.

You had a particularly hard transition, relative to somebody who is blind from birth, to have it gradually occur for you over the course of your childhood.

I don’t know if it would be harder or not harder than somebody who’s blind from birth. There are certainly different things to overcome, but it took a while to accept them. Even through different stages of my life, I've let it bother me for different reasons. I feel like my wife carried the burden of raising our kids. When you have kids, it’s a lot of shuttling the kids around. I was not very value-added in certain stages. I’ve always felt like that was a little bit hard.

Tami certainly has gone to extra lengths over the course of time that you’ve known her and in your marriage.

She’s a good egg.

She is. Coming back to NIB, that was your first foray into the nonprofit world. How did the nonprofit world differ in your view from your time working at AT&T?

What I noticed about NIB, and for that matter, Goodwill, was a lot of leaders would come in. They had come from the for-profit space and would act like they came from a better-managed space. That wasn’t my observation. There were certainly agencies that were less well-managed and had more of a not-for-profit mindset.

I entered into the social enterprise space of the not-for-profit world. The ones that did the best had business discipline. I'd put them against anybody out there from business management or leadership perspective. What I learned the most is the value of those business skills in any organization because they’re commonsensical. They’re about follow-through, commitment, and laying out a plan.

A lot of not-for-profits have to raise the money and then go spend it. For social enterprise organizations like I’ve been a part of, we would lay out a plan and execute against the plan because they had a revenue model that drove their ability to deliver the mission. I’ve always been attracted to that social enterprise component of the not-for-profit space.

There is a bit of mythology or misunderstanding of nonprofits where people who haven’t spent a lot of time inside a nonprofit seem to have a sense that the pace is slower and they aren’t as well run. If you think about it, a lot of these nonprofits are trying to do really hard things. On top of that, when you’re running one of those companies, you have to go out and ask for money all the time.

A huge part of what you’re trying to do in most nonprofits is fundraising. For-profit CEOs have to help drive sales, but it’s not the same as just asking for a check with not necessarily anything in return, directly at least. That’s a very different proposition, on top of the fact that some of these are complicated businesses.

That’s where organizations like National Industries for the Blind with a revenue model or Goodwill both had the hardship of building all those disciplines, but then the benefit of having a model that supported and funded the mission delivery. Those organizations also did fundraising. This is a broad statement, but the ones who were the best at fundraising were not as good at the business side. The ones that were the best on the business side got better at fundraising but built their sustainability on the social enterprise element. That’s not a scientific answer. That’s just a broad observation.

What do you feel like you were able to accomplish overall in the ten years you were there?

 

You may have a great plan, but every plan will change once the battle begins. You need to have the ability to pivot based on what you've learned from the marketplace.

 

I was part of a good team that built a momentum of growth. The leadership development component and the work on the brand were important. Those were probably the three big areas, growth, brand, and leadership.

What then led to your transition over to Goodwill? 

Ten years is a long time in these organizations. With Goodwill, I went through an interview process with them. I didn’t know Goodwill very well at that time, but they had a similar mission and a broader population. It had a brand that was pretty recognizable and had a bit of an international component. All of those were very exciting and interesting. It was a little bit of a larger organization, so when I got that opportunity, I was excited to take it and be a part of that team for ten more years.

Where were they when you took over, and what were your early priorities?

They were a pretty steady organization when I got there. It’s a federated model. When I say federated, it means that each organization is an independent organization. [My job was about] how to serve the network of Goodwills while advancing the brand. We did a lot of great brand work and strategic partnerships and listened to the network. There were a lot of times that the national players would not listen to the locals. I’ve found that listening to the local leadership was essential and trying to play back what you heard was important.

The times that I was successful at hearing and feeding back, we moved forward. The times that I became tone-deaf, which happens, I had more internal challenges. I tried to keep my finger on the pulse of the network and tried to lead through listening and then hopefully add value to what I heard from the network. The mission is local. It’s what happens on the ground. You’ve got to give a lot of respect to the local organizations because that’s where the work gets done.

In different forms, you ran two organizations that had, in the case of NIB, the affiliate construct, and in the case of Goodwill, those independent organizations. It’s not that different in the scheme of things. The dynamics between those local organizations and the national organization are always an extra challenge relative to everything else you have to deal with. I saw that when I was doing some work with United Way many years ago.

It can be a challenge, and that’s where I found that lesson of leading through influence versus position was pretty useful. It really is about a servant leadership mindset, even when talking about CEOs of large Fortune 50 companies. At the end of the day, nobody tries to lead with an iron fist nowadays. It's about getting the best out of everybody on the team. That’s pretty important. The problem in these network models or federated models is occasionally when you have to all come together to move the ball forward, it can be a little bit more difficult.

It’s because everybody’s got their independence.

They have their own idea of what it means to move everything forward.

You spent twenty years in DC. You got to do some other things along the way while you were living there as well, right?

Yeah. It was a good environment. We got involved with various groups and organizations, but I got to serve on a number of boards of directors and be involved in a lot of organizations that are in the area. It was also the time that we were raising our family. They were all born up through five when we moved there, and we moved out of DC when the youngest was 19 or 20.

For all practical purposes, that’s where your kids grew up. You and Tami moved back to Indiana when you left Goodwill. Were you clear at that point that you wanted to dive into something new or were you intent on taking a break?

I wanted to try my hand at building something and being more project work-oriented. I wanted to see if I could do something from the ground up. That’s where I started working on this technology platform, which is Forward Insight. It’s a feedback and coaching platform that's peer-to-peer driven. It allows team members to give confidential feedback, in a positive construct, to each other so that you have a sense of how you’re doing as a contributor to the team.

 

CSCL 21 | Blind CEO

Jim Gibbons: Nobody tries to lead with an iron fist nowadays. It's about getting the best out of everybody on the team.

 

That’s taken a lot more time than I would’ve thought. It’s still a pre-revenue business, but finally, I have a minimally viable product in the app stores. I've got to continue to work with it from a marketing perspective and an ongoing development perspective. It’s taken a lot more than I thought to get it to that stage.

Being an entrepreneur is tough.

In the middle of it, I was on the Board of Directors of ImmutriX. I stepped in to help them commercialize, so that has taken a lot of my time for a couple of months.

Talk a little bit more about that, how it has unfolded, and what you’re trying to do to help them in particular.

It’s an amazing early-stage biotech company. It’s been around for a number of years, but mostly on the R&D side. It’s trying to pivot from R&D to commercialization. At its core, it’s a whole blood cleansing solution. It’s called hemoperfusion. It’s not dialysis because dialysis separates your blood cells.

What they’ve done in ImmutriX is pretty amazing. They've created a carbon filter that is hemo-compatible. It has the ability to be manufactured at scale, and it's targeting the bad molecules. We’re taking out toxins in the animal health space and have treated more than 50 animals. Only one hasn’t made it. The current standard of care might take 2, 3, or 4 days of fluid therapy to get the toxins out of a dog. We can do it in about an hour and a half, and they’re out in the lobby wagging their tail with their owner after that. It’s pretty amazing.

The goal is to gain sustainability in the animal health space, which does not require all the same steps as the FDA in the human market, and then move into the human market. There are a lot of treatments that we believe we can develop with our platform. It's a very exciting product. It’s at that inflection point of pivoting from R&D into commercialization. We’re working to raise the capital for commercialization. That’s where we are. It’s an important point of the process to make that happen.

What you’re doing is very different from your prior roles. What have you found that you have been able to carry over from those roles? What’s new and different?

At the end of the day, it's communication. It’s a small team, but even small teams can talk past each other. [I'm focused on] trying to keep the team aligned and make sure that how we’re communicating to investors and potential investors is straightforward and easy, but thorough. It’s what they need to hear in terms of making their decisions for investment.

I would say that influence versus position is important. Particularly in my case, as a new guy who doesn’t have all the science, I’m not going to top-down tell anybody what to do, not the scientists and not the manufacturing team. They know what they’re doing more than I do. My job is to try to help improve why we’re starting up this commercialization so that we have a culture of continual improvement as we launch. We know that we’ve got a great plan, but every plan is going to change once the battle begins. We’ve got to have the ability to pivot based on what we learned from the marketplace.

Some of those lessons are very similar to everything that I’ve done in the past. The area that I’m not as versed in is, I don’t have a medical science background. I try to learn a word a day because I’ve never had experience with a lot of this. There has been a lot of learning on the science side for me. [It's about] tenacity, pushing forward, not giving up, and trying to stay hopeful and optimistic as we’re trying to raise this money to commercialize. We should stay realistic with what we can do and how we can advance the business even though we’re under-capitalized at this point.

How is it going overall?

We are poised and ready. The team is ready for scale, but we are a bit undercapitalized, so we’re taking baby steps to keep the ball rolling until we can get a good [infusion of cash] to kick it into gear. We have about fifteen veterinarian clinics using our filters. All the market signals are super positive. We’ve got a base in the critical care hospitals, which is the fastest-growing part of the animal health space. That's our target.

Pet growth is extraordinary and the number of new vets is not. Our education system for veterinarians is not growing, yet the number of pets is growing significantly, so veterinarians are overworked. We think we have a solution that will allow greater efficiency, greater efficacy, and a lower cost structure. We’ve got the right components. We just have to connect a few dots to pull off our commercialization plans.

 

You make mistakes, and then you try to recover from them. You fail forward.

 

I wish you well with that. How about you? You were on a board and you got pressed into active duty service as CEO. How are you thinking about this in terms of your own plans?

I was the right guy for the right price at that point in time, because we didn’t have a lot of money. I’ve learned a lot, and I enjoy it. I’m here at the service of the board. If there’s a better fit down the road, then I’m all for that as well, but I do like it. It does have every business challenge coming out of it at one time. That’s fun if we can pull it all together. I have a commitment to stay for a while to see us through this. That’s what I’m doing.

I’m conscious of time. Do you have any final advice you want to share for people who are reading this episode?

As I think about people moving on their career paths and trying to put a little bit of wisdom into that as they start, there’s a whole balancing act between skillsets, passions, and finding the sweet spot. Sometimes, your skillsets and your passions don’t align for your career, but there’s still a way to pursue some passions and leverage your skillsets to allow you to do that. They don’t always have to be in the same spot. A lot of people get told, “Follow your passions.” More practical than that, there are ways to do both. They don’t always have to intersect 100%. If they can intersect 100%, more power to you, that’s a good deal.

Sometimes, things that are your passions are best left as hobbies and not necessarily what you do every day.

You can also try and figure out what you do every day and how to be passionate about it.

Certainly, you’re a phenomenal example of having the willpower to figure things out from those early days of Purdue to AT&T into business school and beyond.

You make mistakes and then you try to recover from them. You fail forward.

Thanks for your time. I appreciate it. I wish you and ImmutriX the best. I know there’s a lot at stake for the company at this point. Best of luck in getting the financing that you need to continue to grow the company.

Thanks.

Take care. If you’re ready to take control of your career, visit PathWise.io. If you’d like more regular career insights, sign up on the website for the PathWise Newsletter and follow PathWise on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Thanks and have a great day.

 

Important Links

 

About Jim Gibbons

CSCL 21 | Blind CEOJim Gibbons is the CEO of ImmutriX Therapeutics, a biotech firm focused on blood filtering that has applications in both human and animal health. Jim is also the Founder and President of Forward Impact Enterprises, a company he formed in late 2020 to develop a mobile app designed to gather and share immediate feedback from group settings. Prior to his current work, Jim was the President and CEO of Goodwill Industries, and prior to joining Goodwill, Jim was the President and CEO for the National Industries for the Blind. Before that, he held a number of roles at AT&T, including being the President and CEO for Campuswide Access Solutions at AT&T.
Jim is also notable for being the first fully blind individual to graduate from Harvard Business School, after having gradually lost his sight as a child into early adulthood.
Outside of his non-profit leadership at Goodwill and the National Industries for the Blind, Jim’s volunteer work has included board and advisory board roles with Independent Sector, Charity Defense Council, Leadership 18, ACT, and Credential Engine. In addition to earning his MBA from Harvard, Jim earned his Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University. He and his wife Tami live in Indiana and are the parents of three adult children.

Share with friends

©2022 PathWise. All Rights Reserved
chevron-down