Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Dr Steve Garnett for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.
Steve was born and raised in Fazakerley where, following the death of his father when he was 8, he and his three sisters were brought up by his mum. Although clearly a struggle Steve remembers those days fondly and pays tribute to his mum who he says ‘did an amazing job’.
In those days and in that environment, kids from a council house in Fazakerley pretty much had their lives mapped out. Stay in school until you could leave, get your first job at 16 on the docks or in the local car factory, stay out of trouble and that was it.
It was at school though, that Steve’s journey really did move away from the blueprint. And all thanks to a teacher. Great teachers inspire and a great education can be transformational, it was certainly the case with Steve, whose early talent for maths was spotted by a teacher – Mike Howarth – who encouraged, probably cajoled and mentored Steve to aspire to further studies.
Rather than leaving School at 16, and supported by his mum, Steve stayed on to complete A levels in Maths, Further Maths and Physics. Steve then went to Cardiff to study maths and continued with his studies to complete a PhD in Theoretical Physics at Manchester.
With plenty of qualifications, a very proud mum, but little in the way of money, Steve got a job in London writing computer programmes for Logica. Shortly afterwards, a friend suggested he should join a new company – Oracle – an American start-up which lured him with the promise of a company car to replace his clapped-out old Datsun.
His Oracle career went from strength to strength, he was in at the start and during his 12 years with the company as part of the executive team, he helped to steer it to become the second largest software company in the world.
Working alongside great software entrepreneurs and leaders like Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Tom Siebel, Steve was in the middle of the dotcom explosion, joining Tom to establish Siebel Systems which grew to 8,000 employees and a valuation of 60 billion dollars in just four years.
Using his natural ability as a leader in such a competitive environment, Steve’s next venture saw him lead another company – Salesforce – and helped to take it public, it is now regarded as one of the most innovative companies in the world, was selected as a top ten disrupter by Forbes and is one of the fastest growing Enterprise Software companies ever as it approaches a market valuation of one hundred billion dollars.
Two years ago, Steve retired from the corporate world and now invests in and develops a portfolio of high growth software and service companies.
He has certainly come a long way from Fazakerley – and yet – you can’t keep a Liverpudlian away for long. Although he hasn’t returned to live here since moving away to study and lives in Hampshire with his family, Steve is a regular visitor back to the city. He’s an avid Liverpool fan and made the journey to Kiev last month for the Champions League final. He has a home in Thailand and is learning – slowly – to speak Thai and when not starting and developing multi-billion-dollar companies, he is a keen and passionate amateur chef.
And he has never forgotten the impact of the teacher who first encouraged him which led, as he puts it, from Everton Valley to Silicon Valley. He is a dedicated and committed advocate for social change and believes strongly, and with first-hand experience, of the power of education to transform the lives of children.
Pro-Chancellor, it gives me enormous pleasure to welcome home a son of the city and in recognition of his outstanding professional achievement and on-going commitment to positive social change, I present Dr Steve Garnett for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.