How Melinda Ann French became Melinda Gates

In 1978, when you and me  and those others in India, except maybe a privileged few, knew of only windows in our room, and apple as a fruit,  Melinda was playing with her Apple 2 computer.

With women in Calcutta who are the beneficiaries of Melinda's charity work
With women in Calcutta who are the beneficiaries of Melinda’s charity work

I remember seeing a cartoon around that time in SPAN (remember THAT magazine?) on how just one kid bought the Apple PC to his class while others had an apple (the fruit) in their hand. The teacher looked impressed with Apple PC-boy. On a completely different note, here is where the US scores over the rest of the world. They are eons ahead and will be eons ahead in terms of technology and development, compared to the rest of the world. PERIOD.

Bill Gates and his family during a family vacation, some years ago
Bill Gates and his family during a family vacation, some years ago

Okay, back to Melinda’s story,: freshly armed with a degree in computer science and economics from Duke University in 1986, Melinda Ann French was working as an intern for IBM. She told a recruiter she had one more interview – with a new company called Microsoft. The recruiter was keen. “If you get a job offer from them,” she said, “take it, because the chance for advancement there is terrific.”

Bill Gates and Melinda in India with their charity group
Bill Gates and Melinda in India with their charity group

So she joined Microsoft. Within six and half years, she grew from a software marketing novice to the GM of products such as Expedia and Encarta. Clever, strong and clear, she attracted the CEO of her company, Bill Gates. They met in 1987, four months into her job at Microsoft, when they sat next to each other at an Expo trade-fair dinner in New York. “He was funnier than I expected him to be,” she said, neutrally.

Months went by before, meeting her in the Microsoft car park, he asked her out. Bill Gates was attracted to Melinda’s forthrightness and independence.

Now, I ask you: In 1987, four months into her job, she met the CEO of her company, during an expo-trade fair dinner. Planned? Maybe.

He again bumped into her after a few months in the car park. How tough is it to plan to be in the car park when your CEO reaches there? pretty easy, I would say for a driven woman.

They dated for seven years, by which time she became the GM of certain products from a total novice. Coincidence for a CEO’s girlfriend? Hmmmm…I am thinking….

Jennifer, the pretty daughter of Bill and Melinda
Jennifer, the pretty daughter of Bill and Melinda

They got married in Hawaii in 1994. Melinda read in The New York Times about the millions of children in developing countries dying of malaria and TB. She made world poverty their priority concern.

Rolling in millions of billions, Melinda decided on a course of charity to help the poor and needy. Nice! Not all with money indulge in charity, you see.

Jennifer did have that teenage fat around her, before she slogged it off. Whats in her hand? - Iphone!
Jennifer did have that teenage fat around her, before she slogged it off.
Whats in her hand? – Iphone!

Melinda now spends 30 hours a week on foundation work, as she and Bill assess the charity presentations that flood in. The foundation that she and her famous hubby represents, receives about 6,000 requests each year and they read only the ones asking for $40m or more. Encouragement  boy, for us! A devout Catholic she visits those foundations and places where her charity reaches and that takes her to  India once a year, if reports are to believed to see how her charity work is helping the poor and needy.

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One comment

  1. So….’Dear Bill and Melinda – how can I explain all my misfortunes to you? I am an old and extremely successful writer (un) in need of just over $40 million dollars to support me in my old age…’ Interesting article, although you do make her sound a little bit scheming. I’m sure those chance encounters with Bill were entirely innocent!

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