John Wendell Thompson is the CEO of privately held Virtual Instruments and the Chairman of Microsoft Corporation. He is a former vice-president at IBM and the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Symantec Corporation. During his tenure as CEO of Symantec, he was the only African American leading a major technology company. Thompson later became an independent director on the board of Microsoft and on February 4, 2014 he was named the Chairman of the board. He led the search for Microsoft's next CEO; as a result, Satya Nadella was selected. Born at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Thompson attended John F. Kennedy High School in Riviera Beach, Florida (now Suncoast Community High School). He received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Florida A&M University in 1971 and an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management in 1983. Thompson's 28-year career with IBM Corporation included senior executive positions in sales, marketing and software development, and as general manager of IBM Americas as well as membership in the company’s Worldwide Management Council.
Thompson was a strong supporter of Barack Obama's campaign during the 2008 election cycle. In January 2009, news sources reported that President-elect Obama was considering Thompson to fill the Commerce secretary post in the Obama administration. Ultimately, Senator Judd Gregg was chosen for the post but withdrew his name on Thursday, February 12. Thompson again remained a potential candidate until the successful appointment of Gary Locke.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi appointed Thompson to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in 2009. In 2010, Thompson was recognized for his commitment to education in Silicon Valley at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation's 2010 Pioneers & Purpose event. He received the Pioneer Business Leader award, which is awarded to individuals who have achieved outstanding accomplishments in business and education. On 4 February 2014, Thompson was appointed as Chairman of Microsoft, succeeding Bill Gates. Prior to being named Chairman, Thompson had been a member of the Microsoft Board for two years. He stated that he joined the board because he had "admired Microsoft for many, many, many years." Thompson said he considered Microsoft to be "one of the true, iconic companies in our country."