Editor’s note: Each Tuesday, “Breaking Glass’ examines issues facing women and minorities in the tech world. This week, Jennifer Tilden has a candid talk with Manoj George who says he hasn’t let racism keep him from striving for success.

“Consider any criticism you face as a possible result of your performance not as a result of your race. Don’t assume the negative” – Manoj GeorgeWhy would a successful CPA in a large, regional West Virginia-based firm leave his job and move his family to North Carolina to join a young, relatively unknown company with 22 employees that he found through an ad in the news paper?

And when that company grows to become a publicly traded and nationally recognized leader in open source technology, why would you leave it to join a new and fairly young e-tailer one year after the infamous dot.com crash?

Because you’re Manoj George — chief financial officer for art.com, former CFO for Red Hat and you love a challenge.

“I don’t like the term startup,” says George of the companies he work with. “It assumes there is no traction and a lack of focus. I prefer the term ‘hyper-growth’. These are companies that have some traction, know their market and have a need to prioritize and develop their infrastructure. The appeal is in the challenge itself. There is some risk involved with these companies, but that does not deter me. I enjoy working where I can see the results of our planning and strategizing. The pace is very exciting.”

After graduating from Morehead College in Kentucky and upon completing his MBA and CPA, the Indian-born George joined an accounting firm in West Virginia. There he focused on valuations and management consulting and had his first exposure to the high-growth industry.

“I was very interested in this type of company. I started looking around for opportunities in Raleigh and came found an ad Bob Young had placed for Red Hat. At the time they only had 22 employees. I liked Bob very much, so I took the opportunity and really enjoyed my time there.”

Time for a change

In February 2001, having Red Hat go public in 1999 and after four years with the hatters through 11 acquisitions, and half a billion dollars of public and private funding, George left Red Hat.

“Four years is a long time. What appeals to me is working with companies when they are at the early stage and are trying get to the next level. I felt I had made my contribution and was ready to try something different.”

Undecided about what to do next, he decided to take a year off to enjoy his family and consider his next challenge.

“I was recruited by several people even while I was at Red Hat. But I don’t just jump at an opportunity. It has to be the right fit, I have to really like the people involved and it has to be a significant challenge,” he says.

Periodically during his down time, neighbor and ChannelAdvisor President and Chief Executive Officer Scot Wingo approached George about meeting art.com CEO Joshua Chodniewicz.

“Scot said I needed to meet Josh and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I told him I was committed to spending a year taking it easy. Finally, Scot suggested one day that the three of us have lunch. I remember saying jokingly to him, ‘Why not? I don’t have anything better to do’. When I Josh asked me what I wanted to do, I told him I wanted to have fun. That may have sounded flip but it was true. It’s important to me to work in a company where we can meet the challenges we face and also have fun while we’re doing it.”

So, in January 2002, falling just one month short of his intended year off, George took on the new challenge of being art.com’s CFO.

“I really am enjoying the company and the people. It’s very exciting and we have a lot of potential,” he says.

Culture as a challenge?

Regarding his cultural background, George says he has had some challenges there from time to time, but he has faced them and moved on.

“I am aware of my background and how people may see me but I have never dwelled on it. Throughout the years my cultural background has impacted me off and on — sometimes very much, but more when I was younger.”

His family emigrated to the United States when he was 15 to be closer to family members already living here.

“It was very difficult going to school in rural Kentucky and having my siblings and me be the only non-Caucasian kids in the school district. As an adult it’s been less of an issue. There have been some moments, but I have dealt with them and never dwell on them. Also, I have had great employers and great mentors during my career-from the managing partner at my accounting firm to Bob Young and Matt Szulik. I had people to guide me into seeing beyond the little things, like ignorance and judgement, and keeping focused on the important things.”

What personal advice does George offer?

Regarding personal challenges: “Have mechanisms in place to deal with the issues and/or emotions you may be facing, like a support system of friends or family. And always be honest and keep things in context. Consider any criticism you face as a possible result of your performance not as a result of your race. Don’t assume the negative”

Regarding being successful in business:

1. Focus on what your priorities are
2. Execute them like crazy
3. Enjoy