New Territory, Familiar Place

This is me, at IBM’s Santa Teresa Laboratory in October, 1987. The Twins had just won their first World Series and I was deep into IBM’s New Programmer Training, a three-month classroom odyssey that taught the very important skills of Mainframe programming.  White haired men stood in the hallways talking something about what just happened to their 401K’s in the recent stock market crash, but I wasn’t exactly sure why they were so worried.  I was thrilled to be living in California and starting my career, with no real notion of where life would take me.

margarita islandHere I am on Margarita Island, Venezuela, in the mid-2000s.  It turned out that my penchant for learning and talking (not always in that order) was valuable to IBM, especially when paired with my willingness to travel the world.  Over the years, I’ve been blessed with many mentors and teachers who taught me basic business, sales, marketing, data management, storage, backup & recovery, analytics, Big Data, customer relationship management, servers, query optimization, and a thousand other things that made me love what I did and the people I worked with.  By being on great teams, I learned how great teams work and how leaders make a difference.

But even when I started in 1987, I never expected to spend my whole career at IBM.  In many ways, I’m surprised that it has taken me 26 years to find the next opportunity.  But that opportunity is here: starting in January, I’ll be working at Zend Technologies as the Director of Business Development.  I’m thrilled to join a company that is at the nexus of the next big shift in technology, and I’m excited to reconnect with the Silicon Valley culture of optimism and innovation.  For now, I’ll continue living in Rochester, Minnesota, but will be spending a lot of time at Zend’s headquarters in Cupertino.

As I pack up my office, I realize I could open my own little history of computing museum.  So before I ship all these treasures off the National Archives, let me share a few gems with the people who turned objects into memories:

Photo Nov 18, 12 30 33 PMThis copy of Creative Perspectives, Santa Teresa Laboratory, is probably a collector’s item, from a time when corporations spent lots of money on publishing.  It’s a 16 page, 6-color, glossy description of a programming facility–I have no idea why it was produced or why I have a copy.  The text is content-free, but the photographs are stunning.  I leave this short book to Lisa Ready, who I met on my very first day at STL and who helped me trudge through New Programmer Training.

Photo Nov 18, 11 40 18 AMI leave my IBM Dictionary of Computing, 10th Edition, August, 1993, to Katherine McMurtrey, who is accomplished in both editing and writing, and knows her commit scope from her commit boundary.  Katherine was a new hire when I got my first team lead assignment, and she’s never stopped being a great teammate to me.

Photo Nov 18, 11 40 50 AMMy copy of An Introduction to Database Systems, Volume 1, 5th Edition, by the late Chris Date, I leave to Mike Cain, who taught me everything I know about database optimizers and unknowingly pulled me through the toughest 6 months of my career.  The Teraplex Center, where we worked, was easily the best job I had at IBM.  And it’s funny now to think how impressed the world was with our 5 Terabyte data center.

Photo Nov 18, 11 44 25 AMI leave my colorful assortment of lanyards to Fred Robinson, a man with enough style sense to match a lanyard to a tie.  My vast collection of logo’d polo shirts, suitable for trade show booths and briefing center demos, I leave to Gary Konicek, who rocks the polo shirt far better than I do.

Photo Nov 18, 11 39 31 AMI leave this United Way commemorative mug, probably from the 1990s, to Mike Prochaska, who is destined to be the everlasting site executive for United Way campaigns in Rochester.  Mike has sometimes been described as a feisty pit bull, but all the while he has quietly logged more volunteer hours than any executive I’ve ever met.  Mike also gets my half-completed Coffee Club cards, since he bought half the coffee anyway.

My copy of the Songs of the I.B.M., 1931 Edition, I leave to Beth McElroy, proprietor of Chez McElroy, my home away from home in Raleigh.  Beth embodies the beauty, work ethic, and intelligence portrayed in Song #89, “To Our I.B.M. Girls.”  And she grills a flank steak that is to die for.

Photo Nov 18, 12 05 27 PMPhoto Nov 18, 12 06 29 PM

This lovely tie and matching pocket triangle, a gift from the silliest group of Germans to ever visit a Briefing Center, I leave to Brig Serman.  He’s such a great boss that I worked for him twice, and it was not because of his impeccable custom suits.

Every thermos, water bottle, or souvenir cup I’ve ever received has been used past the point of re-gifting.  But if I had a set of glassware, I’d leave them to the Vodka Girls.  I can only hope that one day we’ll reconvene at Girl Scout Camp, where we will work on our merit badges.

I’m keeping the retro stapler.