I will be retiring from IBM at the end of February after more than thirty years.
During my career with IBM; I have worked on a manufacturing line, been a systems administrator, done consulting work, developed software, made more presentations than I can remember and acted as an official and unofficial product manager for dozens of products. Each of these roles left an imprint on me that helped me to become who I am today.
I was able to assist with building AIX and Power Systems to the top of the UNIX market. I have had the opportunity to travel the world and meet people, many of whom are now lifelong friends. I believe that meeting with and talking to your clients is the single most important thing a product manager can do to be successful.
Working for IBM has been an incredibly enriching experience for my life and I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given. I especially wanted to say thanks to the thousands of great clients and IBMers that I have worked with over the years.
Although I am retiring from IBM, I will continue to work in the industry. You can follow my new exploits here or on Twitter at @mr_sles – yes, Mr. AIX is becoming Mr. Linux!
Thanks again and I hope to see you again.
P.S. A few memories from my career at IBM.
453 The number of paychecks I had to manually void with a rubber stamp after the printer I was using slid over one character to the left when I closed the cover. Lesson learned: Check, recheck, and check again (no pun intended)
Thierry (aka Charlie) Gillette. The same manager who hired me into my first job in information technology also hired my future wife, Susan. Lesson learned: Serendipity happens
“Welcome to your long term career goal” Manager Milt Joplin on hiring me to become a mainframe systems programmer. Lesson learned: What was once unachievable can quickly become inevitable. Dream bigger
“That shouldn’t have happened” The typical response of “Bud”, a senior colleague in the Networking support team when one of his (usually unapproved) changes crashed the site network. This man, more than any other, taught me the need for strict change management. Lesson learned: Change control matters.
Levi’s Farrah Suits Having to coordinate dressing for work with a coworker, Jim Vinson, who had the exact same cheap suit. It did not help that he was two feet taller than I was so we made amusing sight when we both wore the same suit. Lesson learned: Think before you walk out the door
“It’s an interesting job” The total job description I got (and accepted) to work in the AIX Build team for Jack McGovern. It was not AIX/6000 but rather AIX 370/PS2. It was interesting, but not very successful product. Lesson learned: Sometimes you have to leap
”Build Pills” What the AIX PS2 build team called a giant bottle of Aspirin. Lesson learned: A little humor can help make a bad situation bearable
“Que n Brew” A small family party at a lake that evolved into a weeklong party of the entire IBM Austin Information Systems organization. Featured whole pig roasts and enormous quantities of beer. Lesson learned: Your coworkers are a lot easier to get along with if you play together
Roasted alive by the AIX project team. What happened to me when I opened 4,000 Sev 1 defects in a single night just one month before AIX V3 Gold Master. My ksh script would have opened more if /tmp hadn’t filled up. Lesson learned: Sometimes you have to take one for the team
Two. The number of people in the world that could use IBM NetView to manage SAP R/3 other than myself. Then we bought Tivoli and the number went to zero. Lesson learned: Niche knowledge can be valuable but short lived
“…But Joan said you had already been a manager”. My manager Carl Jones after he offered and I accepted a job as the manager of AIX Architecture team when I told him he needed to send me to Manager School. Lesson learned: Sometimes it is best not to tell everything you know
“Who will pay me for all the money and time we wasted trying to get your #$%^& product to work?” An unhappy customer I inherited when I took a product management jobs at Tivoli. We managed to turn the product and the customer around within two years. This gentleman never stopped asking this question, but the Russian curses stopped after the product quality improved. Lesson learned: You can turn around even the most unhappy customer. Bonus lesson: If you are not cursing at me in Russian, it’s not that bad (yet)
“I have shoes older than you and IBM bought them” My remark to then peer manager, Pete Rubio, at IBM Manager School when he described his tenure with IBM. Lesson learned: Sometimes it is good to embrace your inner curmudgeon
“I’m the only customer you need to worry about” Directive from an IBM Director when the lowly product team tried to stop the release of AIX PS2 due to stability issues. He was wrong. Lesson learned: The actual customer that buys and uses your product is the only “boss” that matters
“You must know everything. You can never say you will get back to them” Former Briefing Center colleague that had very unrealistic expectations about technical presenters. Lesson learned: Customers will realize that you are a human too –if you give them the chance
“I never filed that expense report for Germany,” One of my colleagues would say this every time she saw me. She had gone for a full year without filing travel reimbursements and never recovered all the expenses she paid out of pocket. Lesson learned: File travel reimbursement claims quickly
“If you only add this one feature, I can close this 20 million dollar sale” Said by just about every sales person who wanted something. In 30+ years I only had a single case where a verifiable $20M sale occurred after making the requested change. Lesson learned: Verify the actual size of the pipeline before you even consider the request.
“You don’t look very sorry” Brash coworker at Tivoli when told by the receptionist at Airbus that she could not admit him to the site without a passport. Lesson learned: Be nice to people.
“Two Hundred Eighty Eight” The number of rubber duckies I dumped into the reflecting pond at IBM Austin. Lesson learned: Sometimes you gotta say “Why the Hell not!”
”Cowboy Boots” The only footwear I wore during my first ten years at IBM. Yeah. It was in a different time. Lesson learned: Comfort triumphs style
A twenty-minute tirade about the GPFS product. Client topic at my first ever “Meet the Experts” presentation in 2002 at the UNIX in Focus conference in Lu Hulpe Belgium. I know nothing about GPFS since I was there to talk about AIX but that didn’t stop this client from raging. An uber nerd with socks and sandals beat down the complainer. Lesson learned: You never know what will happen when you give a customer a microphone, be ready to redirect back to the agenda
3,938,656. Total miles I have earned on American Airlines. Lesson learned: More travel tips than you can know but “Get to the airport early” is probably the best
“We’re a drinking company with a software problem!” Unofficial Tivoli motto during the late 1990s. Lesson learned: Work and play hard. It’s more fun and more productive