Recently I attended the funeral of a colleague, Bill Maron, from my days at IBM. Bill was the quintessential engineer who had overseen many complex projects at IBM. Bill drove the groundbreaking Transaction Processor Council (TPC) benchmarks that helped to catapult the IBM POWER4 UNIX systems to leadership performance and eventual IBM domination of the UNIX market. Bill ran the IBM UNIX performance team for many years and helped to resolve thousands of critical customer performance situations and drove the benchmarking activities associated with launching multiple generations of IBM POWER servers.
Bill fought cancer for several years but continued his work of tackling competitive bids and addressing critical performance issues. I connected with Bill on one of my last trips at IBM. It was a customer visit for a competitive bid and I didn’t even know that Bill was ill-he just continued on as usual.
The funeral was held in the middle of the day at a funeral home that was not convenient for people coming from IBM. Despite this, his funeral was extremely well attended.
At the end of the service, people were asked to share a few thoughts about Bill. Now, you would think that the remembrances would include lots of things about Bill’s technical accomplishments and war stories about his long career at IBM.
Instead, the comments were about Bill’s unbounded kindness. Over and over we heard about how Bill had been a mentor who sustained careers, how he had guided his people to be better at their jobs, and even simple kindnesses such as swapping seats on airplanes with total strangers in order to make somebody’s day a little better. The remembrances painted a picture of a genuinely kind and thoughtful person.
I was struck by the fact that what people remembered about Bill was not his many technical and professional achievements but instead they remembered was the kind word, the gentle push in the right career direction, and simple acts of kindness.
I didn’t work with Bill closely but when I think of him, I remember most of all his smile and the mischievous twinkle in his eye.
How will people remember you?