What will they say about you when you are gone?

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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?

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About Jay Kruemcke

Jay has had more than twenty years of experience in the information technology industry. Starting from a rather humble beginning at IBM, Jay became a mainframe systems support programmer. Eventually Jay joined the AIX operating systems development team early in that product's development. Jay leveraged technical skills that he built in systems management to establish himself as a member of the IBM Austin Executive Briefing Center. His expertise in systems management with the SAP ERP system enabled his first product management role, as the owner of the Tivoli management product for SAP. Over the next three years he established that product as a success with the help of a strong development team. Jay returned to AIX in a product management position initially focusing on managing new requirements for the AIX operating system. Jay established himself as a subject manager expert in AIX and Power Systems virtualization and became a frequent guest at conferences around the world. Jay succumbed to the dark side and spent four years in IBM marketing in which he introduced AIX version 6 and AIX version 7 and many product innovations including the first every open beta program for an AIX release and a significant restructuring of the AIX offering structure and prices. Jay was part of the cloud software development organization and and focused on managing development engagements for clients deploying clouds using Power Systems servers with PowerVC and related products. In March of 2016, Jay retired from IBM and started in a new role as a product manager for SUSE, the Open Software company. Jay new focus is on enterprise Linux for POWER and ARM processor based systems. The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of my employer. Follow me on twitter @mr_sles, @cloudrancher and @chromeaix.
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One Response to What will they say about you when you are gone?

  1. Thanks for sharing such a heart touching article Jay. Sounds like Bill was one of those classic old-school IBMers… not just highly technical and driven to succeed, but also a genuinely nice guy.

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