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 Kruemcke is passionate about helping customers and partners achieve their goals. Jay is a currently a Senior Product Manager at SUSE. Jay is responsible for the SUSE Linux for High-Performance Computing, Linux for Arm, and Linux for Power servers. Jay released the first commercially supported Linux distribution for Arm in 2016. Jay completely restructured SUSE’s HPC offerings in 2017 to add support for Arm systems, provide longer term support, and continue to enhance the HPC Module. The HPC Module provides support for open software such as slurm as part of the SUSE HPC subscription. Jay has built an extensive career in product management based on being a bridge between customers and engineering teams. He has extensive experience in many areas including product positioning, driving future product directions, using social media for client collaboration, and evangelizing the capabilities and future directions of enterprise products. Prior to joining SUSE, Jay had a long career at IBM including many roles in the Power and Cloud Engineering and Offering teams. In addition to his product management experience, Jay has held a variety of technology roles at including product marketing, manager of a technical architecture team, briefing center staff, SAP systems management consultant, and as a system programmer and administrator Jay also volunteers with the Boy Scouts in multiple roles and with ProductCamp Austin. 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 and @phastflyer
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4 Responses to What will they say about you when you are gone?

  1. Matt says:

    Nice observations, Jay. Bill always had a quick smile and a kind word.

  2. 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.

  3. Wonderful post – I think it reinforces the idea that it is truly is “the little things” that are most important!! There are so many lovely quotes about the little things in life but after my daughter passed away at age 32 the one that reverberated with me was ” Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you will look back and realize they were big things”…

  4. Victor Threatt says:

    Jay, Thank you. Well done. I also remember the smile, the twinkle in his eye. And I remember the enthusiasm the many times he answered the call when he could help me with a customer situation or customer user group. He is missed.
    Victor

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