Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Plus One to Grow On

In case you weren't counting, yesterday's entry was the 40th. But I thought I'd add one more to wrap up things. When I started this series of writings, I was very afraid that I would run out of topics or the time required would be too much, and I would fail. I'm glad to say, we did it. I greatly appreciate the support from various people.

Since many of the entries were written late at night, there were even greater chances of errors in grammar and spelling than my day time writing. Thanks very much to those that provided corrections, in particular: Perry Ruiter, Mary Ellen Carollo, and Phil Smith.

Thanks also to the various people that provided topic ideas or allowed me to think out loud. Including the noon time walking group: Kevin Adams, Alan Altmark, John Franciscovich, Mark Lorenc, and Bill Stephens.

Thanks to those who networked the topics, sharing with friends and colleagues, in particular: Gabe Goldberg.

Thanks to those of you that left comments, that made it much more enjoyable for me.

Most importantly, thanks to those of you that read and gave me feedback to let me know that it was worthwhile. Many of your positive comments touched me, and encouraged me when I needed it the most.

I learned a lot in this journey. I have a much greater appreciation for professional writers, especially those that write on a daily basis. There are things I wish I had done differently. I really wish I had timed things out better and had created a more detailed outline of all the topics on day one.

I know all of you reading this have your own stories to tell, and I encourage you to go tell them and share them.

I am also fascinated at how various topics ending up creating new threads and connections:
  • I was contacted by a brand new System z person in Belgium working on z/OS who came upon the blog.
  • I exchanged emails with an author whose book was sitting on the 'please read me' pile on my desk, after he was forwarded one of the entries on problem determination.
  • Reconnecting with some of the people discussed in the topics
I am also able to get some statistics on readers of the blog. It appears we ended with readers from almost 30 countries. In the Olympic spirit, here are the top ten countries. I had fun watching as Latvia came on strong during later half, but was edged out by France in the past couple of days:
  1. United States
  2. Russia
  3. Canada
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Germany
  6. Netherlands
  7. Japan
  8. Australia
  9. Brazil
  10. France
So what's next? Talk to me in five years. Though my idea for the 45th is a series of interviews with others.

Thanks again everyone!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

An Impossible History

Every five years, I seem to hear the same question, "How many more years can the success continue?". It's probably not a bad question to ask. But before raising the query out loud, perhaps we should consider why the question is being asked. Are we just being like the news and dwelling on the downside of life? That's unfortunate if we are. On the other hand, not knowing what lays ahead in the future, we should enjoy today. Doing whatever we can to improve life for one another.

I recall in the 1990s asking some people, "If this is the last year I work in VM/ESA, what's the most important thing I should accomplish?". Now that did fuel some rumors that I was leaving, but that wasn't my intent. I was looking for help in setting priorities and knowing that what I did was important. That year we fixed a number of problems in the VM state sampling that was causing problems in performance analysis and keeping customers from getting the most out of their VM systems. It became the 'thing' I had to do.

Someone in the organization came to me not long ago. They were a little overwhelmed at the news of cuts and pressure to do more, and the uncertainty of the future. Empathizing with them, I shared the following quote that I had heard recently, which was one of the driving forces behind me starting this blog:
"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do." - Edward Everett Hale
At SHARE last week, I got to meet Dave Tuttle, part of the original VM/370 team. He had a number of stories to tell. The one quote I wrote down was, "It was mostly a matter of doing the impossible". The VM product has a solid foundation in its design points which have survived decades. When you add talented people to the proven design principles, you get a combination that succeeds. When those people are fueled by passion for the product and compassion for others, you have an unstoppable force. I still believe we have those people. When I see younger people inside and outside of IBM working with the product that are cut from that same cloth, I know this impossible history has a possible future.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Influential People: Reed Mullen

I've written on several influential people in previous posts. The actual list of people who have impacted and influenced me is rather long, especially over the course of my career. Most of the previous ones served mostly as mentors. Reed has been a role model and given me words of wisdom. However, his role in my life and career, and the z/VM product has been more than that.

Reed Mullen, Sir Reed the Optimistic, became a Knight of VM in 1997. He was the senior planner for most of VM/ESA and for some of the z/VM lineage as well. Senior Planner was the title, but he was more than that. His vision, creativeness, and articulation are the yardstick by which others are measured today.

He is also the only IBMer to have his own bobble-head figure:

And what discussion about Reed would be complete without the infamous cheese-butt story. The following picture circulated at SHARE, showing Reed wearing not a cheese-head, but a cheese-butt. Reed is a serious Packers fan. I believe this picture was just prior to the Packer's 1997 attempt to repeat as Super Bowl Champs.

Five or six years ago, I picked up the book "Vital Friends: People You Can't Afford to Live Without", by Tom Rath. It discusses the importance of friendship, particularly in the workplace. The book discusses eight vital roles that friends play. It also has a little web based application to help you determine which roles your friends play. Reed's roles came out to be: collaborator, mind opener, and navigator.

As a collaborator, Reed and I do have several common interests and we relate to one another well. It has allowed us to pool our resources and talents at times. In March of 2005, Reed and I did a series of CMG regional conferences that hosted "Virtualization" days. Reed and I represented z/VM and then they'd also have speakers from VMware and Microsoft. I would cover the technical basics and Reed the business aspects. We kicked butt.

As a mind opener, Reed really did help me see the business side of things. He also was a help in tempering my passion when it got the best of me. Lastly, he was able to point me to the upside of most situations.

The third role was navigator. This didn't mean telling me which direction to go. Often it was more about helping me talk through the options I faced. The process of working through the pros and cons allowed me to come to a decision in which I had confidence. Reed as a navigator is ironic in one perspective. When traveling by car, Reed hates to be in the passenger seat, especially if the driver goes slow.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite Reed stories. I believe we were coming back from the CMG regional meeting in Washington DC, in late March of 2005. Though it may have been a Hillgang meeting. We had driven (ok, I drove for about 15 minutes and then Reed wanted to drive).  On the way home, we stopped for dinner in Frackville, PA, on Route 81. Shortly after getting back on the highway we saw some flurries. Until then, the roads had been clear. Within the next couple miles as we climbed in elevation, the snow was more significant and several inches could be seen on the shoulders. Traffic slowed. And then in a section of the divided highway cut through some hills, traffic stopped. We surmised there was an accident. After several minutes of standing still, Reed called home to tell his wife that he'd be late. It was probably around 7 or 8pm at that time.

After an hour or so of not moving, Reed would call his wife to let her know that he probably wouldn't be home tonight, that once we got moving, we'd find a hotel. At this point, our laptop batteries were close to 0%. Another hour went by with us moving about, ... well not moving at all. We took inventory. Neither of us had any food or anything to drink. For a brief period, I thought Reed was looking at me like in the cartoons, where I had transformed into a big turkey drumstick.

During inventory, Reed pointed out that we didn't have much fuel left. We decided to turn off the engine. While snow is a good insulator, the metal and glass rental car was a better conductor, aided by the winds cutting through the pass. As the optimist, Reed would point how great it would feel when we turned the engine back on and heat worked its magic. We would do that several times in the hours of standing still that followed. We would doze off periodically. I tried to keep one eye open, remembering that drumstick image.

Around 2am, we'd hear someone tapping on windshields telling people to wake up and move. Apparently a big part of the delay was truckers who had gone to sleep and were harder to wake up back in the sleeper cabs. As we started moving, we could see several snowmen built along side the road. Based on them, we believe the back up was well over a mile. We would end up driving straight home, after we stopped to fill the tank.

There are few people with which I'd rather be stranded than Reed. Though, I now always make sure I have a full tank of gas, something to eat, and water when traveling that stretch of Route 81. We love to tell that story now. I can't hear "Frackville" without thinking of my friend Reed.

Reed was a leader in VM, not because of a title of Senior Planner, but because he lead and people followed. His ability to communicate surpassed only by his character and integrity.