Steve Jobs Presenting
Meeting with Steve Raymond
Netscape kills browser
Sun Identity Management
Compaq HQ
Windows 95 Launch

My Interesting Stories

Observing Bill Gates in Action

Getting to watch Bill Gates in action was one of the coolest experiences of my life. He was walking the floor of the Microsoft Booth at Comdex Canada, with his bodyguard trailing, and an entourage of people introducing him to folks in the booths from various software companies.

Bill got introduced to a person that had a contact management piece of software. Bill took up his familiar pose of right hand in the left arm pit and chin resting on left hand – the um hmm position. The gentleman gave a great demo of a wonderful piece of software with lots of cool features. Bill just went “mmm, yes nice, … uhuh”. I swear I could see the thought bubble above Bill’s head. It was filled with things like: send an email to so and so about how we should be doing this or an email to so and so saying how come we are not doing something like this in such and such product. In other words Bill was taking it all in and formulating his action items right there on the fly.

His entourage toured him over to another booth of a software company that sold emulation software for talking to mainframes; at this point in time it was a big profitable market. There you are setup for what happens next.

Once the introductions are concluded Bill starts with a question aren’t your competitors…? He lists every company in that space which at the time was 15 to 20. Then says directly to this VP isn’t that one of your competitors right over there (he points to another pod in the Microsoft booth). The VP says “Yes it is”. Bill says why didn’t you buy that spot? (Go for exclusivity) VP says, “A little friendly competition never hurts anybody.” Bill says, “If it was me, I would have bought that space.”

By observing these two short conversations I was able to see the incredible business mind of Bill Gates at work, and it was impressive and everything I had expected of him.

What was I doing there you ask? I was supporting the hot, new, yet-to-be-released gear Compaq supplied which was running the yet-to-be-released software from Microsoft.

Listening to Steve Jobs present…

One of the best presentations I ever attended was a Novell Brainshare conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. The presenter was Steve Jobs of Next Computers and he was presenting on the Next operating system. Steve was presenting to a group of several hundred of us geeks showing us the built in (native) processing of postscript so what you see on the screen is what you get out of the printer (real WSIWYG), along with several other features of his amazing Unix based OS that ran on an Intel 486 processor. He was wearing his jeans and standard black t-shirt and speaking with tremendous passion for his product. In the front row to his left were about five or six suits (lawyers), so when it got to the question and answer portion someone would go up and ask a question and Steve would look to the lawyers to see if he could answer it or not. He really did just want to answer any and all questions because he was in a room full of geeks; however, his lawyers kept him from revealing any secrets.

What doesn’t surprise me is my MacBook Pro runs a Unix based OS, with full WSIWYG functionality all on an Intel processor, supporting every network protocol.

Meeting with Steve Raymond President of Tech Data

I was sent to Tampa, the location of Tech Data’s headquarters for a couple of days to see how things were done where the volume and size of everything was much larger than what we were dealing with in Canada.

During this trip I toured around the various buildings on campus meeting with each department to get a feel for how things worked. I spent the most time with Training, Tech Support, and Customer Service as these were the three areas I was responsible for at Tech Data Canada. But, right after I visited the sales department, I had a one on one with Steve. Yes, the world wide President.

As I was sitting outside Steve’s office the wall was lined with framed pages with him listed as one of the Top 20 Executives in the computer industry. He was in fine company as others on the list were Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, etc. It was at this time that I realized I was working for one of these guys, and not just working for – meeting with.

So at the time sales people worked in teams of four, and sat side by side. Each team was next to two other teams – so rows of 12 people across. The sales floor had three columns of 12 people and I can’t remember how many rows deep – just a sea of sales reps. The sales fax machines had 10 or more people in line waiting. In other words people stacked on top of one another.

Steve’s office at the time was big enough to fit 12 or more sales reps, and was sparsely decorated with a desk and a boardroom table in it. So I walk in say “Hi” and sit down across from him. I present him with the one page summary that we had worked on for half a day, and he doesn’t even look at it and instead asks me “So, how is Julia doing up there in Canada?”

Wow what an opening question; as Julia Conn Watt was my boss and the President of Tech Data Canada at the time. Julia Conn Watt was a fantastic leader and a wonderful mentor. It is too bad she had to leave us so early!

Of course I answered that she was doing great – because she was growing the business exponentially. The meeting went well and I learned what it was like to report to the VERY top.

Netscape decides to exit the browser business

I was travelling down to Netscape to attend a training class, I was told before I got there the class was full and that I might not have access to a machine during class. This was the case on the first day of class, but I needed to get the knowledge to able to transfer it to one of our clients.

During this same week Jim Barksdale was in Washington speaking out against Microsoft and their influence on the software business. It was during this very trip he decided that Netscape was no longer going to continue in the Browser business. Once that announcement was made things started to happen in Mountain View very quickly. Almost immediately people started leaving the class and not coming back. We watched as Netscape HR essentially cleared out the people working on the browser in one day. A shocking example of Internet time.

In the end I had more than one system to use to do my labs, and today we get to enjoy Mozilla the evolution of Netscape browser.

Compaq HQ, Houston, Texas

I had the opportunity to go to Compaq HQ in Houston, to learn the latest greatest before we headed out on the cross Canada product launch tour. What I remember most is how hot and humid Houston was and that the Compaq campus had all of its buildings connected with air-conditioned walkways. In Calgary we have walkways because of how cold it gets in the winter, Toronto has its underground path for similar reasons.

As we visited building after building what kept sticking out was the skids of equipment in the hallways. Then it struck home when you work for a hardware vendor you have lots of hardware, when you work for a software vendor you have lots of software – but both need what the other has.

Windows 95 launch

The ITTA (International Technology Training Association) held a special event in conjunction with the launch of Windows 95 on the Microsoft Campus in Seattle. If I remember correctly there was only about a hundred or so of us. We listened to Steve Balmer and other Microsoft executives talk about the future of Microsoft.

What struck me as strange was going to the campus store watching Microsoft employees buy Windows 95 by the cartload. What was happening at the major retailers was happening right there on Microsoft’s own campus.

Sun Identity Management

Working closely with Sun was a lot of fun. At one point I was badged like an employee. I could gain access to the campus in San Jose where we worked with the Identity Management group on three different Identity Management courseware projects. We worked directly with the developers and Product Managers to create courseware to training the SE’s (Systems Engineers) managing the early release customers.

For one whole year I spent a week a month in California working on various projects for Sun. I got to see the cycle of the seasons in northern California; snow on the mountains, the green mountains, the brown mountains.

When you had a question you could walk up stairs to the developer or on the next con call ask the question of a developer and they would open up the code and say well the way I programmed it was like this – so this is how it is supposed to work. We would find bugs and they would fix them on the fly.

Once the courseware was completed it had to be delivered around the world to Sun’s top Identity Management SE’s.