is now my honor to present the next our regular series of interviews
with some of the rockin' folks in Rational Client Support. Today I
have the pleasure of introducing Fred Bickford, support engineer
based in Lexington... er, make that Littleton,
MA. And be sure to check out our previous interviews with the peeps of Rational Client Support.
us a little about yourself: who are you, what is your role in
Rational Client Support?
name is Fred Bickford IV, I am a Senior
Advisory Software Engineer / Lab Advocate
for the Customer Advocacy Group(CAG) in IBM
Rational Client Support.
long have you been working for IBM and Rational?
have been at IBM (and previous acquisitions) since 1997.
you had any other roles in Rational?
have had various technical roles and even a management role at one
you a gadget person? What type of gadgets do you use?
than my blackberry, not so much a gadget person, I love to work with
hardware, rebuilding old PC's, refreshing or keeping alive my various
aging computers at home.
gadget, which you currently own, can you not live without?
probably would feel naked with out my blackberry. Funny how much it
keeps you connected.
is your favorite part of working for Rational Client Support?
constant challenge and change. Work rarely ever gets boring in Client
Support. Working with the customers and solving customer issues is a
favorite part of my work.
do you define success?
for me is about embracing change and diversity and not only
surviving, but thriving.
your spare time, if you have any, what hobbies or activities interest
my spare time, I am actively involved with my two sons' sports, and I
am big fan of history (American civil war, WWII European History
is your favorite technology that fizzled or failed to live up to the
Reality hasn't panned out as much as I had expected or hoped.
new technologies that you think are about to break into the big time?
technologies - everywhere we look there is another opportunity for
RFID and the like.
do you prefer to find answers to your questions?
of the greatest things I have at IBM is the availability of such
talented people across all kinds of technologies. Also the Internet..
with Google and IBM internal resources, I don't think I could not be
are you using social networking today?
am actively on Facebook, it is interesting to see co-workers and
friends lives unfold daily, sometimes trivially, sometimes with
exciting or interesting activities.
could you see yourself using it in 5 years?
see social networking becoming more engrained in daily life and also
really being leveraged more..Watching my two teen aged boys, it is
interesting how social networking is already becoming such a way of
life for generations to come.
you a blogger in the blogosphere? ... Are you a YouTuber? ...Are you
an Author? .... Do you Tweet? ...
have written whitepapers for work, and actively participate on some
devworks forums. I don't tweet as much as I could
(@fabickfo) and I have a CCRC developerworks wiki I maintain.
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This week's "People of Rational Support" spotlight is on Judy Cass. Judy is an esteemed Customer Advocacy Group (CAG) engineer who has her hand in nearly everything, and if she doesn't, she likely knows who does. Her commitment to helping along with her diverse experiences are two of the qualities which make Judy such an asset for us in RCS, as you'll discover below:
Tell us a little about yourself: who are you, what is your role in Rational Client Support? My name is Judy Cass. I've been married almost 13 years. I have a wonderful husband (who is also my best friend), I have 3 grown step-kids, 7 step-grandkids and a beautiful German Shepherd named Schatzie. Currently I work in the Customer Advocacy Group (CAG) and my specialties are ClearQuest, Installation Manager and Rational to Rational integrations.
How long have you been working for IBM and Rational? I started working at Atria as a ClearCase support engineering back in 1994 - so I'm currently in my 16th year at IBM/Rational.
Have you had any other roles in Rational? I've held several roles over the last 15 years. I spent my first 4 1/2 years in Support. From there I moved over to Release Engineering were I worked exclusively on ClearCase and ClearQuest patches. I then spent 18 months in CQ CAG. I went back to RE and did that for another 5+ years. Then I moved onto Team Install Development where I held both a management role and an individual contributor role. I moved happily back to RCS in Q4 of 2008.
What are you currently working on? My main focus is on Escalations that come in from TSEs. I work closely with L3 on those issues that we aren't able to solve ourselves (or those that require fixes to be generated). I contribute to DCF (our knowledge base) both in new technotes/white papers as well as review a lot of the install related ones. I will be participating in an upcoming Vitality talk. I participate in tech sessions and sometimes provide training to the support community.
Describe a normal day for you. My days are anything but normal and I really can't imagine I'd like it if they were. Although I know at some point in my day I will make progress on some set of my escalations, I find most days also involve me helping others with issues that might not yet be escalated. There is a lot of juggling of tasks and prioritizing what is most important to the team and our customers. I love helping people so this is the perfect fit for me. Of course I do have my days when I need to do less helping of others and get to my critical escalations, but even though days are fun and those that I can't help seem to understand. Do you have an "on the job" hero? If you could "follow" anyone for 24 hours, who would it be? That would be really tough to choose, I would say either Mary Barry or Chris Flynn. I have never seen two more genuinely happy people no matter what stresses the day brings them. I'd love to be a fly on the wall and watch just how they achieve it so that I can learn from them!!
Are you a gadget person? What type of gadgets do you use? No, unfortunately I'm still an old school type person. Give me a good book I can open up, touch and turn the page and I'm happy
What type of gadgets do you use? If I told you how simple and old fashion my cell phone was you'd laugh. I even still have a few VCRs hanging around, although I will admit I did move one TV to DVD recently
What gadget, which you currently own, can you not live without? If I had to choose, probably my iPOD.. its my best buddy when I'm working out
What's the coolest piece of tech news you've heard lately? Actually I have to admit I'm sort of excited about the Kindle (or the ability to read books electronically on a portable media).
What is your favorite part of working for Rational Client Support? Helping customers and anyone who needs it. I just love providing assistance to anyone who needs it
What inspires you in your work? Just the happiness of customers when we solve their issue, the kind words from peers when I've been able to help them with something, and the general sense that what I do is helping others succeed.
What are you passionate about? When working in the world of Customer Support we constantly need to gather data from our customers to help solve issues. I almost never have any trouble obtaining the information/logs/data I need from customers. Some people think I'm just lucky, but in actuality its all how you deliver the message to the customer. If you explain to the customer why you need the data, what lead you to wanting the data, what you are looking for, your thought process of how you will move once you analyze the data (almost like a flow chart - if I see X in your data I'll take action 1, if I see Y in your data I'll take action 2) etc., the customers are so willing to give you the data. It really frustrates me when we ask for data (that we don't necessarily need, and/or data we don't know what we'd do with) or we haven't thought out our next step that really frustrates me. We are here to help customer's succeed (not just ask them things to give us a few more days to think) and it frustrates me when we sometimes waste their time (wow I didn't realize I was passionate about anything until you asked!)
What tip or trick would you like to share with the class? When you're not sure if something works or doesn't work - sometimes the best way to figure it out is to just try it! Some folks spend a lot of time Googling and emailing (to ask others, etc) when in reality you can learn a lot by just trying it yourself! (and you might learn and additional item or two while you are trying) Tell me about the biggest problem you've solved? It might not sound big to others, but there was this one install issue that was going on for 2 months. We had daily meetings and although we couldn't reproduce the issue, the customer could constantly. After several debugging sessions and some additional debugging messages (and an extra pair of eyes) someone finally noticed some odd behavior. It turns out the customer was installing into a very long path (not something we even knew was an issue) and there it was, some operating systems have a limit to the number of characters they return in a process table. The unfortunate part was the error message was no where near what the real problem was. So once we had the customer shorten the install path they were successful. Of course I filed a defect wrote a technote (after figuring out the exact limit).
How do you define success? I'm not sure how one defines success in an industry or business, but for me personally I define success when I know I've done the best I can and that each day I've not only done a good job, but that somehow I've helped someone else do a better one.
In your spare time, if you have any, what hobbies or activities interest you? Knitting sweaters and reading!
What tools / skills have you acquired that you feel are vital to your success in this field? I'm not sure if I acquired them on the job, or if I had them before I joined in 1994 and have just improved them, but I've always had a natural curiousity about how things work and when they don't trying to find out why. Therefore moving to a career in Customer Support was a great move for me as it allowed me to take what I love to do and have it be my daily job.. how cool is that?
What message would you give to XYZ just starting out in the XYZ industry? I would say to anyone starting in the software industry to always have a thirst for knowledge and never stop learning. The world of technology is ever evolving and that won't change, so you have to be flexible enough to want to change and learn with it.
Do you have any big plans for the future? My big plans always involve vacations to warm places and at least 1 cruise a year
If you were stuck on a technology deprived island, what single technology could you not live without? Cable TV (I did think about a phone but who knows how good cell phone connection is on a deprived island!)
What is on your nightstand with regard to reading? Currently a great book by Clive Cussler called "The Wrecker"
How do you grow your technical skills? For me I guess I am just naturally curious and just learning how things work allows me to grow my technical skills. What appears to happen is they grow in areas that my role moves me into, but I guess in reality that means it's probably skills I am loving to learn
How do you prefer to find answers to your questions? For me seeing it for myself and trying it myself are the best ways to answer my questions (when that's possible). If its not something I can do myself I find Google is a great way to see how others might have answered it (of course then you have to figure out how accurate they are!)
How are you using social networking today? I'm horrible. As I mentioned previously I'm so behind the gadget curve and I feel that social network is a gadget. I still don't get the difference between tweeter and a tweet (wow am I sounding old). However I have to admit it is a great way to keep in touch with my step-grandkids that are far away.
How could you see yourself using it in 5 years? Still not sure I will be a big fan of it - I still like the face to face personal approach. Are you a blogger in the blogosphere? ... Are you a YouTuber? ...Are you an Author? .... Do you Tweet? ... As you already know I'm behind the technology curve, but I can say I have a few work videos on YouTube (thanks to my previous boss who is great with a video camera). So I guess I owe a thanks to him for introducing me to something new
Any other fun tidbits of information about you, your job, or RCS that you'd like to share? I guess one thing I've always lived by - and its worked for me since I started working... Do what you like and love what you do, once it becomes a job, move on! I never consider what I do a "job" as to me that is mundane and something you "have" to do. I do what I "like/love" to do and once my role feels like a "job" I move on. Its worked great for me my entire career at IBM. I am so lucky to always love what I do.. can't ask for a better place to work.
Today we are delighted to spotlight Wendy Toh. Wendy is RCS's new Vice President responsible for managing the worldwide client support organization for the Rational division in Software group. Born in Malaysia, Wendy moved to the United States in the early 1980s, graduated from the University of Florida with a BS in Mathematics and Computer Science, and subsequently started her career with IBM. She has some serious and long work days in her role as VP, but gets through them all successfully by following her personal mottos, as you'll find out below:
Tell us a little about yourself: who are you, what is your role in Rational Client Support? I joined in January 2010 as the Vice President of RCS. I am excited about this new role and looking forward to meeting the team and working on making 2010 very successful.
How long have you been working for IBM and Rational? I've been working at IBM since 1989 and in Rational since 2006.
Have you had any other roles in Rational? Yes. I've been the development director for the Enterprise Modernization Tools & Compilers (EM&C) team as well as the Enterprise Architecture and Analysis Design Construction (EA/ADC) teams. I've also been an executive sponsor for the Rational China Development Lab working with Charles Yan. Finally, I'm the executive sponsor for both of the Research Triangle Park Asian and Women's Diversity Network Groups.
Describe a normal day for you. I arrive between 7:30AM and 8AM and catch up on emails. Typically I have 7-8 hours of meetings scheduled each day. I prefer to leave the office around 6PM to go workout or take a break. I am usually online in the evenings 2-3 days a week to catch up on email. Like many of you, I also take late calls from home. Finally - I travel quite a bit - probably about 50% of my time - to visit our clients. I plan on getting to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney in April, followed by a visit to Bangalore, Stockholm, and Amsterdam in May, before I head to Orlando for Innovate 2010! This doesn't include short trips that arise suddenly due to critical situations.
What type of gadgets do you use? Blackberry Tour, Kindle, iPod, MacBook
What gadget, which you currently own, can you not live without? My Blackberry Tour cellphone
What is your favorite part of working for Rational Client Support? The people!! Even when it's stressful most folks keep their sense of humor! I also like the fact that we can make a positive impact on our clients in helping them get productive!
What are you passionate about? Enabling people to reach their full potential while maximizing their contributions to IBM and IBM customers.
How do you define success? Being joyful and happy in all aspects of my life. While I do put a lot of time and energy towards my job, it's my family and friends that keep me grounded. I also believe we must succeed by living and working by a consistent set of core values that reflect our personal beliefs and ethics.
Any other fun tidbits of information about you, your job, or RCS that you'd like to share? I enjoy sports and music very much. I'm a big Florida Gators fan (that's an American college football (not soccer) team for those of you who live outside North America :-). Some artists on my iPod playlist: Pink Martini, Dwight Yoakam, Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, ABBA, Chris Isaak, Gwen Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, Dwight Yoakam, Reba McEntire, Frank Sinatra, The Mavericks.
Here are the mottos I live by:
1. Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug 2. Fake it 'til you make it 3. Work is what I do in between vacations
What have you planned for your next vacation(s)? Weekend getaway in New Orleans at the end of March, then a 12-night Mediterranean cruise in the summer...woo hoo!
Today we have the pleasure of introducing Pavan Hoskeri. Pavan is a driven support engineer based in Bangalore, India who came to Rational Support through the acquisition of the Telelogic portfolio. As you'll see below, Pavan has a passion for support and building relationships with his clients and colleagues alike!
Tell us a little about yourself: who are you, what is your role in Rational Client Support? Hi, I am Pavan. Hoskeri and I primarily work as Technical Support Engineer for a slew of IBM Rational products which majorly include Rational DOORS, Rational Publishing Engine and Rational Directory Server. I work out of one Rational’s Support center from Bangalore, India.
How long have you been working for IBM and Rational? I've been part of IBM Rational since later half of 2008 when Telelogic was acquired. It has been a challenging and enjoyable journey as special and a more focused approach towards client satisfaction was necessary during the phases of integration between Telelogic and IBM.
Have you had any other roles in Rational? Though my primary job role is assisting and making sure that the issues reported by IBM Rational clients are resolved to the best extent possible, I am also involved in many exciting aspects of Support functionalities. These include updating IBM Support website with quality Technotes, running internal training on new products, etc.
What are you currently working on? Towards finding out innovative ways of resolving PMR’s at a faster rate which will definitely help us in increasing client satisfaction.
Describe a normal day for you. I always found it hard to wake up early in the morning (but can easily be awake all night long ) and I have been fortunate that currently my work starts at 12:30 in the afternoon. As soon as I reach office, the first thing I do is to login to my Support phone extension. Go through the various queues to check if any new or existing PMR’s require immediate action. Simultaneously open my Email and check through the various Folders I have created for mailers from Development teams, notifications etc. Act on the most important ones first. Once I feel things are in control head for lunch. Oops, I missed having lunch again today The same continues through out the day with occasional breaks taken to catch up with peers from other teams.
What project are you the most proud of? I officially tweeted the updates of Rational Software Conference 2009 held in Bangalore, India. This was the first time I ever tweeted and extremely happy that many new followers were added to @RationalSupport during the conference.
Are you a gadget person? What type of gadgets do you use? To a certain extent yes! The gadget I use the most has to be my Mobile Phone.
What gadget, which you currently own, can you not live without? I own a USB plug and play modem. With this I have truly become mobile, coz I hate accessing Internet via a hand held device and my USB mobile lets me be connected using my ThinkPad laptop anytime – anyplace
What is your favorite part of working for Rational Client Support? Being given the freedom to innovate while assisting IBM Rational Clients!
What inspires you in your work? A simple “Thank you” that our clients respond when their issues are resolved is all that drives me.
What tip or trick would you like to share with the class? Always consider the Business Impact on even the simplest of questions that a Client might consult you for. If you can clearly visualize the Big Picture, you would be in the best position to assist the customer.
How do you define success? When you can help not only yourself but others around you!
In your spare time, if you have any, what hobbies or activities interest you? I love listening to music. Michael Jackson is my favorite artist.
Any new technologies that you think are about to break into the big time? Cloud Computing
What future technology would make your life easier? Probably the technology has slowly started appearing in day to day activities, but RFID linked with Mobile banking, is one thing that I think would make life easier. Imagine you walking into a mall, buying just a single Toothpaste and having been made to wait for hours together coz of the never ending queue at the billing counter Enter RFID – the product is auto tagged and amount deducted from your card instantaneously. Wow
How are you using social networking today? You might be surprised, but I found it difficult to manage my Facebook ® account and have just continued using my Orkut account. I tweet using @RationalSupport with ^PH tag for Support related updates.