An Interview with Dave Andrews - Former CICS Director
ChrisTaylor 270004SXGX Visits (1823)
An Interview with Dave Andrews – Former CICS Director
Since Danny Mace was announced in March 2012 as Dave Andrews’ successor as the Director of CICS, there has been a buzz around the Hursley Laboratory and the wider CICS community. We managed to find a little bit of time in their busy schedules to find out a little bit more about them.
Dave Andrews has recently taken on the position of Director of Product management for Service Availability and Performance Management in Tivoli. Dave was the Development Director for CICS and CICS Tools in AIM for five years, he saw CICS and the CICS team through three major CICS Transaction Server releases and through many CICS Tools releases so we wanted to get a brief insight into his time as Director.
You have worked in IBM for twenty years now Dave, what initially made you want to work in CICS?
I started with CICS when I left university and I worked as a development engineer, my first job was writing 3270 assembler code. My early experiences of IBM were with this wonderful product so really it was fate that drove me to CICS in the first instance. In that twenty years, I’ve had about ten years working in the messaging space, particularly in the MQ and message broker space, but I returned to CICS as the director having broadened my experiences in other parts of IBM, seeing how the customers work and then applying that with a deep understanding of the CICS products, the customers here, and the real value of the product.
Looking back over the last five years that you’ve been director, what were the most exciting times for you?
I think seeing the team deliver on time with great quality and achieve what they wanted to and what they set out to. They really understand that what they’re delivering is really meaningful to our customers and to the market. Often it’s easy to look internally, to get trapped into delivering the wrong lines of capability, but seeing the delight on our engineers faces and then subsequently standing in front of our customers and saying, “this is what we’ve done” and seeing the solutions and the ideas pop into their minds is very rewarding.
I think the second area is just seeing the passion in the team for quality. Seeing the testing teams’ deep understanding of what our customers are trying to do and see their pleasure when they break it, seeing the realisation that they are saving our customers from what is a quite painful experience if not careful, and then seeing the level 2 and level 3 service teams keep on top of the whole service situation. I’ve mentioned all teams and what delights me the most is seeing those areas work together in a combined and unified approach.
How have you seen the landscape of CICS change during your time as director?
I came in at a great time, when CICS was going through a wonderful transition through the adoption of web services and SOA support and really from the moment I started the product has moved forward in the way it is seen as more vital and energetic, more in touch with what the industry is doing and away from maybe some of the established COBOL and 3270 style attributes that it had had before that. And so looking at how we’ve continued to search both inside and outside for the innovations that matter, I think that the adoption of the CICS Explorer says that we identified a business need, a way we could really change the way that customers use that product and help address some of their skills problems. The way we’ve seen the adoption of Java as a programming language and a first class way we support it. To recognise that it is equally important as COBOL and PL/1 and our established languages in providing application support for our customers. And so these vitality areas I think are what have been very important to me.
And then internally I think we’ve also seen a number of changes in the way we develop, particularly our adoption of some of the agile working practices within IBM and really tried to show that not only do we have a product that can be adapted to the external vitality needs but also be very proud in the way that we are really pushing the boundaries in the way we develop code in the most agile and modern ways possible.
What experiences have you had in the last five years that have been pivotal in shaping your future?
As a director one of the things that you are always aware of is how critical the software we build is to our customers. During my time I’ve experienced the pain our customers go through when for some reason our software or something goes wrong. Understanding the importance of quality, the importance of getting something out that works that customers can trust completely is critical because if the software, the usability, or other components go wrong the implications for companies are huge. The implications on the general public are also huge when services that they expect to be there 24/7 are suddenly not there so I think having lived through some of those experiences has been important in shaping myself in terms of realising the way we have to operate and the way we have to develop software at the highest levels of quality. I guess the other area that I would say has been pivotal is that in my role as director I’ve had to adapt and change dramatically. The role came with a high expectation from my team and the market for me as a figurehead, the visibility and vitality that the role is driven from both inside and outside IBM. It was important for me to really use the opportunity to get out in front of customers all over the world and actually help with the excitement and generation of energy that all products need, particularly in the mainframe space.
You’ll no doubt have many interesting challenges in your new role with Tivoli, what experiences can you draw on in your time with CICS to guide you moving forward?
One of the things I would like to hang on to is the ability to celebrate the successes that we’ve had. When we are in software engineering, it’s very easy to focus on the challenges that we’ve had but I think we also have to recognise that when things go right we should celebrate. We should really identify the reasons that things have gone well and build on those rather than focus on the areas that haven’t and try to correct them. I think that’s a very key experience and mentality that I’ve tried to foster.
I think the second is the importance of understanding the customers and the market and letting the market place drive what we do much more so than looking internally and having internal leads drive us. I’m a great believer that if we’re in touch with where the market is and understand what the market needs, which is not just what individual customers need but abstracting that to a market need, and we can adapt and deliver on those, then we will have successful products.
Have you enjoyed the last five years?
I have, it’s certainly been the best job that I’ve had in IBM to date. I think that I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked with CICS products for such a long time; in the last 5 years I’ve experienced a really outstanding team, not just here in Hursley but my teams in Russia, India, the United States, and China. Seeing those teams work together as a single unit with common goals for delivery excellence has been fantastic. The business partners we have, their cooperative nature, the way they are passionate about what we do, and the way they help us in reaching our customers with extended solutions, I can’t thank them enough for their help and cooperation. And last but not least, the great customers we have. There are many customers that unfortunately I’ve not had the opportunity to personally meet and greet. They are and have always been in my mind in terms of being able to support them. I’ve had the pleasure of being able to meet many customers on a deep level, building long term relationships with individuals and with particular customers and advocates, and so I’d like to thank them for their help, their encouragement, their support, and of course their business which keeps us all going.
I think the other part of what I’ve enjoyed in the role has been the opportunity to manage a business that is so successful all across the world, the opportunity that has opened up for me personally to go and visit places almost anywhere in the world where there are customers that are welcoming and eager to listen to our messages. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great people, see some great sights, and to experience some great cultures. Those things when you look at a career are very important as part of what we aspire to get out of life.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I would of course like to wish my successor Danny Mace the same sort of successes and enjoyment I’ve had in his new role. I have every confidence that he and the team will continue the journey with CICS, at 43 years old I certainly don’t see it waxing or waning at all, I see it going from strength to strength. There are innovations and exciting things in the pipeline that I’m aware of that are yet to hit the market place that will, I’m sure, keep this product going for a very, very long time. Of course I’d also like to thank the team, the business partners, and the customers; they have made the role and my experiences a delight. I really look forward in my new role in Tivoli to see how I can leverage both my experience and the opportunities for interaction between the new products that I’m responsible for and CICS to build stronger solutions for our customers as a result, this will also keep me in touch with many of the close contacts that I’ve made over the past 5 years that I hold very dear.