… on going from Mac to mainframe
In the late 1980s, Clemson’s computer science lab used only Macs (and no, I had my nickname well before grad school). So, on my first day at IBM, to work on mainframe communications software, I was just a little shocked to see this huge box — about three times the size of a standard Mac — on my desk. (I found out a little later that it was a 3270 green screen.)
I had no idea this was how you actually interacted with a mainframe and no idea how to use it! And where was the mouse?
… on learning from sage old programmers
Back in 1989, IBM paired new hires with seasoned programming veterans to help with onboarding. Well, I was paired with an engineer who had just relocated to Raleigh from Kingston, New York. He was a bit gruff but he showed me the ropes, teaching me about architecture, design and anything I wanted to know. So I tried to impress him with a program written in a higher-level language, which, of course, I thought would be much better than the low-level assembler language he used.
He took a look at my code. Then he showed me the object code, the output, and the actual machine instructions that he had written. My code was, let’s just say, about 20 times less efficient than his. I thought I was going to show the old man something, but he showed me!
It was a good lesson. You can’t always judge things by how pretty they look. It’s the underlying function that really matters.
… on spotting tech trends
I’m part of several communities that rally around what I call “centers of gravity of technology.” This includes participating in advisory boards where I can look for synergies between, say, start-ups and IBM. It also gives me the opportunity to speak at many technical conferences as well as hold technology meet-ups to discuss potential areas of collaboration.
At one of these IoT events, I met The Weather Company’s CIO/CTO. He had a similar IoT vision and we started collaborating, which led to partnership and eventually to their acquisition.
It’s about seeing patterns emerge, and asking “why does a certain technology have such a gravitational pull within a diverse community of developers?”
… on advice he follows
I live by the principle (and famous Jerry Maguire quote): “Show me the money.” Sometimes we get enamored with technology, but forget the business side — and forget how we’re going to make money with that tech. So, along with that advice, I believe you need to have a balance between business vision and technology so it aligns with the market opportunity.
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