Friday, December 20, 2013

My IT Rock Stars: Observe, Learn, Adopt and Adapt


On occasion people come into your life at just the right time.  I am dedicating this article to two of the IT rock stars in my career that kept me moving forward.

Number 6

The first IT rock star that I will mention in this article is a fellow by the name of Brian Lyons.  Brian was the CEO of Number 6 software.  At the time that Number 6 hired me, I was seriously considering leaving IT.  I had recently received my MBA and was looking to do less technical work.  Then I was hired by Number 6 and all of that changed.  It was a small company run by a bigger than life super-nerd by the name of Brian Lyons.  Brian challenged us as individuals to be better.  He’d often spark lively debates on IT topics and was a Unified Modeling Language (UML) ninja.  His challenges inspired me to take a closer look at some of the newer methodologies and to become proficient in UML and Object-Oriented analysis, programming and design in general. 

Brian was also supportive in other ways.  He encouraged us to share our knowledge with each other and with others.  I wrote my first blog entry while working at Number 6.  It was an internal article on the basics of Object Oriented design for those who were new to it.  I received positive feedback from my peers and this inspired me to write another article on Security.  Not only did I receive positive feedback for that article, but Brian had the article placed on our public site.  My confidence in my IT chops was renewed and I rededicated myself to my chosen profession.

The day after Labor Day 2007, we received an email that there would be an all-hands conference call that day at noon.  We dialed in and one of our Senior Managers notified us that Brian had been killed in a motorcycle accident the previous day.  I never got to thank Brian for what he did for me. But I credit him for saving my IT career, just by being him.  Thanks Brian.


Lockheed Martin

Ironically, the IT rock star that made the biggest impact on my IT life at Lockheed Martin, didn’t actually work for Lockheed Martin.  Dennis Lamarre was a sub-contractor to Lockheed Martin.  He is one of those guys where you know that is just the smartest guy in the room without him even saying anything.  When I first started at Lockheed Martin, also as a sub-contractor, we were supporting the Social Security Administration and I was assigned to an “ugly baby” project.  Having read the background and vision of the project, I peppered Dennis with questions.  Apparently, they were the right questions.  Dennis, a rather excitable guy, admitted that the project was a bad idea and we went on to discuss the many ways that it was doomed to failure.  However, he also explained to me that the way things worked there was that consultants were to be seen and not heard.  Basically, we had to use the “smile and nod” management style.  No matter how ugly SSA’s baby was, we were just to smile and nod and try to make it work.

Dennis told me that he started out as a construction worker and that one day he had received a copy of DB2 for home use and became emotional when he recalled that the label on the box said “What is in this box will change your life”…I’m paraphrasing here.  He opened the box and never looked back.  He earned a degree in Cybernetics and has been working on software architecture ever since.  Many of the developers and architects that I run into do not appreciate the work that the analyst has to do to lay the groundwork for what they build.  Dennis not only understood it, but worked closely with the analysts because he knew we could make his job easier.

One day, in a meeting at SSA, we were discussing the processing of claims and one of the SSA analysts said something that I knew to be incorrect.  I corrected her and sited where I had gotten my information.  Another of the SSA analysts said something to the effect of “I’ve been working here for years and didn’t know that, how did you know that?”.  To which Dennis replied (in what had to be one of my proudest moments as an analyst) “Because she’s a good analyst”.  This, again, inspired me and I learned as much as I could about SSA’s processes and procedures that were non-IT related because we knew that SSA was going to be automating as much as they could in the future, so it could only help to know how they handle things manually…you know…just in case.  This had the immediate effect of helping me to stand out and helped me to be offered a full-time position with Lockheed Martin, and few years after that I was hired on at SSA.

Dennis left Lockheed a few weeks ago to continue to build his own consultancy.  Thanks Dennis.

Be Inspired!

I just wanted to take some time to thank the IT rock stars in my life that have helped me move on and continue to inspire me.  Tony Robbins was a big proponent of mentors and in their own way, these two guys mentored me and helped be to be a better IT practitioner.  Do not have too much pride to learn from someone else.  We are not too afraid to go to school to learn when it costs us thousands of dollars to do so.  So, don’t be too proud to get a little free education and inspiration from those around you.  Find a mentor, model them and learn.  They don’t even have to know that they are mentoring you—if you like the way that someone does something—Observe, Learn, Adopt and Adapt.  Be inspired!

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