My Mentors

One thing I avoid on this blog is naming names. I think that the internet strips us of our information privacy enough. When I talk bout specific people, I usually do it in an elliptical way so that unless you know me, you wouldn’t really know who they are.

Well, today I want to honor some men, and I will name names. If they ever google themselves, they can find out when they meant to me.

It’s been a tough week at work. Problem that should have been fixed in a day were talking upwards of a month.It was taking crews of people to work on them, and I was finding a lot of “It’s not my job” and the more appealing but no more helpful “i don’t know.”

I’ve been doing this sort of work for more than 10 years now. It doesn’t feel that long, but I find myself at the end of it and dismayed to discover that I”m supposed to know what I’m doing.

I know a lot more than I used to. When I first started, I had to ask so many questions. I like to tell the story of how I simply could not make sense of the terminology. T1? PRI? What are they, and what is the difference? I wrote down the terms on 3×5 cards like I did when learning vocabulary in Russian.

But when I started, I found some mentors.I did not think of them as such at the time, but wow. They helped me so much.

These men, and yes, they were ALL men, patiently answered my questions with pictures and examples, letting me know what was what. How to troubleshoot by dissecting the system and knowing what should happen where and the tools that would tell me when it wasn’t. How to speak to the beauracratic heldesks and far-flung facilities to get what I needed as quickly as I possible, and to know that things would never happen as quickly as I thought they should.

These men loved the knowing and the discovery of the technology. I did too,and they were so generous with helping me out.

I met the other kinds too. There is that other kind of nerd, the one who needs to make others feel stupid so he can feel smart. But the men who were my mentors had no insecurities about their knowledge and expertise–at least not that it showed to me.

SO, Val Watson of Nasa Ames, thanks for taking me on and being patient with my ignorance. You started me on my career. Where would I be without you?

And John Broadus of Visa/Inovant, you who started working for the phone company at 18 and worked until they gave you money to retire. You worked again at Visa, and you showed me what it meant to work with a big company. Important lessons like how to tell when the boss means it and when you can ignore it….That’s a technical skill and it saved my overly-literal butt many many times. You gave me lots of IT answers too, but I remember you best for how you survived and thrived inside big companies.

Mike Stevens of Visa/Inovant–you taught me more than anybody else.You know your stuff and I would not have made it without you.I don’t use ISDN anymore, but if I do, I won’t forget the IMUXES ever again.

John Yost of the ever-changing company shirt..I met you when you were VTEL, and I can’t remember how many name changes until you it became WireOne. Maybe it’s changed again, for all I know. You always knew your stuff, and were the greatest as a troubleshooting partner. Wish you well.

The Dave Albertson of O’Melveny & Myers. DAMN I miss you dude. You were so cool and had a wicked sense of humor. I don’t know where you are anymore, but I bet you’re working very long hours, because you wouldn’t have it any other way.

My current position doensn’t have ‘that guy’. I don’t have the cool, focussed uber-nerd that doesn’t mind repeateing and repeating the way it works when I need to understand and fully grok the system.

Maybe It’s supposed to be me. Damn. I would love to have some of these old friends on speed dial.

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