Annex Bulletin 2011-10 May 15, 2011
A partially OPEN edition
HP: Ghost of EDS Haunts HP (Analysis of HP's first quarter 2011 business results)
Case Makes a Case for Innovation (Analysis of new "Startup America" program)
Updated 6/11/11, 12:30PM HST, adds My First Day at IBM...
Annex's 33rd Birthday
Company Founded on May 15, 1978
HAIKU, Maui, May 15, 2011 - This is a story for a "slow news day."
Today, Sunday, May 15, is the 33rd birthday of Annex, the company I founded after I left IBM in 1978. And "33" being a Masters number, like "11," has another special significance for me personally. Plus I was 33 at the time I broke the Big Blue yoke. Well, almost... So it's a double-"33" event. :-)
The image on the left with a red brochure is a short story about how the company was named (after my elder daughter Anne, who was two at the time). And it adds how I had formed another company named Emmy Enterprises Inc,. which produced my theatrical effort in 1992 ("The Professional" (a play) - San Francisco, London, New York). Thus all was fair and balanced in the family. :-) The middle left image was a 1978 shot of Annex's booth, promoting the Annex Newsletter, at the company's first trade show in Toronto, Canada. Yours truly is talking on the phone (profile). No, it was NOT a cell phone. It was 1978, remember? :-)
But that 1983 column (middle right) actually did predict the PC and Internet revolutions that actually occurred about a decade later (see "Go West Young Man"). In fact, it was broadcast via an online network in partnership with a company called Newsnet, based in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. It was a precursor to the Internet.
Anyway, guess I'd better buy myself a piece of cake tomorrow, preferably with red and white and gold icing (the original company colors). :-)
HAIKU, Maui, June 11 - On June 16, IBM will celebrate its 100 birthday. For 41 of those 100 years, this writer's life has been linked inextricably with IBM's. Here's a story about how it all started... this writer's personal IBM story, never before told in public.
In the 1960s and 1970s, IBM was a dream employer. The company's business was thriving. It was IBM's Golden Era (see the chart - right). The company treated its employees like an extended family. Country Clubs and other employee perks and benefits were the norm, not an exception. As a result, most of them were "lifers," wedded to the Big Blue "from cradle to grave." And a line to join IBM in most cities was "a mile long." The company could have a pick of the litter from any university or community.
It is that kind of an IBM that this writer joined in March 1970. Except that I had no idea about any of the above. To me, it was just a badly needed job, the first that was offered to me as a new immigrant who had $200 in his pocket and did not not know another soul in North America. So I gladly took it, even if the pay was lousy ($450 per month), I had to work three shifts, and was bored to tears as a computer operator in an IBM data center, sorting endless punched cards and feeding the S/370 mainframe beast (right).
But I could survive on $450 per month. Barely. I did not eat much, as you can see from the 1970 photo (left) taken at the IBM Country Club. But surviving was all that mattered at the time. I knew I could make my own breaks when I got a chance. All I needed was a springboard. IBM was my springboard. And I was determined to use it to get a jump on life in the "land of the free."
So on my first day on the job, I dressed up as spiffily as I knew how. In Europe, young men would wear suits and ties for dates on weekends, and dress casually on weekdays. But because I wanted to leave a good first impression, I wore my best clothes. I put on a navy blue double breasted suit, a white turtle neck shirt and black shoes. I also had yellow socks, hoping nobody would notice or care.
Boy, was I ever wrong. It did not take long for my immediate IBM manager to summon me into his office, close the door behind us, and then proceed to tell me about the company dress code. I had evidently violated it on at least two counts: turtle neck shirt and socks.
Needless to say, I never wore either to work again. But I had kept that 1970 pair of yellow socks as a souvenir for several decades. They were quite faded by the time I lost them during my move to Hawaii. And the next time I wore a white turtle neck shirt to work, I made sure I owned the company. :-) (the right photo was taken in 1978, a few months after I had left IBM to found Annex).
Oh, by the way, I also failed the so-called DPAT test (Data Processing Aptitude Test) when I applied for an IBM job in 1970. It was mostly because my command of computer lingo in English was not good enough yet. I did not understand half the questions.
So why did IBM give me the job? Apparently, the division manager liked me. He saw that I graduated as the top of my university engineering class, and decided to overrule the test. Not a common behavior for company men back then. But he was an uncommon man. Born and raised in South Africa, he could probably relate to someone "fresh off the boat," hungry for a job, and maybe also hungry literally. He was not wrong, as the next four decades of my work in the IT industry have shown.
In Jan 1974, not quite yet three years with the company, I was made a manager of the unit I worked in. Promotions that quick were pretty much unheard of, I was told. What made it doubly challenging was that my yesterday's peers became subordinates overnight. But that's how we grow... through challenges that take us out of our comfort zones.
The 5100 (above left) was a back-breaking 50-pound precursor to the PC that IBM launched six years later. It came with a 60-pound printer, which I also lugged in the trunk of my car. The product lacked all sorts of bells and whistles the competition had. Yet it was the best move I ever made at IBM. Cold-calling and selling a "dud" shaved more rough edges off my ego than anything else I had done while at IBM, including that first management job.
Incidentally, that IBM interview in 1970 was my first and only job interview - EVER. I invented my next job when I left IBM in 1978. And my every job since then. I don't think I could have done that without the grounding and rounding in business and discipline I got at IBM.
At one point in the 1980s, I summed up my own "Secrets to Success" in a training class I ran for my employees (on white board - above right). They all had to do with providing top quality SERVICE to others. Which is what IBM has been doing for almost 100 years now. And that's another "secret of success" for Big Blue. Not DPAT tests.
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