Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis


IBM Rochester made both the IBM System/36 and System/38 and all the software that ran them. Both computers were used by small to mid-sized businesses and were application driven. Businesses did not buy the computers, they bought the software they needed for their businesses and then the hardware needed to run it.

My office was in a small suite of offices around the office of the chief executive. This photo is of those of us in those offices. From left is the operations guy, Tom's assistant, me, two of our secretaries, Tom, Tom's secretary, the hr/admin guy and the technical guy.

We were a tight team and we all worked with each other. If any of them needed anything written, they came to me. Bruce (the technical guy) was the one who ensured I got the facts right. He'd line up experts and translate to them what I needed to know. Then, I'd turn around and make plain English out of the technobable I'd get from them. One of us plus Steve, the assistant, were often in meetings as people met with Tom. It was really important that we all understood the challenges and concerns and plans and schedules. And we all ran interference for Tom.

And then there were customers. Our customers were business executives, IT professionals, and independent application developers - a pretty darned diverse group of people.

Our charter, at that point was to bring the new machine (and software) to market. The follow on to the System/36 and System/38 was a whole new ball o' wax. The AS/400 was a BFD for IBM. (That's it in the photo with us.) When I got there we were about 10 months before the product announcement.

Besides keeping customers happy without telling them about the new product, and keeping employees happy and productive even with this guy who they thought was a major whack o' meter who was now in charge and keeping IBM executives at Armonk (company HQ) happy with schedules and budgets, it was like a 3 ring circus every day.

We all worked 80 hour weeks or more. We traveled a whole lot. It seemed like we were putting out fires every hour. And most of the time, it felt like we would never ever, even with a handful of miracles be ready for the product announcement. And that we would all be fired by lunchtime tomorrow.

I've had great jobs but this one ... these 18 months ... were really the best. I pulled off stuff I never ever thought I'd ever be able to do. Regularly. And it was invigorating all of the time.

But, of course, there were little clouds in the sky... The woman I reported to on paper, did not like the arrangement one bit. And Tom did not like her. I was the ham in the their not very tasty sandwich. Rochester was cute but really small and isolating. For most of the year, it was too cold to drive the hour to the Twin Cities by myself. There wasn't anything along the way and no cellphones so if something happened and I got stranded, I'd just die there. I didn't really have time for dating but if I would have there were no suspects. IBMers had no interest in dating anyone who worked for The Boss and the Mayo Clinic guys were mainly just weird.

Mostly, however, it was just a glorious time.

To Be Continued
Tags: tbc
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