My Leaving Letter

About two years ago when I retired early from IBM, I wrote a letter to all my colleagues. They enjoyed it a lot, and I’m posting it to avoid losing it. There are some in-jokes of course. Sorry!

Dear Colleagues, Steve Weeks retires on 5th Jan’10. He offers his warmest wishes but in his impending absence begs you all to continue working as though all slackers are bound for the flames of hell. That will help assuage his fears for the longevity of the IBM Pension Trust.Yours Sincerely, Steve Weeks, ex-MBCS, Consulting IT Specialist (certified, expired). My apologies now to the dutiful majority who do read second paragraphs; I know you’ll understand my concern to get the key points over before the “speed readers” leave us to push through some dense prose, and perhaps practise our Clive James impersonations.
To Compose, or decompose, or not
Is it a tradition (or a practice, or a right?) before retirement to broadcast one’s farewell – from a laptop intended for management-approved-purposes? And be brutally frank, are they not all the same letter? Is it not time to refrain from compounding the proliferation of self congratulation and nostalgia?I know you are consumed in the hectic daily filtering (as fast as Lotus Notes allows); separating the incoming into unequal piles of the career-enhancing and career-limiting. And then another whimpering missive arrives, potentially wasting your valuable minutes reading the next retiree’s sad life story. Once opened the email condemns you to become jury and judge of your own inhumanity; you wearily anticipate the nagging guilt as you drag & drop, casting forever into digital free disk space the departee’s new address and his new phone number at the seaside retirement town where even the shop windows are bifocal.But IBM has given me 25 years of stories to tell; I have played guitar with country bands in Billy Bob’s (EuroDisney) and on a truck in Texas. I’ve chatted with bigamists in Johannesburg and Muscat. I’ve had diarrhoea in Nice and Toronto. I’ve launched a virus in the Inland Revenue network from Telford to Worthing. (I wasn’t there, nobody saw me, you can’t prove anything.) I’ve cheated death in the hurricanes of Tokyo and the taxis of Bangalore. I’ve dressed as a nurse, swung from a trapeze, beaten Deep Blue at chess and had my ears syringed in Austin.Let’s hasten back to 3rd person, obituary-style; for patience hath a half-life shorter than gratitude.
How Did He Get In?
In Spring 1984, Non-graduate Steve Weeks had diplomas in Music Theory and Wine, and 6 months ‘“microprocessor” programming. He could not form a Windsor knot, and referred to DASDs as “disks”. He borrowed a car to reach the IBM interview, held in an airport hotel to conceal an even shabbier IBM office in Feltham. Legal named the company off the shelf, “International Products Limited”, Marketing named the product: The Personal Computer. Instead of writing software, One merely tested it! Employment Nirvana! Kerr-Ching!Through ’85 Steve studied PC Unix internals and squandered the company profits in swanky American hotels. There would be 20 more years of education before some VP decided that nobody needed to know the internals of anything; just how to sell and install. But in the good times, from San Francisco to San Antonio, Steve rubbed shoulders with real engineers, eventually wearing the 8-bar logo in some 75 cities.
Setting Records
In ’86 IBM briefly held the record for the largest loss made by any US Company in history. Steve then regretted his unthinking largesse tipping the doormen of Sheratons coast to coast. Back then ABC was Top of the Pops (Anthony B Cleaver). He invited the chaps at head office (IBM Europe) to come “Back to the Field” and thus redress the imbalance in IBM deployment. Within hours Steve donned his wellies, got on the transfer list, and signed with Public Sector Branch despite setting off a fire alarm during his interview (no, not before, nor after, but yes, during).Having thus been relocated twice in two years, Steve found himself confirming to a “boss-du-jour” that yes, he was receiving London-allowance as well as loss-of-London-allowance-allowance. Through the 80s the gravy train was fully Bistoed-Up and Steaming.
In the 90’s (Steve) was an establishment Unix geek. With this year’s sad loss of the irreplaceable Dai Williams, Steve became the surviving co-founder member of the UK Unix team. He designed a working secure Unix email system for the MoD, but IBM lost to ICL who were sued for failure 5 years later. Steve was beginning to get “Industry Experience”.
Three Deaths and The Omen
Steve had a strategy to avoid both the long hours of engineering and the pressure of selling; acquire the art of “Business Entertainment”. After hundreds of hours practice he reached the zenith of mediocrity. In the industry that can most harmoniously conjoin into one phrase the words “Powerpoint” and “Death”, Steve was a “Top Presenter”. As Briefing Centre Manager he churned out over 400 full-day Executive Briefings, winning international acclaim for the persuasive and comedic routine featuring the Purple RS/6000 Scalable Parallel Ladder of Death. The 90’s (and much more) ended with Oracle DB announced for NT, and the annual profit of the computer hardware business was tipped into long slow negative gradient.After a year in Marketing Steve accidentally found himself delivering Server Consolidation projects using Lotus Approach and 1-2-3 (!) and experimenting with an Excel rewrite. On the exact same day that IBM announced the adoption of “Zodiac”, Steve returned home to find a custom-flamed pink-and-purple 1964 Ford Zodiac outside his house. Spooky, ..or What?In a burst of creativity while working at Lehman Brothers, Alan Weaver and Steve Weeks added a universally acceptable business case to Zodiac. Thousands of customers since have followed in the tracks of Lehman Brothers using Zodiac for careful planning and stewardship of IT resources and enjoying the same ensuing strong business results. Kind of.
The World Changed
It all happened so fast. IBM quietly reclassified itself on the NYSE as a software and services company. “Im augenblink”, Steve and his colleagues changed from “people” into “resources”. The old contract (where his value was rewarded by a salary) was superseded by a sudden necessity to “Recover his cost”. To rebalance this asymmetry, Steve set out immediately to “Recover his value”; with disastrous results. And now here we are.
The Future
Mary and I have begun voluntary work in family life education (marriage enhancement course etc.) as well as being supporters and trustees of charitable work in Cambodia, Tanzania, and Malawi. Having declined a lucrative contract to support IBM in retirement, my remaining paid activity is musical; I hope to continue bringing love, joy, and tinnitus to the nation. It remains to leave you with my email address and new personal mobile number. Don’t feel bad as you delete them. Life is short, (Though time is not money).
+4477 9626 1301

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