Wednesday Jan 07, 2009

Customer Site Visit at Disney

Seeing how Sun systems are used by customers was one of the most interesting aspects of the job when I was a software support engineer in Sun Services back in the 80's and 90's.

My first role at Sun was a field support job, working out of the Los Angeles Sales & Service office.   My coverage territory, however, was not limited to the LA Sales District and, instead, included all of the southwest USA and Hawaii.   A big area with an amazing mix of fascinating customers and computer applications.

A few years ago, I wrote about one of my visits at JPL.   Today, something got me thinking about another fun site visit...   At Disney Studios.

It was 1990.   Disney was in the last days of "filming" The Rescuers Down Under.   And, while all of the computers and storage devices involved, which included Sun workstations, were running great, the management at Disney wanted HW & SW support from the system vendors involved, onsite, for the last critical 16 hours.   Insurance, just in case anything went wrong.

So, Steve Henry, one of the best HW support engineers at Sun (IMHO), and I hung out at Disney for two work shifts.

And did not touch a single system.

For 16 hours, we were treated to a full indepth technical tour of the creation of an animated film, shared amazing catered-in buffets with the animators, supervisors, and "film crew", and enjoyed the soothing creative atmosphere of the Disney workplace.   No telephones were ringing.   Soft Disney music was piped in.   And warm recessed lighting added to the overall ambiance.

I watched one of the illustrators / painters work on a scene which featured the movie's villain, Percival McLeach.   The colors she was using were drab, dark, treacherous, and depressing.   Frame after frame, she worked for hours, faced with this evil villain.   During a break, I asked her if working on such a character took its toll on her at all.   She smiled and shared with me that she loved what she was doing.   Wow!

After 16 hours onsite at Disney Studios, I drove home humming Disney tunes.   It was another great customer site visit.

Friday Sep 05, 2008

Recycling the Trash

On average, I receive a couple hundred emails per day.   Of those, only a small percent actually require ACTION on my part.   Others are "informational" and "FYI" kinds of things.   Some are nice to know, others are swiftly deleted and forgotten.   And of course, a fair percent of the email received daily is simply pure trash.   SPAM, with sources both internal and external.

Filters are my friends.   I can sift through the junk fairly quickly.   On a daily basis, I decide whether to help provide technical support to my Sun colleagues (I'm pretty good with StarOffice), whether I want a dose of humour, or whether I want the gory details about this, that, or the other project.

Occasionally, like many others who live on email, I find myself sifting through my email "Trash" folder, looking for something that didn't grab my interest before, but did later.   And then bringing it back into the "In Box".

However, SOMETIMES when I do this, I get distracted, talk with someone on the telephone, climb deep inside a spreadsheet, work on presentations, greet the UPS Delivery man (remember, I work from home), catch up on goal work, or who knows what....   And I forget....

... And start rereading and sifting through the emails already in the trash bin, thinking they're new!!!   It takes a little time before I find myself quoting Homer Simpson. "D'oh"

Yes, I call it   eTrash Recycling   and like to think of it as own personal way of Being Green.

Well, Green or maybe just Blonde.   :-)

Friday Jun 20, 2008

Managing Work Life Balance

Work Life Balance.   A popular buzz phrase in corporate life.   Casually mentioned in conversations by managers and engineers alike.   Used lots in presentations and websites.   And HR friendly.

But how does it happen?   And how does it feel?

Over the past couple weeks, I've seen several examples of where WLB had not just happened.   Instead, it had to be managed, consciously.   It involved individuals looking to their team for support.   It included sharing and managing ownership of job responsibilities across teams.   It meant open communication, partnering, and trusting in others.

I think most people will agree work often gets in the way of life.   :-)

But there are also times when "life" simply gets in the way of work.   Things happen.   Family takes priority.   Health gets priority.   Life changes get priority.   That's life!

What I have seen is that it is easy for people to deal with work taking priority.   But when life needs to be given priority, maybe the fact that a paycheck is attached to work, or project deadlines are looming in the distance, or teams are understaffed, or any number of other concerns can result in feelings of guilt when one turns their focus away from work for the moment.

This is just one example of when MANAGING work life balance becomes critical.   Helping employees recognise that it's OK to focus on life and defocus on work.   That it's OK to take care of non-work priorities.   That sitting at work worrying about "real life" is not accomplishing anything.

Work Life Balance.   Cool catchy phrase.   However, it's not always as easy as it sounds.   Sometimes, just sometimes, the balancing act has to be worked to give it true life.

Monday Mar 17, 2008

Change Your Password

It's truly a pain in the tush, but on a regular basis, per corporate policy, Sun employees must change their UNIX login passwords.   And when one delves deeper to learn the reasoning behind this, sure, it makes sense.

However, with each change, there is the headache of trying to create a new password which had not been used before, meets the stringent requirements of being difficult to crack, and is still useable and rememberable....

... one which ultimately will NOT end up being taped to the underside of the keyboard, written into a note book, or tucked into a wallet.

For this user, the pleasure of changing passwords ranks right up there with paying taxes and going to the dentist.   Oh joy.

Now that I've changed my password yet again, I just hope I will remember it tomorrow!     :-)

Thursday Mar 13, 2008

Technology Overload

I'm an Instant Messaging user now.   I use Sun's Java System Instant Messaging.   I use Pidgin & GAIM.   I use Yahoo Messenger.   Yup, I am getting more and more connected...

...and it's making me nuts!

Today, my daytime in-the-office IM tool of choice started beeping at me.   That's expected.   I have it "finely tuned" to notify me of different events.

However, I was at a loss as to WHY it was beeping.   No one new had logged in.   No one left.   No one was trying to strike up a conversation.   No one was talking about me.   All was fairly quiet on the IM front.

ding Ding DING!

Distracted again.   I looked.   No one there.   Nothing happening.   Hmph.

ding Ding DING!

Over and over.   Every couple minutes.   So, I killed IM.

ding Ding DING!

Hmph.   Next, I killed all processes that even sounded vaguely like they might be involved.

ding Ding DING!

Okay, this is getting odd.   Shutdown.   Reboot.   Get a Diet Coke from the fridge.

ding Ding DING!

No way!   The system was still rebooting, I was a good 40 feet away, and yet it was loud and clear....     Hold on...

I dug into my pocket and pulled out my mobile phone.   Sure enough, there was a new text message from my boss, one that had been waiting for me for, oh, probably about an hour.

Time for a vacation or just change the notification sounds on IM?   Yah, I'm thinking vacation...!

Thursday Jan 10, 2008

Global Concalls

One of the "fun things" about having a leadership role in a global organisation is the occasional concall at very odd hours.

Today, it is a concall at 1 am my time that triggers this thought....   One for which I woke up after a 3 hour pre-meeting nap.   Nap.   Concall.   Back to bed.

I wonder at what hour one switches from referring to a call as being very LATE at night versus very EARLY in the day?   :-)

Anyway, good morning to the Global Product Development folks in Tokyo, Beijing, Bangalore, St. Petersburg, Melbourne, and Prague!   Good night, USA!

Tuesday Nov 06, 2007

Travel Log 071105.01

Another business trip.   More work hours logged at Manchester NH & Dulles Washington DC airports.   Travel delays.   Arrive into California late at night.   Another rental car.   Another week at my "usual" Newark hotel.   Rinse.   Repeat.

However, like most of my trips, already this trip has offered me new experiences...   This time starting with my hire car.

Departing Dulles 2 hours later than planned due to flight crew staffing issues, I did not pick up my rental car from San Jose Internation until well after 10 p.m. Pacific, 1 a.m. Eastern time.   Under the color spectrum stripping orange lights of the Avis carpark, the car was merely darker than those that were lighter.   I knew it was my car only as the license plate matched what was written on my contract folder.   Good enough.   Get in, adjust the seat, start the engine, adjust the mirrors, test the lights, test the brakes, and jump onto I-880.

Except....   No dashboard.   Is that possible?   My tired brain struggled with the concept for a few nanoseconds.   No dashboard.   Are the lights not working?   No.   There really were no indicators.   No speedometer.   Nothing!   Just a blank panel behind the steering wheel.   Huh?

Instantly, I saw it.   But again, my brain struggled with the concept.   Someone had apparently moved the speedometer to the middle of the dashboard, putting it over the radio and gear shift lever.   Odd.   Very odd indeed, really.   I had never seen anything like it before.   I mentally stumbled.

But, the misplaced dashboard indicators appeared to be working, and I was beat tired, so I drove off.

40 miles and 24 hours later, I'm still having mini panic attacks thinking the dashboard has disappeared again, only to remember to look to the right.   But when I get used to it again, I like it.   Not having a dashboard behind the steering wheel allowed the designers of this little car to lower the dashboard height and provide additional visibility outside of the car.   Also, there is much less light pollution between me and the outside of the car.   (In my own car at home, I prefer to drive with the the dash lights turned way down or completely off to improve the viewing of the outside world.)   I can see the road better at night.   Also, I think having the dash to the right actually encourages a wider viewing of the road and roadsharers.   I am looking forward, but also looking a bit to the right more often.   Not a bad thing really.

But maybe the coolest thing about this rather odd unconventional design is that anyone in the car can easily view the speedometer.   And if you're a "backseat driver" like I need to be with my Speedy Gonzales husband, I can envision how this would be mighty useful feature.   :-)

Google "Saturn Ion Dashboard" to see what I mean.

Friday Aug 10, 2007

While the Boss is Away

Normally, when the boss is away on business, it means a few weird hour phone calls, emails flying all hours, and fewer meetings.   :-)

While we usually get "Pass Down" information upon her return, it is rare to hear how things are going WHILE visits to other sites, technical events, or customers are underway.

Today, was a pleasant change from that routine.   One of our colleagues in Sun's SW Information Products Group posted a fun blog entry with photos about one aspect of Diann's trip to Bangalore....   a chat with the women at the Sun India Engineering Centre.

I've seen Diann, Software's VP of Global Product Development, in action many times and can easily imagine how empowered, inspired, and motivated her audience must have felt after sharing quality time with Diann.   Very cool.

Thank you for blogging about the visit!

Wednesday Jul 25, 2007

IBIS & Space Invaders

Another day of work at Sun.   Another 3 day IBIS project offsite meeting.   While reading email....   While helping with FY08 planning & goal setting...   While prepping for next week's 3 day GPD management offsite.   While playing Space Invaders...

Eh?!?!?   What was that again?

As a future IBIS user, I have been spending some of my time (usually in time-share mode) doing IBIS training.   Today, I've just gotten to the exam of one course which, comically, has a "Space Invaders" kind of feel to it.   This was a surprise!   While I had helped in the storyboard and proofing of the course & exam, I had no idea it was going to include such a fun classical element!

I passed with 100%.   Despite my heavy involvement in the courses, this is not a given.   Monday, I got 90% on another course I worked on.   Ooops.


Thursday Jul 12, 2007

Globalisation, OpenCommunities, & Games

English is not the only language on Earth.

Today, I sat through an internal presentation about Community Globalisation and the Globalisation Community.   Honestly, until today, I never gave much thought to how we approach globalisation of our products.   What I learned was quite impressive.   I left the meeting with a new appreciation of the work the folks in our globalisation teams do.

But the biggest surprise for me was that product globalisation is also being done by the community at large...   not just by talented people inside Sun Microsystems.

During the presentation, the presenters talked about various communities such as BigAdmin, OpenOffice, Blogs @ Sun which includes Masaki Katakai's weblog written in Japanese, and OpenSolaris, and the amazing work being done in providing language translations and tools & documentation in local languages.

Having not visited before, I decided to check out   Browsing around, I quickly stumbled into the Games area.   (/usr/games....   Ohhhhh, don't get me started on this one!   Oops!   Too late.   We should never have gotten rid of /usr/games.   Sigh.)   And a quick check of the list did not show my old favourites:   Cribbage & Adventure.   But now at least I know one place to look every so often!   But, I digress....

English is NOT the only language in the world.   And, the message is getting out there.   It's really cool to learn that both Sun and the Community at Large are working to support customers and users in their own local and preferred languages.

With talent & a few hours time, anyone can join an open community & help make a difference in the computer industry and the world.   How cool is that!

Tuesday Jun 05, 2007

A New Path

While I'm learning about my new job, so is my boss.   Diann was recently promoted to VP of a Software organisation which now comprises of three unique teams.   Yes.   Three.

As we roll forward, we're looking to find common threads in these organisations, common shared values, and a new identity.   We want to celebrate the unique contributions each organisation makes to SMI and our customers, as well as the new broader organisation pulled together under Diann.

Entering a new role in a newly combined organisation is exciting.   After 18 years at Sun, it's fun to be standing at the beginning of a new journey...   a new path.

Thursday May 31, 2007

New Roles & Responsibilities

A couple weeks ago, it was announced to the Solaris RPE team, a team I have been a member of for the past 7 years, that I was moving on.   And over the next couple weeks, the team I am joining, the newly combined Software Operations / Global Engineering / Software Lifecycle Engineering organisation under Vice President Diann Olden, will be learning more about me and my new roles & responsibilities.

In the meantime, I continue intensely indepth work with IBIS, preparing the Software business for the big transition, while my new R&Rs are defined, carved out, agreed, and communicated.

But tomorrow, my most important role in life welcomes a milestone:   The anniversary of another blissfully happy year as Frau Edelmann, wife of Sun's own Georg Edelmann.

Yup.   Life is good.

Wednesday Mar 28, 2007

Finding Broomfield

This week, I'm FINALLY on my first visit to Sun's Broomfield Colorado campus.   The last time I was in this general area, I was here servicing some UNIX systems at the Air Force Academy not too far south of here.   However, that was about 20 years ago.   I'm guessing things have changed a bit since then...

I left Logan Airport in Boston armed with knowing only 2 things about the location of the Broomfield campus.   1) It is about 20 miles from the Denver airport.   2) The office was within spitting distance of an airport.   I knew some of the pilots at Sun who worked at Broomfield enjoyed watching the aircraft in the patterns overhead.   Menlo Park California employees enjoy similar views thanks to Palo Alto airport.

Before landing at Denver, the passenger sitting next to me told me Broomfield was north or west of Denver....   It was on the way to Boulder.   Okay, that was good info.   A general direction at least...

Arriving at Denver, picking up my car, I got a map of the area.   It showed Boulder on it, but not Broomfield.   Okay, that was enough information.   Then I was offered a navigation system.   "No thank you", was my swift reply.   I was going to find Broomfield with a rather insufficient high level map and a vague direction in which to travel...

I had time to kill and was on an adventure.

Looking at my map, I found an east-west state highway that looked "interesting".   So, instead of travelling on major Interstates the whole way, I ended up travelling across the north end of "town", through countryside, past farms, past fishing lakes, and eventually into more urbanised areas.

When I went under the highway to Boulder, I started looking for signs of Broomfield.   I didn't see any.   And despite perfect flying weather, I didn't see any light aircraft in the area.   I needed to get to higher ground.

Soon, I was sitting on a good sized hill with impressive views.   A long snow covered mountain range running north-south just to the west, plains to the north, east, and south, and the skyline of Denver towards the south.   In the near distance, I saw some big office buildings that may have been Sun's and headed for them.   No such luck.   But from there, I spotted an air traffic pattern at work.   An aircraft was turning onto finals to land...

Somehow, in my mind's eye, I had the Sun campus sitting SOUTH of the airport.   Instead, after driving around, I spotted what just SIMPLY HAD to be Sun's Broomfield campus...   to the north.   It had the look and feel of a Sun campus,... whatever that is.

I drove around the impressively large campus and soon found the building that surely had to be home to the service folks.   It had the most cars in the carpark.   It was 5 pm Sunday.

Sure enough, when I entered the building, I was in a solution centre.   Cool!   Plug into a SunRay, read email, call home.   Then, off to find the hotel which I knew to be within walking distance.

So, 20 years later, I'm back in the Denver area.   And now, after walking from one end of the spacious 10 year old Sun Broomfield campus to another and back again, I remember how much I huffed and puffed for air when I trekked up to the Cadet Chapel at the Air Force Academy some 20 years ago.   Thank goodness the Sun office is only at 5400 feet and I don't smoke any more!     :-)

Friday Jan 19, 2007

Friday = Dress Up Day

Do you remember "Casual Days", "Jeans on Wednesdays", and other special deviations from the normal office "Dress Code"?   Well, as you may know, in most engineering groups, every day is casual day....

....except today.

Without going into a the history of how it came about, suffice it to say that several of our engineering managers in California decided that this Friday, as a bit of a goof, would be a dress UP day.   Neckties would be mandatory.

Our management team is all over the globe.   And even those who are considered "local" often work from home.   But true to Team Spirit, some of the remote managers sent in photographic proof that they indeed were sitting at home, wearing a tie.

(That's me sporting a lovely Sun Java necktie.)

And as it later transpired, some of our engineers and admins ALSO got into the act, and added neckties to their Friday attire.

Finally, to celebrate the humourous little event locally.... some of the gang will be meeting later at....   (go ahead, take a wild guess!)   the Tied House.   :-)

Yup!   The concept of "Fun @ Sun" is alive and well !

Wednesday Jan 03, 2007

Ferrari Death // Modern Art

Like beauty, Art is in the eye of the beholder.   Despite the circumstances, I have to say, I kind of like this particular piece of "art".   Despite the circumstances...

One could say this is a very MODERN piece of art.

The artist?   Acer.   The medium?   A computer plasma screen.

Yup, that is a photo of a laptop plasma screen.   It is not an impressionist artist's vision of inhospitable icy mountains.

This is...   actually, this WAS my Acer Ferrari.   Murdered right in our own home.   Killed with one fatal blow.   An accident actually.   It simply slipped out of my hands.   Crashed to the hardwood floor.   Running one minute.   Dead the next.   It died instantly.

Somehow I don't think the warranty is going to cover this one.....

And, if Ian (our African Gray parrot) had ANY chance of not learning to swear with true vigour, today that was blown away as swiftly as my Acer Ferrari 3400.   :-(




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