A Benjamin Button tale (kinda)

21 06 2009

My first three weeks at RBC were interesting and, err, intense, firehose-drinking type of intense. Due to the nature of my projects I think I won’t be able to blog much about them here, but I’m still planning to blog regularly about other random things, so stay tuned, regular readers of “The bamboo raft” (yes, I’m talking to both of you, Bernie and Bénédicte).

My plan to restart blogging this weekend practically went belly up when my Bell Sympatico service started misbehaving on Friday, with my connection dropping every few minutes or so. Blogging offline was never my forté, as I sadly admit that not having immediate access to stuff like Twitter, Wikipedia and Dictionary.com breaks my rhythm.

So let me (re)start with a post loosely themed on Father’s Day. Three weeks ago, my son found this very old photo of me, taken when I was a 4-year-old:

He looked at the picture a bit surprised, then pointed to it and said out loud: “Ootash” (that’s how he calls himself).

I tried to explain, “No, that’s daddy’s picture when he was almost your age”. He vehemently disagreed, “No, Ootash”. There was no way on Earth that I could convince him that it was not him there.

Then I showed him this picture taken during my first week at IBM, back in 1996:

– “This is also daddy, many years ago.”
– “Não.” (that’s “No”, in Portuguese)
– (laughing) “Nãããão.”
“Then, who’s this guy?”
“I don’t know.”

After some more digging, I found these two pictures that clearly show why my friend Alexandre Neves says that a paternity test will never be required for “Ootash” and me. The one on the left also shows that my taste in clothes has always been top-notch.

Skip three weeks now. Yesterday, I was talking to my mother in Skype and, despite the frequent disconnects, I managed to tell her the story above. When I showed her my IBM picture, she commented: “You were so thin and elegant! And where is all that hair?”

Suddenly, finding that “Dont Go Bald”, “Bald Products” and “Bald People” are all following me in Twitter didn’t feel so bad anymore. Can that Ed Ulbrich guy help me here? 🙂

An almost belated Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there!

Leaving IBM

19 05 2009

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been very quiet over the last month in all the social media channels I normally hang around. I could use the standard excuse and just say I was busy – and I was *really* busy in the last few weeks, including several speaking engagements and trips to Ottawa, Nice (France) and St Catherines (Ontario). However, Twitter pretty much ruined that easy way out, as nobody can honestly say that they don’t have time for writing 140 characters (despite what Jennifer Aniston thinks). The real reason for my silence was that I was going through some soul searching about what I really wanted from my career and after much consideration, I decided it was time for me to leave IBM and try something new.

As I still need to understand better the social computing guidelines for the company I’ll be joining, this post will focus instead on the company I’m leaving.

IBM has my undying admiration as one of the few truly global companies and a great place to work. I thoroughly enjoyed my 12+ years there, and owe much of what I know and what I am to the people I interacted with, IBMers and clients alike. IBM is not just a logo, a bunch of buildings, some hardware / software platform or a services methodology. IBM is this ever-evolving organism whose strength comes mostly from the diversity and reach of its people, and the capacity of reinventing itself.

Before joining IBM, I thought every IBMer would be like the PC guy from the Apple ads, but with blue suits. Once you get to know the real IBMers, you’ll find that the PC and the Mac guys are as real as Ronald McDonald or Tony the Tiger. Over the years, I had the privilege of meeting geologists, biologists, physicists, architects, athletes, musicians, writers, actors and philosophers, whose titles in their business cards – “Developer”, “IT Architect”, “Business Analyst”, “Partner”, “Project Manager” – could mislead you to think they are one-dimensional beings.

The excerpt below, from Jeff Howe’s Crowdsourcing book, describes well IBM’s main asset: diverse and geographically dispersed people, connected by technology and purpose. By embracing social media, “I‘m By Myself”, like the IBM typewriters, became a thing from the past.

“(…) Each one of us possesses a far broader, more complex range of talents than we can currently express within current economic structures. In this sense crowdsourcing is the antithesis of Fordism, the assembly-line mentality that dominated the industrial age. (…) Contrary to the foreboding, dystopian vision that the Internet serves primarily to isolate people from each other, crowdsourcing uses technology to foster unprecendented levels of collaboration and meaningful exchanges between people from every imaginable background in every imaginable location”

Thus, I just wanted to conclude this post with my deep gratitude not to the abstract concept of IBM as a company, but to each person in the huge IBM crowd who I had the fortune of interacting with in the Web 2.0 collaboration spaces or in offices around the globe. Thank you all and keep in touch.

IBM: Building a smarter planet

6 11 2008

Note: most of you probably know, but for full disclosure, I work at IBM.

Update: just added some more meat to the post. Succinct is a quality that I definitely don’t have.

Sam Palmisano is speaking this morning at the Council of Foreign Relations. You can find all about it at today’s edition of the New York Times: “IBM’s Chief Sees Technology Leading a Recovery”.

Andy Piper has just blogged about it, so I’ll try not to just repeat what he said – but I whole-heartedly agree with him.

In our daily, mundane working life at IBM we go through mostly small peaks and valleys, but from time to time we get inspirational moments like this, when it feels good to be part of IBM. Google claims that their mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. The smart planet point-of-view tells me that we are paying attention beyond just data. IBM’s reach and breadth positions it uniquely to aim higher than that. We have the potential to be a key enabler of a smarter, sustainable, better world by applying technology and business acumen. Our 3-letter acronym never looked so visionary.

I worked in University research for some time, doing obscure biochemistry work around fireflies, and also on the interactions between ferns and a Brazilian species of moth. When you are deep at work, you keep wondering why you are doing that, and how that is going to change anything in the world. I actually gave up on becoming a scientist mainly because I was not able to see the big picture, and I couldn’t explain to a normal person what my research was all about.

I firmly believe that having an easy to articulate vision is fundamental to keep focus and understand where we all fit in the big picture. A vision does not accomplish anything by itself, but fuels our passion, especially during the dull moments of doubt, like when doing expenses or sitting for hours at airports.

Of course, the actual challenge is to go from vision to realization. In a week where change is in everybody’s mind, the announcement’s timing is impeccable. I hope that a few years from now I can come back to this post and grin, seeing that the promise was fulfilled.

Yes, we can. But “will we?” is the question for all of us to answer.