By now, you've probably seen Mary Beth Raven's posting on the Notes Design Blog announcing her new opportunity at Solidworks. Many of you have already offered her congratulations on her new endeavor, and I join you in honoring Mary Beth's achievements and wishing her the best.

I don't often write farewell blog entries, but Mary Beth's public association with Notes since the start of the "Hannover" project deserves special attention. When someday I get to write a book on the history of Lotus Notes, those pivotal years in 2004-2005 will get special attention. Many in the community believe that there was a movement at the time to let Notes die out in favor of Workplace. Two actions that Ambuj Goyal made at the time speak volumes otherwise. One was putting me back into sales to be the lead product voice for Notes, and the other was creating the user experience team lead by Mary Beth to design "Hannover". Mary Beth set about reinventing the way we built Notes, executing a core tenet for the Hannover vision (along with Jeff Eisen's vision to build Notes 8 as an Eclipse plug-in). Those two key decisions turned the course for the product -- technologically, market-wise, and financially for IBM -- in an upward direction.

Searching my blog archives for Hannover yields dozens of results. The design team invented personae, forcing us to think about the user experience as, well, a user. They did hundreds of usability tests, including on-site visits to existing and potential customers, and lab and distance work for the rest. And Mary Beth broke the mold within IBM, by actually talking about an unreleased product on a blog. She is probably too modest to admit it, but at the time, Mary Beth was getting all kinds of internal grief for blogging. She was a true pioneer for social media within the company, explaining to executives, development managers, and engineers why it was important to be getting real-time feedback and sharing our vision, rather than keeping it bottled up for a once-a-year viewing at Lotusphere. Like me, these efforts eventually got Mary Beth promoted, and when asked, I wholeheartedly endorsed her promotion to Senior Technical Staff Member.

As Dr. Raven notes in her farewell posting, she has worked on several projects during her IBM tenure. Little known is that she actually handed off the lead on Lotus Notes user experience work to Margo Ezekiel earlier this year. The current email work we've been doing on Notes/iNotes/Connections "Next" has been lead by Margo, John Lance, and many other names and faces that are already familiar to you. In other words, Mary Beth leaves a void, but she left it some time ago, and we've already filled it with some great expertise. Sometimes, there are reasons IBM doesn't expose our organizational chart to the outside world. People come, go, take new assignments, choose new opportunities. It is our corporate culture, and one that sometimes results in departures. As I've written previously, from my own product management team I've only had one external departure in all these years, but I recently helped one of my team move to a great new opportunity, and am now in the process of hiring once again (IBMers interested, check the Global Opportunity Marketplace :-).

Congratulations, Mary Beth. I'm sorry we won't be sharing the stage at AusLUG next week, though your yellow would make my vacation tan look funny anyway. I'm sure there will be a toast in your honor regardless, and we all wish you the best in the future.

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