Joining Lotus was both an employer and a professional shift -- I moved from the IT side of the table to the vendor side.  This past Friday, I was part of a customer meeting that took place at 1 IBM Plaza Chicago - in the same office area where I had a tiny little cubicle from 1996-1998.  It brought back great memories of those heady days of selling Notes just as the e-mail wars were starting.  My first big deal was with ABN-AMRO banks, just after we dropped the price of Notes from around $270 a user to around $100 a user.  I remember some of the multi-year efforts where we worked with some of the Chicago area's largest companies as they were making e-mail standardization decisions, while still growing and maintaining their cc:Mail environments.

I was a pretty different person ten years ago when I started working for Lotus.  I had been on exactly three business trips involving airplanes in my whole career prior to that point!  I had to buy a slew of suits all in about two weeks' time -- Lotus, despite our image of shorts and sandals, had a formal dress code for salespeople (ironically, it was relaxed when IBM bought us!).  Additionally, shortly after joining Lotus, I decided that the sportscar (Mitsubishi Eclipse) didn't fit that image, either, and I bought my first and only American car--a four-door Chrysler Cirrus (V6, 168 hp, I wasn't going all corporate), which was actually a fine car until someone turned left in front of me while I was travelling 40 mph.

We had an amazing sales team at Lotus Chicago in the mid-90s.  Many of the team are still IBMers today (well except that St. Louis contingent, which seems to have been sucked into the Microsoft machine en masse).  Not only did we all work hard, the comradery was just great.  Even on the days when we had to convince ourselves to deal with SmartSuite on OS/2 questions, or try to understand why corporate was shipping yet one more version of 1-2-3 for DOS (!), it was all great fun.  I still remember the first regional sales meeting I attended.  They brought in one of those "money machines", and some of the top performers each got a turn at grabbing hundreds of dollars out of the machine.  I bet Terry Lee and his management team had no idea how influential that event was on a young geek-turned-vendor, but I sure wanted my turn in the machine.  (Never got there, but I did get a bonus check one year that had lots of zeros before the decimal point -- good enough!).

In 1998, the opportunity arose to move to Boston (Fenway), and somehow be convinced to work in Westford with the Notes product management team.  My colleagues were well-known in the Lotus community -- a great team which included Lance Shaw, Donna Carvalho, Scott Prather, with Cliff Reeves running the show.  Some very seminal events occurred during that first year in the Boston metro area.  My first task was to work with Binary Tree on licensing their e-mail migration tools.  I am still amazed at the ease with which I spent [a lot] of IBM's money and the speed at which it happened.  Shortly thereafter, I got to announce the deal from the big big stage at Lotusphere Europe in Berlin.  My first international business trip was quite an eye-opener in so many ways -- my organization's carelessness at scheduling the event overlapping with the Jewish New Year, my first visit to Germany.  Some other day I'll blog about what going to Germany the first time was like.  That was also the year of my first business trips to Asia -- First visit to Singapore (2nd is coming up at the end of this week), and a couple of trips to Japan.  Some other day I'll blog about that Japan trip, too.  Amazing how vivid the memories are of all those adventures, five+ years later.

In 1999, after being part of the deal team for the AOL and Lycos content inclusion in the Notes R5 welcome page, it became quickly apparent to me and my colleagues that I was more suited to marketing than product management.  The shift to Notes/Domino marketing helped in other ways - my office moved to Cambridge (a much easier commute from the Fenway!) and I got to be a manager boy for the first time.  I also started doing competitive work as part of that move...I suspect a few of you know some of the results after that became part of my job. ;)  Some of the memorable 1999 trips included my first journey "down under" for Lotus Fusion (have to blog that one, or most of it, some other day), the Eurostar, and a post-Lotusphere Europe side trip to Prague, which turned into a group of 9 (or more?) by the time we boarded trains from Berlin.  You might be looking here for details about the R5 ship party in the Bahamas; sadly, I had a previously scheduled and non-refundable vacation booked to New Mexico that same week.  I didn't even get an R5-logo-emblazoned sunscreen bottle :(, though we did save the Dom Perignon for New Year's Eve, Y2K (and there's another one still on the shelf, hmmm...).

In 2000, I earned my sabbatical after six years with Lotus.  I have to admit, when I first hired on, the idea of working for Lotus for six years was inconceivable.  But there it was.  360,000 frequent flyer miles =  around-the-world, business class, visiting nine countries in five weeks.  When I returned, I had a different job and a different address -- I was back in the Chicago area, and I was solely responsible for competitive analysis and marketing.  I had a staff of three sitting in Boston, goofing off while their manager worked from his basement 1000 miles away (well, at least the Aussie on loan was, right Shaun?).  Those were great times, too.  Other travel memories from 2000 included my first trip to South America (Buenos Aires, what a great place!), Hong Kong, Bangkok, tons of Europe, Oz again, and a crazy Europe trip that left Chicago on a Thursday night, did meetings in London on Friday, Krakow (via Warsaw) on Saturday, Paris on Sunday (a day off, I guess) and Monday, and back to London for Tuesday.  I think when the year was done, I had flown 130,000 miles -- that's 5x around the world or so.  The travel was the necessary trade-off for telecommuting from Chicago -- we were certainly well-equipped for remote work between Notes and Sametime, but a lot of business was still being done completely face-to-face.   Project-wise, I spent a lot of 2000 preparing for the initial ship of iNotes Access for MS-Outlook, a politically-charged project if there ever was one.  My first and only presentation to Jeff Papows was part of that (I think the meeting was in 1999, but whatever) -- he dozed off for part of it.  I was coached not to worry, that it was a momentary thing.

2001 was the year of change, in so many ways.  Pre-9/11, I was still travelling a ton -- I even still had a physical office in Cambridge.  First visits to Dubai, India, Korea, Netherlands, Malaysia, and the emergency medical facilities of a clinic in Phuket and a hospital in Melbourne.  At midyear, I switched roles again, now the "offerings manager" (most normal companies call them brand managers) for Lotus Notes/Domino.  The process of full IBM-ization of Lotus was underway, and we morphed to a decision-making process that was done more based on statistics, analysis, and group input than over drinks at the Cheesecake Factory.  It's different, sure, but despite the protestations of some ex-Loti who say that IBM ruined everything, I think becoming a truly integrated part of IBM instilled some needed discipline into the organization.  We shipped some 1.0-and-out products before that, things like Domino Collaboration Objects that left the building though they should never have left the lab as products.  Now customers could be confident that if we shipped it, it would be around for years to come.  And that features that would show up in the Notes/Domino 6 beta would actually ship in the final product.  2001 was also my first visit to DNUG, in Potsdam, and the start of my relationship with a number of Notes user groups that has continued to this day.

2002 was marked by many professional highlights.  With "Rnext" moving down the track towards final ship, I felt like my work on Notes/Domino was done for a while, and switched to a full-time competitive strategy role.  I think the switch happened a week before the Smashmouth concert, also known as IBM developerWorks Live in San Francisco.  But I kept on doing Notes/Domino 6-related work through much of the year, including a keynote at the ND6 launch in Moscow!  My evil twin Alan Lepofsky (you all know that this is just a running joke, right?  Alan and I are good friends) took over the helm on the Notes/Domino business plan, and the two of us would be confused for each other evermore.  2002 was also the year we started the "Boss Loves Microsoft: Where does that leave Lotus" presentations at Lotusphere and elsewhere.... a format that even other vendors have started to adopt for conference presentations.  Fun days.  2002 was also the last MS Exchange conference, in Anaheim -- I always knew they chose it because the product is so Mickey Mouse (rim shot!).  I started blogging at the end of 2002, thanks to vowe's coaching, and eventually moved the blog from his server to its current home at PSC.

I've already blogged a retrospective of 2003; and from this point forward, I've been living my professional life in full public view.  The great thing about this job has been my ability to basically define my responsibilities as needed, dare I say "on demand."   The second great thing is that I've never gotten away from regular customer/partner/community interaction.  There are a lot of places to go and hide in any big company; people who work a desk and never interact with the outside world.  I think what has defined the Lotus culture, and survived the changes as Lotus became part of IBM, is that Loti don't hide.  They crave that public interaction -- through Lotusphere, LDD/DeveloperWorks, Partner Forum, and more.  It's been an amazing ride and is what gets me up in the morning and ready to work every single day, whether here at home or from an airport lounge in Kuala Lumpur (oh wait, that's next week).

There are changes in store in the next few weeks...minor ones, but I'm setting it up now to make the next 10 years as amazing as the first 10.  I hope you'll stay with me on the road ahead.  And thanks again for your readership, support, encouragement, and friendships.  It's all been great.

Post a Comment

  1. 1  Alan Lepofsky  |

    Congrats on the 10 years Ed. This blog made me think back over my career, I should probably get some of it down on paper before I forget! I've really enjoyed working with and learning from you. Good luck on the next 10 years.

  1.   |

    Like JSP pages?

  1. 3  Ed Brill |

    Actually, the decision to drop the features in that area was in fact an outcome of the IBM-ization of the development calendar. Since putting a moment-in-time version of J2EE/JSP into the Domino server was going to be a support challenge on an ongoing basis (keeping the Java version updated etc.), it made sense to take them out of the ship plan. Most people with hindsight have seen that as the right decision.

  1. 4  Niel R  |

    Wasn't trying to hide (you've got logs don't you?) or offend. I just thought it was a funny line (in an interesting read) given that for whatever reason (good or bad) a huge feature was pulled from the product but yet you felt strongly enough to italicize your comment basically stating the opposite. Enjoy the site, thanks for all your efforts.