small soft teddy bears in cups with VM 50th Anniversary workshop printed on them

I left IBM in 2008, last week I said goodbye.

But it wasn’t to IBM, it was to the people, employees, customers and software I’d worked on and with.

In the Summer of 2008, the project I was working on at IBM was canceled. I was offered a new position and promotion as a VP of pre-sales Tech’ support and a move to Dubai, I passed. I was given six weeks to find a new job.

I spent a few days writing some meandering internal blog posts, but when my final day came, a manager I’d never met before came to my office, took my laptop and badge and after 23-years, saw me out of the building.

This was the worst of modern IBM. I’m sure tens of thousands of people have been treated just the same way, I’m not special.

Unlike many of the employees, I was going to be fine. IBM had “rif’d[1]Rif Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com[2]actually an SGAR STG Group Resource Action me. This meant IBM couldn’t impose a non-compete period. After a short wait for a new visa, and a trip back to London to visit the US Embassy, I was all set. My job switch even warranted a small announcement in the NY Times[3]https://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/09/dell-boosts-services-with-purchase-of-allin-unit/.

I started at Dell as Distinguished Engineer and Executive Director in January 2009. My new appointment even garnered my inclusion in a feature in Austin Monthly magazine a year later[4]Austin Monthly Magazine – February, 2010.

Picture of Mark with details about him and his work

Before I left Dell, some 6-years later, and under similar circumstances to IBM, I had a hankering to go back to IBM. I’m not sure why or what for.

I submitted an abstract to speak on open standards and open source at a mainframe conference, but never heard back. Again, like hundreds of talented, exceptional IBM engineers, “outta sight, outta mind.

Earlier this year, I heard it was the 50th Anniversary of the IBM operating system, VM/370. Of course, I should have known this, I organized and ran the 1992 VM Masterclass in La Hulpe, Brussels to mark the 20th anniversary[5]https://youtu.be/Gjjgc1eE3nQ. I decided to combine a couple of days of music research at the Rock & Roll Museum Archive and go to the 50th anniversary VM Workshop[6]VMworkshop.org. On a whim, I submitted an abstract to speak, heck I was going to be there anyway.

They accepted my abstract[7]VM Workshop 2022: VM – If you don’t know where you’ve been… (sched.com), which included the following

“Mark will look back at some of the highs and lows of a 20-year career working with VM, both with, and for IBM, mostly because he can’t look forward to it.”

When I wrote my slides for the presentation, I had so many experiences, I could only include a few[8]https://www.slideshare.net/cathcam/cathcart-vm-workshop-50th-252088099. I was humbled by the size of the audience at my session. More so because the audience included a number of people who were attending because I was speaking. You know who you are. Despite a projector failure, I think everyone enjoyed the session?

I also received an invite to participate in a “Legends of VM panel[9]VM Workshop 2022: Bit talks with VM Legends (Bitner) (sched.com)”.  Compared to some of the original inventors of VM, who deserved to be there, I felt a fraud, but accepted.

The next afternoon was the panel session. A mix of technical questions, what-if questions and we got to the wrap-up. Bill Bitner, himself a VM Legend who’d recently retired from IBM, asked for “last thoughts?” I had no idea what I was going to say. I was 3rd to answer, just before I started to talk I realized, this was my farewell.

Moderator and the four members of the VM legends panel at the 50th Anniversary VM Workshop
Image Courtesy Ginzel Sanchez, Converge Technology Solutions Corp.
from left to right: Romney White, IBM VM Senior Technical Staff Member * Chuck Morse, IBM Washington Systems Center * Gabe Goldberg, VM Systems Programmer, Editor and Author * Mark Cathcart, IBM Distinguished Engineer (retired) * Bill Bitner, Moderator and IBM Senior Performance Specialist, Speaker and all-around legend.

I thanked everyone in the room, I thanked many by name for what they had done to help me be successful. If I missed mentioning you by name, it wasn’t deliberate. Looking out, misty-eyed, on I guess 100+ people, I couldn’t see everyone, and it would have taken too long to mention you all. If I ever worked with you in any capacity, anywhere, Thank you. I wouldn’t have made it without you. Yes, you.

In an answer to an earlier question, long time VM contact, author, editor Gabe Goldberg had discussed community in response to a question about staying enthusiastic in a long running project. Building off his remarks I said teams. I never again worked in a team like the VM team. I don’t mean the developers or the designers. I meant everyone involved with, users of, development for, and advocates of VM/370 and everything that came after it.

Everyone should be in a great team[10]Anyone can be on a great team, you can’t be integral to a team without IN.. If you are in a great family, you are in a team. If you are in a great team, it’s like being in a family. In teams, just like families, sometimes you have to give up on your wants to help the team achieve theirs. Sometimes your goals will be the team’s. For all the working at home craze, if you are not really in a team, a team trying to pull together in the same direction for the same success, you will probably never win.

Sure, sometimes the team is dominated by a few people or one person, think Shaq or Johnson, [insert sports personality here]. Ultimately if they are successful, the team behind will be as well.

I had the great fortune to be part of the VM team for 20-years. They encouraged me; they helped me develop; they gave me opportunities and they backed me up when needed. This week I got to say goodbye.

5 thoughts on “I left IBM in 2008, last week I said goodbye.

  1. Great experience of closure. I am so glad you had the opportunity to come face to face with your desire to have a positive closure after such a long time in-between.

  2. Thank you, Sir. Wish I could have been there.
    Back in 1992, attending the VM Master Class in La Hulpe made me realize I cared more about staying with VM than staying with my employer. It’s 40 years since I met CMS – how time flies when you’re having fun.

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