Were you to have been asked that question some years ago, the answer most likely would have bee “I’m not sure”....
Security – digging deeper into the past!
Or, how a trip up the Yellow River led to much more than a job …
Since I am semi-retired and like to think of myself as a story teller (don’t laugh…), I started writing my great American novel, about how I seem to be good at getting jobs by accident. Many of my positions at Tandem, from IT security, to business continuity, to Product Manager and Asia Pacific Marketing Manager all happened because I was in the right place at the right time. Even after I left Tandem, I continued to fall into jobs.
This story is a testbed chapter from my as yet unpublished novel and I hope to submit more of them in the future.
One of my accidental jobs was becoming the operations manager and export control officer for Shanghai Tandem Software Systems, also called S-Cubed or SCUBE. SCUBE was a joint venture between Tandem and the East China Institute of Computer Technology, or ECCT.
It all started in 1989 during my second sabbatical. I had never been to Asia before, so I signed up for a “circle tour” which started in Shanghai and went through Beijing, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Suzhou and ended up in Hong Kong.
I asked Jimmy about ham radio prospects in Asia and the next thing I know, Tandem general counsel Tom Klitgaard called to ask me to drop by his office. He said that Tandem was looking at donating a NonStop computer to the Shanghai Medical University and asked if I wouldn’t mind spending some time with their staff to determine if this was a good idea.
When I arrived in Shanghai the dean of the university invited me to dinner. Over dinner he asked me if I was single and when I said that I was, he asked if I had ever considered marrying a Chinese woman.
When I told him that I might be interested, he said that he could arrange a party for me the next evening where he would invite the brightest and prettiest female students so that I could choose one to marry and bring home with me. Since I was only there for a few more days, I declined.
Now you have to remember that 1989 was well before Al Gore invented the Internet, and long-distance calls were very expensive. The dean and I kept in touch by mail with the intention of spending my next sabbatical in Shanghai.
I started planning for my 1993 sabbatical in 1992 and again working with Tom, I arranged a 90-day public service sabbatical teaching at ECCT. This would give me plenty of time to date and get to know one of his students.
Things don’t always work out as planned, and I met and married my lovely wife just weeks before my sabbatical. So the sabbatical was on as a teaching exercise, but dating a bright and pretty medical student was off the table.
After a few days teaching at ECCT, Jiang Min, the dean, asked me if I wanted to walk across the courtyard to visit the joint venture. When I introduced myself as coming from Cupertino, I was asked if I could help them connect their Ungermann-Bass network to the lease line which ran back to Tandem HQ. Apparently, they had been trying unsuccessfully for several weeks.
Since we had a lot of the same gear in Cupertino and I used to be in the networking group, it didn’t take me that long to figure out what was wrong. Some of the DIP switches were in the wrong position, Expand parameters were off, and the cables were misconfigured. I explained to the SCUBE engineers what needed to be done and I let them do most of the work. When our Styrofoam lunchboxes full of rice, veggies and a protein were delivered I sat down with them to eat.
After lunch, Spencer Loh, SCUBE’s general manager, asked me to his office. He told me that I treated his engineers as equals even though their English language skills were lacking, I sat down for lunch with them instead of going back to a Western hotel, I explained everything and let them do the work and I showed them how to keep the system running. And I was also pretty good with chopsticks.
Sitting with them for lunch and using chopsticks seemed to be my most impressive feats, and the engineers went to Spencer and asked if he could bring me to Shanghai to support them as a replacement for the previous engineer who was at the end of his assignment.
And that is how I was assigned to SCUBE from 1993-1996, nearly over my wife’s dead body. But that’s another story.