"After a motivational sermonette like that, Dan, are you sure I shouldn't stand up and sing instead?" she said, smiling. Jane proceeded to tell about her years at Ferguson and Bardell and her rise to Director of Accounting, and to give a brief description of her areas of responsibility. She concluded by noting that she was accountable to the management team for all aspects of the accounting function. "So if something isn't working or it's working too slowly, I catch it from above. That makes me highly motivated to find answers that work."
Dan nodded. "Good. We'll need that focus as we move forward. Glad you're here, Jane. Marilou, how about you?"
"Well, I've been doing training here at Ferguson and Bardell, and at other firms around Chicago, for about four years. Most of my work for your firm has been teaching end-user applications such as Office, along with a smattering of operating system classes and such. Haven't done any technical training for Ferguson and Bardell, though."
"She's really good, too," Jane added. "Every time I send some of my staff to one of Marilou's training classes, they always come back more enthusiastic about both the application and their work. She seems to understand what's involved in their day-to-day tasks, and is able to incorporate that into her teaching."
"As any good trainer should," replied Dan. "It's that user savvy that made you a candidate for this team, Marilou. It will be the key to your work here."
"And just when are we going to learn what that work is?" Bill interrupted.
"Hang on, Bill—it's items 4 and 5 on the agenda. Okay, Tim, let's hear your life story."
Tim grinned. "It'll be pretty short, I guess, since I've only been here a few years. Of course," he continued, turning to Bill, "since I'm also the youngest one here, the percentage of my life that I've spent at Ferguson and Bardell is about the same as an old-timer like you, huh, Bill?"
Bill grunted in reply, but his face also softened with a slight smile. In the time Tim had been at the firm, he and Bill had had more than one run-in, and Bill had learned that behind the boyish grin was an excellent network and systems engineer. Improbably, Bill and Tim had developed a fairly good relationship. In fact, Tim was one of the few people at Ferguson and Bardell who could kid Bill Pardi and get away with it.
Tim turned back to the group. "Well, I came here right out of college as the Assistant Network Manager. Basically, all that title got me was a pager and the 'privilege' of being on call 24/7. A few things happened along the way, and—well, I don't know, I was just in the right place at the right time, I guess, and I wound up as Network Manager for the entire company."
Jane leaned forward and looked at Tim. "There's more to it than that and you know it!" Turning to Dan, she continued, "The 'few things' he's referring to happened about six months after he got here. We had moved to NT, and it wasn't going well at all. Tim tried to make a few suggestions, but the consultant doing the work ignored him because he was so young. Finally, after two weeks of the network going up and down every day, your predecessor told the consultant and the Network Manager to step aside, turned to Tim, and asked him, 'Can you fix it?' Tim started working, and in about a day-and-a-half we were up, it was stable, and it's been stable since." As Tim blushed slightly from the praise, Bill muttered "fine work" under his breath.
Dan smiled at Tim. "So, when the manager job came open last spring, you got off third shift and onto the hot seat, right?" Tim nodded while everyone else chuckled. "Well, guy, that seat may get hotter before this project is over. But Tim, I want you to know something: I heard about your expertise when I interviewed for this job, and nothing I've seen since has made me think the reports were exaggerated." Tim started blushing again until Dan added, to general laughter all around, "Just buy an alarm clock, okay?"
Dan then turned to Marta on his right. "Marta, you're the newest one here, so many of us in the room haven't even met you before today. You're an MIT grad. What brought you to us, and what should we know about your work and what you do?"
"I graduated with a master's in Electrical Engineering last spring. I had already done a co-op for Ferguson and Bardell in the Louisville office, and enjoyed both the work and the people. About a month before I graduated, I was contacted by the Director of Engineering here in Chicago about a job, and after some negotiations about the job description, I accepted the job offer and began work here in the summer."
Dan already knew about the negotiations Marta had mentioned, because the Director of Engineering had recommended her to Dan in the first place. He thought it was important for the project team to know something of Marta's interests, though, so he asked her, "Just what issues were you negotiating, if you don't mind my asking?"
Marta laughed. "No, it's certainly not something personal or earth-shattering. I just told him that I wanted to be involved in some cross-discipline project work. One of the attractions of working for Ferguson and Bardell is the opportunity to work with architects and project managers as well as engineers. I'm not sure yet how I want to use my degree, so I want exposure to a wide range of issues and projects."
"I think you'll certainly get some of that on this project," said Dan. "Glad you're with us, Marta, and welcome aboard." There was a murmur of agreement around the table.
All eyes then turned to Bill Pardi as Dan said, "Okay, Bill, I've saved you for last. As Tim has already pointed out, you've been here longer than any of us, and you've probably forgotten more about technology than most of us know. As we build this team, what do we need to know about the Chief?"
Bill looked up, seeming not to know what to say, to be at a loss for words. He wasn't comfortable talking about himself, at least not in this "warm and fuzzy" manner, and it showed. Finally, shrugging slightly, he said, "I guess being ex-military explains a lot about me. When I went in the Navy, I was a young jerk with a big mouth and an attitude to match. The Navy taught me that big talk had to be backed up with big action. Ever since, I've put more stock in getting things done than in talking about it. The Navy also taught me about computers, and how to crank out code. Some of the projects we did! Churning out line after line for hours, days at a time. Excuses didn't work, talking didn't work, meetings didn't work; the only thing that counted was how many lines you got in and compiled that day. We built stuff that's still running today, still slamming data through, and we put in the hours to do it. Now I can't find anyone willing to burn some midnight oil to get projects out. It seems like it takes longer and longer to get stuff out the door, even though this Visual Whatever stuff is supposed to make it easier. Some days, I wish I was back writing VAX code on a green-screen terminal, rather than managing a bunch of mouse-clickers." Then, as if exhausted by his sudden burst of autobiography, Bill slumped back in his chair and stared at the conference table.
No one spoke for a moment. Finally, Dan broke the silence. "Bill, we've all felt that way, one time or another. Managing others is often much harder than simply doing the work yourself. I'm hoping that as we all work together on this project, the processes and models we use will make the work of managing a little bit easier."
After another pause, Jane spoke up and said, "Okay, Dan, you've put all of us on the hot seat. How about you? What brings you to Ferguson and Bardell, and to this project that is so important, none of us know anything about it?"
Dan smiled at the question, and thought for a moment before replying. "Well, I came from a law firm, as you know. What you probably don't know is that technology was not my first career choice. I began my work life as a teacher—history, in fact—and I'm not sure I've ever completely left that field. I enjoy helping people: helping them learn, helping them grow, helping them succeed. That's one of the reasons I got involved in computers. Technology should be an enabler, not a barrier, and that's what I want to make it. That's also how I see my job: helping my staff and the rest of the company become more adept at their jobs through the intelligent use of technology. Remember, technology should never be the end; it should always be the means to the end. In the case of Ferguson and Bardell, that end is providing the best architecture work, engineering work, and project management to our clients that we possibly can. The business goals should both drive and inform our technology goals. Which brings us to MSF."