My Career So Far


* Four years and change at Rochester Institute of Technology in beautiful, boring, butt-cold Rochester in Upstate New York. I don't know what it's like now (I try to avoid the snowbelt during the frigid season), but back in the seventies we'd average nine feet of snow a year. I became really good at bicycling in the snow by following in cars' tire tracks.

Gainful Employment

* Four and a half years at Data General, first as a Systems Engineer in New York City and Rochester and then as a programmer/analyst in California's Orange County, home of the mouse and the fruit. The transfer to California actually began with a two month assignment in London which eventually turned into five months there interspersed with three and a half months in Brussels.
* A handful of months at Stuart P. Orr & Associates, a teeny Pasadena-based developer of accounting applications that was later swallowed by Computer Associates.
* A year and a half as a COBOL programmer at Transaction Technology, Inc., an R&D division of Citibank (whose web site spent its first couple of years of life with a logo and not much else) located in Santa Monica.
* Three years plus at Symbolics Inc. in the San Fernando Valley, doing software support for people trying to use Lisp to do artificial intelligence kinds of stuff. This was my first exposure not just to Lisp but also to window systems, the Internet (back when it was still the ARPANET, although Symbolics has the distinction of having been awarded the very first Internet domain name), computer graphics, being a manager and a lot more. (Also in the permanence of email, a lesson we forget at our peril.) Symbolics is now, sadly, just a footnote in the history of computing. But for a while there it seemed like the Next Big Thing...
* A year at Teknowledge Federal Systems in Thousand Oaks, in a vain attempt to do what I had previously helped others to do: make something useful out of AI technology. TFS split off shortly after I left to become these guys
* Six and a half years at Sun Microsystems in Mountain View (what does it say about a place that its only claim to fame is that you can see nicer places from it?), first as the technical guy for their AI Product Marketing group and later for SunPro, the developer product business unit (now part of SunSoft). If you ever saw a demo of SPARCworks or WorkShop (a name they stole from their competitor and my future employer, Silicon Graphics) or their Try & Buy CD, you've seen examples of my work. I'd also write the occasional technology article, samples of which continued to appear long after I'd gone.
* Five months as C++ Product Manager for Borland International (later known as Inprise; could they have come up with an uglier name? I guess they agree; they're back to calling themselves Borland) in beautiful Scotts Valley, complete with an exciting daily commute across the Santa Cruz Mountains on lovely and treacherous Route 17.
* Four and a half years at Silicon Graphics, first as Product Manager for Developer Magic RapidApp(tm), our application and component builder for X/Motif, and later as a Strategic Technologist, a kind of Minister Without Portfolio for programmer- and web-related technologies, including Java, Unix/NT interoperability, real-time development and, right before I left, their plans for Linux. SGI was a different kind of work experience, with a style all its own.
* Seven months as practically the entire marketing department of a little Silicon Valley startup called JEDI Technologies (really), but now called something else after Mr. Lucas's lawyers got involved. JEDI had twenty employees, a few interesting concepts and grand dreams that were destined to lie unfulfilled. A pity, really; in other hands, their embedded Java acceleration technology might just have gone somewhere.
* Two and a half months as Java Product Manager for what used to be Tandem Computers but is now a relatively small but incredibly profitable part of Compaq. These guys see Java as the best software hope for a specialized computing system in this world of one size fits all. They may just be right about that. But they'll have to do it without me. There may be people whose pulses quicken at the challenge of building massive back office server farms. I just don't happen to be one of them.
* A year and change at an amusing little software startup called Dejima, Inc., initially doing sales support but finishing up as Chief Architect (impressed, are we?) for their core product. Dejima (the name comes from an island in Japan where all the foreigners once were isolated) had an interesting bit of software for letting people interact with computers as if the person, rather than the program, is in charge. If only they had a management team as smart as that basic idea, who knows how far they might have gone? Instead, they sold out to Sybase for little more than the incredible shrinking balance in their checking account. And so ends yet another dotcom-era dream of glory.
* Seven months as the technical half of a major account sales team at Apple Computer. What a perfect fit: all those years of UNIX and all those various different Macs I'd owned over the years made me the ideal advocate for the wonderful world of MacOS X. But timing is everything. And I guess this time the layoff fairy had better timing than I.
* A year and change as the first Systems Engineer for an enterprise software startup called Cassatt Corporation. Cassatt, named for impressionist painter Mary and her brother Alexander of Pennsylvania Railroad fame ($200 on your Monopoly board), sees the future of IT in Linux clusters. And they're going to be the ones to help people get the value the Open Source gurus have been promising the past few years. True pioneers in the wild and wooly world of autonomic computer. So why does the old joke about recognizing pioneers by all the arrows sticking out of them come to mind?
* Which brings us up to today, and my new role as something called a Senior Consulting Engineer for a clustering firm by the name of DataSynapse. Not sure what they do, at least not yet. But they claim to have working products, customers using those products and income from those customers. All of which will make a nice change.

Take me home:

 Comments to: Hank Shiffman, Mountain View, California