Chapter 64. Promotion

Not long after my lunch with Mike, I began in earnest two “promotions”. I was not very comfortable with either.

One was self-promotion. In the midst of the project Rick had become eligible for retirement. He found though that restrictions in agreements between PwC and IBM meant he could not continue any association with the project if he did so. My reaction to his potential leaving was not very positive; it also would have had a very disruptive influence on the project. He patiently continued to lead the way.

About that time it became clear to me that I must apply for partnership. I don’t know why I had been reluctant to do so for so many years. Although I was very committed to my work (as if the preceding doesn’t testify adequately to that), for some reason I was not interested in being a partner. I realized, though, that doing so was my duty; my duty to those I worked with, to the customers and to the ultimate good the solution could provide on so many levels. So one year into turning the project around, I began the process of promoting myself for partnership.

Somewhere along the path, I must have become confused. With the successful turn around of the project, the intense concentration and prospects of a successful implementation, I began to feel it was my right to be partner. Imagine my surprise, when one week before the system went live I learned I had been turned down. It made me question why I was going through everything I was; what was the point; and why no one outside the project appreciated the nature of what we were doing.

I spent a couple of months being angry about it. Glenn Finch and Sarah Diamond, executives within IBM, reached out to me in very personal ways. My wife Kari chided me for being so hostile to them in phone calls. Rick, as ever, was very temperate, understanding my anger and sympathizing without encouraging actions I would come to regret.

February 2008, despite tremendous continued pressure on the project to make the next deadline, I asked Rick if it would be OK if I took off early on Friday evening to take my two youngest children sledding. He approved. As we arrived home, while still in the car, I checked my e-mail, and noted the announcement about new partner promotions. I chose not to read it. My four year old son climbed in the driver seat, gave me a hug, and told me he loved me. I told him that I loved him too; that he was so important to me. He then said, “I am more important than your work, huh Dad?” and he ran off. “Out of the mouth of babes…” I thought.

Later that night, while watching TV with my wife I had a fairly strong feeling that, if in some way I did become a partner, I would likely use this experience a number of times in discussions with others. It would be difficult to buy this sort of experience, but would likely become something I would never want to give up. I learned much more from the failure than I ever would have learned from the success.



I wasn’t promoted the next year either, although I made it further through the process. Everyone around me seemed quite surprised, and some were angry. Rick and others were quite fearful of how I would react. I mostly laughed, having adequately learned that my anger didn’t help much at all. So in the spring of 2009 I began the process again.


The project of building the financial management solution began with the premise that standard off-the-shelf software would be used to build all components. But as time went on, the requirements for managing the voluminous data caused one component after another to fail. At most of these turns, the company chose to use SAFR to build the replacement components.

At some point, Rick realized it was not right to continue to do this work if SAFR was not going to be a going concern. He approached IBM leadership and explained the situation: If we are going to use this tool on the project, then we must be committed to growing the entire business. The response was an enthusiastic yes.

So the second promotion I undertook that spring was to attempt to explain better the principles outlined in this book. As noted above, I had recognized in 2003 what Rick had always said, our engineering was ahead of our marketing. It was clear that my partnership application was dependent upon demonstrating I could effectively sell the solution. I also recognized that an honest salesperson simply connects people with a problem to the solution for that problem.

I began in earnest to finish this book. I also began explaining the message in a lot of different settings.