GoogleIt Mail IT Print IT PermaLinkThe Start Of My 15 Year Journey With Lotus Notes and Domino
03:39:13 PM

Near as I can tell, it was Theo who started the wave of "How I Started With Notes" posts, and Karl-Henry, Bruce, Ed, Turtle, John, Tim, Cristian, Mick, and Andy have by now chimed in. I guess it's my turn. Like Bruce, I've posted on this before, but since it was way back in my old blog I figure I'll repost and update it.

Rich's Pre-Lotus Background In Messaging And Collaboration

I spent the first eight years of my career working for Wang Laboratories. For six of those years, I worked as a developer on our email product, which was part of a family known as Wang OFFICE, and I worked initially on the version for the Wang VS minicomputer. Although primitive in terms of look-and-feel, what we offered to users in the 1980s was pretty much what you think of as the foundation of a modern-day messaging and collaboration system: email and calendar scheduling across a network of servers, a replicated directory, bulletin boards, contact management, and even workflow and an SMTP gateway for email outside of the organization.

My contributions to Wang OFFICE included our i18n capabilities, our architecture for extensibility of the directory, and a lot of low-level work on performance and scalability of the product's core code which to this day is some of the work I remain most proud of . I was also responsible for integration with several generations of Wang's Word Processing products, integration with Wang's PACE relational database product, integration with Wang's voice messaging products, and integration with Wang's far-ahead-of-its-time Freestyle product (demo video part 1 and part 2). Around 1989, I began working as a project leader on a client-server messaging and collaboration system for Windows and Unix, which we called Wang Open OFFICE, which got me pretty heavily into networking, TCP/IP, and the X.400 email and X.500 directory standards -- and I started dabbling a bit in Windows. Of course, we kept on working on the older VS OFFICE product, too, and one of the last things I did before I left Wang was a prototype for a Windows interface for VS Office including a drag-and-drop GUI for mailing files.

In retrospect, it's pretty clear to me that the background in the technologies I worked with at Wang positioned me about as perfectly as was possible for my later work with Lotus Notes and Domino, but it took a bit of serendiptiy to actually make that happen.

Rich's Iris Interview Fiasco

Every now and then, the competitive analysis group at Wang would send out a bunch of documents for the members of our team to review, and one day in the late 80's one of those documents had a paragraph in it that said something like "We've heard that Lotus is funding a company called Iris in Westford, MA, working on something called Notes. We don't know much about what it is, but we know enough to believe that this is something we're going to have to watch very carefully."

Fast forward a couple of years to February of 1993. I've left Wang, and spent a couple of years at a startup company, and that didn't go particularly well. I meet with a headhunter and the first interview he lines up for me is at Iris. I'd heard of Notes a few more times since seeing that memo at Wang, but I still don't know much about it. Fortunately I had a college classmate and fraternity brother who worked at Lotus in Cambridge, a fellow named Kent Quirk, so I give him a call. The interview was in two days, but he invited me to go into his office the next day so I can see the product and have a leg up on other interviewees. I was pretty impressed by what I saw, which was a beta of Notes 3.0. Having worked on products that did many of the same basic functions, I could tell immediately that Notes had a lot of really good ideas built into it.

I was really psyched for the interview! I arrived early enough that I stopped at a sandwich shop down the road to get something to drink. I then proceeded to place said cup on the dashboard, and spill said drink on the car's stereo and my shirt. Unfortunately, the stereo was ruined. Fortunately, there was still enough time that my shirt dried before the interview.

Unfortunately, I was also really sick, but I didn't know it. I didn't find out that I was running a high fever until about an hour after I got home.

I must have looked terrible, and I can only guess how incoherent my answers to the interviewers' questions were. It seemed to me that things were going well, but they actually cut the interview short. I had interviewed with Tim Halvorsen, Eric Patey, and George Moromisato, and I was supposed to interview with Ray Ozzie, but it didn't happen. Later on I figured out the obvious: that their perceptions of how things were going were very, very different from mine. I was sick as a dog for a week with the worst case of flu I've ever had .

Needless to say, Iris did not hire me.

Rich Becomes A Notes Consultant

Fast forward again a few more weeks. I decided to call my former boss from Wang for some job hunting advice. I had an offer in hand, but it wasn't anything exciting. A couple of friends had been encouraging me to try out contracting, but I wasn't sure if turning down a full-time job in favor of contracting was really a good idea. My former boss was also no longer at Wang, and I didn't actually know what she was up to. It turned out that on the day that I called her, she had just received a can't-turn-down job offer. She had been doing some part-time VB contracting for CSC Partners, which was where her husband worked, but she wanted to take the new job so she was looking for someone to recommend to take over her contract. There were only had a few months left on the contract, so as I talked to her I realized that trying out contracting for a few months while still continuing to look for a full-time position could be a good idea. I agreed to interview with the fellow who was supervising her work.

I showed up at the interview the next day, having brushed up on my VB. There had been no time to send in a resume beforehand, so I just handed it over and waited while the fellow read it. He looked up from it after a minute and said words to the effect of "VB programmers are a dime-a-dozen. I could walk out on the street right now and come back in ten minutes with two or three candidates. I'm sure you could do this work, but I have a question: What do you know about Lotus Notes?"

Neglecting to mention the botched interview, I said truthfully, "Well... I've seen it."

The interviewer said, "That's more than I can say, and I just got a call a couple of hours ago from my corporate headquarters informing me that our division has been chosen to pilot a company-wide roll-out of Lotus Notes. I've got six months to get it going, and in the last couple of hours I've concluded that someone who actually knows Lotus Notes is going to be impossible to find. But your resume tells me that you have a background in all the right things, so you can probably learn it faster than anybody else I'm going to find on short notice, so how'd you like to learn it on our nickel? Can you be on a plane to a meeting with others involved in the project in Chicago tomorrow morning?" I thought about it -- for about a nanosecond -- and said yes.

Within two days I had the OS/2 and Notes 3.0 (beta) install diskettes in my hands and. A self-taught crash course followed, and within a couple of weeks I had the official Notes 3.0 diskettes and I installed my first hub and spoke servers. I soon started hacking ODI and NDIS configs, .MDM files, and notes.ini settings, and learning all the mundane and arcane stuff of Notes administration, while simultaneously beginning to explore Notes application development. Another dozen servers and tour of the cities where CSC Partners had branch offices soon followed, as well as my initial application to the Lotus Alliance Partners program -- which initially resulted in my being told to "go away and come back later" because that program was being shut down and the new Lotus Business Partners program was starting up. A month or so later I was an official BP, and I was signed up for my first, and everyone's first, Lotusphere. I finally took my first Lotus training course down in Orlando, 8 months after starting as a Notes consultant.

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Comments :v

1. Chris Mobley04/07/2008 08:55:36 AM

And that is part of the story of how I got into Notes. I was with CSC at the time when they brought Rich in to teach IT reps from each of the CSC divisions about this Notes thing. I volunteered to be the one from our division to check it out. I'll go into more of my story on my blog when I get a chance this week.

Rich, you sure did come off quite confident and knowledgeable in that training, having only been mucking with Notes for, what, less than a year. That really says something about your skills.

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