Posts Tagged 'ibm'

What makes a good technical manager?

Is it possible to engineer the perfect boss? Google was up to the task and found data that will forever change the keys to getting promoted.

A few people posted, quoted and retweeted this INC. Article on my social media streams. The “Eight Habits of Highly Effective Google Managers.” is a good list and set of checkpoints.

For me though, as longtime readers will know, I’ve long been a believer in the non-technical manager, most of my best managers and executives were managers first and technical second. On one post on Facebook it summed it up as:

A good company employs managers to manage the company for employees, and employees for the company.

If the company doesn’t have senior technical non-manager positions and technicians are becoming managers to get promoted, you and the managers are at the wrong company in the first place.

I’d tried being a teamlead very early on in my career, it wasn’t good for me or the team, but then I was just 25-years old. Later on, not being a manager became a source of pride, making it through the corporate ranks at IBM without ever being a manager. My mentoring/career presentation has it on slide-2 and slide-10.

These days I think I’d be a good manager, my patience has certainly improved, I’ve achieved everything and more, that I set out to do, and while I’m still technical, I know my boundaries and wouldn’t want to cross them.

Mainframe Assembler Language 2.0

Those that still follow my blog from my days working in the IBM mainframe arena might be interested in the following.

One of the stalwarts of software at IBM, and self described grand poobar of High Level Assembler, John R. Ehrman has a 1300-page 2.0 version of his book “Assembler Language Programming for IBM System z™ Servers ” and it’s available in PDF form here. There are a wealth of other assembler resources that John has contributed here on ibm.com

(My) Influential Women in Tech

Taking some time out of work in the technical, software, computer industry has been really helpful to give my brain time to sift through the required, the necessary, the nice, and the pointless things that I’ve been involved in over 41-years in technology.

international-womens-day-logo1[1]Given that today is International Women’s Day 2016 and numerous tweets have flown by celebrating women, and given the people I follow, many women in Technology. I thought I’d take a minute to note some of the great women in Tech I had the opportunity to work with.

I was fortunate in that I spent much of my career at IBM. There is no doubt that IBM was a progressive employer on all fronts, women, minorities, the physically challenged, and that continues today with their unrelenting endorsement of the LGBT community. I never personally met or worked with current IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty, she like many that I did have the opportunity to work with, started out in Systems Engineering and moved into management. Those that I worked with included Barbara McDuffie, Leslie Wilkes, Linda Sanford and many others.

Among those in management at IBM that were most influential, Anona Amis at IBM UK. Anona was my manager in 1989-1990, at a time when I was frustrated and lacking direction after joining IBM two years earlier, with high hopes of doing important things. Anona, in the period of a year, taught me both how to value my contributions, but also how to make more valuable contributions. She was one of what I grew to learn, was the backbone of IBM, professional managers.

My four women of tech, may at sometime or other, have been managers. That though wasn’t why I was inspired by them.

Susan Malika: Sue, I met Sue initially through the CICS Product group, when we were first looking at ways to interface a web server to the CICS Transaction Monitor. Sue and the team already had a prototype connector implemented as a CGI. Over the coming years, I was influenced by Sue in a number of fields, especially in data interchange and her work on XML. Sue is still active in tech.

Peggy Zagelow: I’d always been pretty dismissive of databases, apart from a brief period with SQL/DS; I’d always managed fine without one. Early on in the days of evangelizing Java, I was routed to the IBM Santa Teresa lab, on an ad hoc query from Peggy about using Java as a procedures language for DB2. Her enthusiasm, and dogma about the structured, relational database; as well as her ability to code eloquently in Assembler was an inspiration. We later wrote a paper together, still available online[here]. Peggy is also still active in the tech sector at IBM.

Donna Dillenberger: Sometime in 1999, Donna and the then President of the IBM Academy of Technology, Ian Brackenbury, came to the IBM Bedfont office to discuss some ideas I had on making the Java Virtual Machine viable on large scale mainframe servers. Donna, translated a group of unconnected ideas and concepts I sketched out on a white board, into the “Scalable JVM”. The evolution of the JVM was a key stepping stone in the IBM evolution of Java. I’m pleased to see Donna was appointed an IBM Fellow in 2015. The paper on the JVM is here.(1).

Gerry Hackett: Finally, but most importantly, Geraldine aka Gerry Hackett. Gerry and I  met when she was a first line development manager in the IBM Virtual Machine development laboratory in Endicott New York, sometime around 1985. While Gerry would normally fall in the category of management, she is most steadfastly still an amazing technologist. Some years later I had the [dubious] pleasure of “flipping slides” for her as Gerry presented IBM Strategy. Aside: “Todays generation will never understand the tension between a speaker and a slide turner.” Today, Gerry is a Vice President at Dell. She recruited me to work at Dell in 2009, and under her leadership the firmware and embedded management team have made steady progress, and implemented some great ideas. Gerry has been a longtime advocate for women in technology, a career mentor, and a fantastic roll model.

Importantly, what all these women demonstrated, by the “bucketload”, was quiet, technological confidence; the ability to see, deliver and celebrate great ideas and great people. They were quiet unlike their male peers, not in achievement, but in approach. This why we need more women in technology, not because they are women, but because technical companies, and their products will not be as good without them.

(1). Edited to link to correct Dillenberger et al paper.

The Open Mainframe Project

It would be remiss of me not to mention another new Linux Foundation project, the Open Mainframe project. I’m actually be pretty interested, from a purely personal perspective, to see what this project does and where they plan to take Linux on the mainframe.

I’m glad to see that both Linux on the mainframe, and the ecosystem is still thriving. Having been involved with it heavily back in the late 90’s, and writing essentially the only public strategy in the original and republished IBM Redbook “Linux for S/390”. The first four chapters were mine.

I can recall with great fondness discussing with them head of IBM Systems Group, and future IBM CEO, Sam Palmisano and many others, the real reason Linux would be key to future success, it’s freedom. With India and China coming on stream as technology powerhouses, with millions of future programmers, it was clear that they would learn on Linux.

Even Windows was still the most pervasive operating system in 1998-2000, it was clear from anyone who understood technical people that Linux would influence not jut code, but threading, languages, library structures, call interfaces and more at the system level. For no other reason than people can study the source, learn from it, adapt it etc. and that was a train IBM couldn’t stop, we needed to be on board before the train left without us. There is a good NY Times article from the period here.

Good luck to the Open Mainframe project.

Oracle gets big on Sun

Predicting the Future, The Oracle concept watches by Designer Andy Kurovets mixes time with Chinese philosophy

Predicting the Future, The Oracle concept watches by Designer Andy Kurovets mixes time with Chinese philosophy

Fascinating news. I didn’t see a single consultant, analyst, journalist predict this. WRT to the supposed IBM/SUN on/off deal, I guess the biggest part to work out is how this will effect Oracle products on IBM Power Systems servers.

Oracle was definately the most significant software product on Power systems, I assume if Oracle decides it wants to keep the SPARC hardware architecture alive, it’s going to have to start favouring SPARC over Power. If nothing else, one assumes the fees IBM pays Oracle for Power support/currency/testing etc. will likely go up. Fascinating indeed.

I guess that also puts Oracle into competition with Dell and HP too, not just becuase of their SUN x86 hardware, but also again for platform currency. I didn’t dial-in to the investor call this morning, but I wonder how many are already wondering what the chances are of Oracle spending a year to work out how to sell-off the parts of Sun it doesn’t want, like the hardware business, but keeping the bits it does want, like Java and the other key software assets and intellectual property. Fascinating indeed.

However, if this knoxnews.com picture is anything to go by, Oracle have some work to do on their Industrial design and human factors for their hardware.

Short DNS and brand ownership

I cycle home Wednesday evenings and back in on Thursday morning, it’s a 22-mile drag from Round Rock to Down Town Austin, with some quiet bits, some busy bits and some dangerous bits. While spinning up North Lamar heading south  towards 183, I was thinking about the rise of web URL shortnening websites such as tinyurl.com, which was the first I was aware of that offered a free service to take a long url such as this blog entry https://cathcam.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/short-dns-and-brand-ownership/ and turn it into http://snipurl.com/shorterdns

The main reason these became really popular was becuase some systems, such as Lotus Notes used to produce bizzare, very, very long URL’s for pages in Notes databases. It was easier to remember tinyurl.com/ae5ny than it would be to remember the page name, try it… Now, people these days know these services for twitter.com where every character counts, but thats not how or why they started.

There are a bunch of these services, tinyurl.com, snurl.com, is.gd, bit.ly etc. I tend to use snurl as it allows you to save specific names, I’m sure other shortners do too. What I was thinking about last night was the ownership, rights etc. to shortened URLs.

When my son wanted some cards from http://moo.com to help him promote his DJ work, I created them for him, but his myspace URL didn’t easily fit and flow, and what if later he wanted to create a website, he’d have to get new cards.

Answer, use snurl. So Oli and his alter ego Kaewan are now http://snurl.com/kaewan – It currently points to his myspace profile, but I can change it whenever I want. 

So these services have become, in some way, analgous to Domain Registrars. Sure a short URL isn’t a domain, but effectively it’s the same as one, except you don’t own it, and you didn’t have to pay for it. For fun I created http://snurl.com/redmonk – It actually points to Redmonks home page. But it could easily point elsewhere. And there’s the rub. With a traditional Name regsitrar there is an established right of review and appeal if you believe that someone has registered a domain that impinges on your brand and trademarks.

Not long after I created this blog, original DNS http://ibmcorner.com _ I got a “cease and desist” call from IBM legal pointing out that this wasn’t allowed and I should stop using it and not re-register the domain when it expired. SO where does http://snurl.com/ibm point to? Well not IBM and is was nothing to do with me.

(Belated) Leaving drinks in London

Since I’m coming over to the UK to get my new machine readable visa inserted in my passport, it’s a great opportunity for a “leaving drink”. So consider this an open invitation to all my former IBM UK Colleagues, either current or past, and any customers, analysts, journalists or consultants that I worked with.

I’ll be at the Archduke on Concert Hall Approach between IBM South Bank at Waterloo Station from 5.30pm onwards on February 23rd to buy drinks. I was going to say I’d be easy to find since I’ll be the one in cowboy boots and hat, but that would be an untrue stereotype for Austin, and decent cowboy boots are expensive, and I doubt I can find a hat big enough for my head 😉 – So I’ll pass on that idea.

If you can make it along it would be great to see you, even if you just have time to stop in and say “goodbye”. Feel free to add a comment if you can or can’t make it, in case I need to make any special arrangements with the Archduke.


About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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