Well, the blog has been languishing for a while, as I’ve been extraordinarily busy with a new EVP, a round of layoffs, and many personal distractions. Here’s a little Netstalgia piece, not really technical, for your enjoyment.
I’ve told a few stories about my years at the Cisco Gold Partner, where I did both pre- and post-sales roles. The Cisco practice in the San Francisco office was new, so being the only Cisco guy required wearing a lot of hats. That said, one day I wore a hat I didn’t expect or want.
At the end of every week I’d look at our calendar to figure out my schedule for the next week. It was maintained by a project coordinator. Some appointments I had put on the calendar myself, others were requested by account managers or customers directly. One day as I looked at my calendar, I saw the following week booked. “City of San Mateo,” it said. I had no experience with this customer, so I called our project coordinator to figure out what the mystery job was.
“You’ll be placing phones,” she said.
“Placing them?” I asked, confused. She told me we had sold a VOIP deal with San Mateo to replace all of their PBX-phones with Cisco IP phones. The entire San Francisco office had been roped in to physically placing the phones on desks across the city. Even our Citrix guy was going to be there.
I called my VP of services and complained. “I have two CCIEs and you want me to run around for a week plugging in phones?”
“Just be glad you have billable hours,” he said. Were we really that desperate?
It turns out, yes. Myself, the office Citrix guy, and one or two other folks met in San Mateo city hall and divided up box after box of IP phones. We had to do city hall and library, which were the easiest. Then I ended up doing the police headquarters. I remember putting phones on all the desks in the detective room, with concerned police officers looking on as I rooted around on my hands and knees for data jacks under their desks. I had to move weapons (non-lethal), ballistic vests, and other police gear to find the ports.
I also had to do the fire department. For a small city, San Mateo has a lot of fire stations. It wasn’t always easy to park. The first one I pulled up to in my BMW, loaded with phones, had no parking anywhere. I found a notepad and a pencil in my car, scrawled out “OFFICIAL BUSINESS” on a sheet of lined paper, stuck it in my window, and parked on the sidewalk. I used my pass at several fire stations, earning quizzical looks from firemen when I parked myself on the sidewalk in front of their station.
I learned an important lesson in leadership from this event. If the VP had called a meeting the week before, he could have said the following: “Look team, I know you’re all highly skilled and don’t want to do manual labor. But we have a big deal here, it’s important to the company, and it’s all hands on deck. I’ll be there myself with you placing phones. Let’s get this done and I’ll buy you all a nice dinner at the end of the week.” Had he said something like this, I think we would have rallied around him. Instead, he just surreptitiously had it added to the calendar and copped an attitude when challenged. He actually wasn’t a bad guy, but he missed on this one.
Anyways, plugging in phones is the closest I became to being a VOIP guy.