My first day at IBM

29 04 2012

When I joined IBM I had never met my new boss. He had taken the advice of his counterpart in Memphis, TN that I would be a good hire so Bryan hired me for the Jackson, MS office sight unseen. We talked on the phone but my first visit with him would be my very first day of work.

I remember getting to the office 15 minutes early. Bryan told me to come in at 8:30am and we would get started. I show up at 8:15am, but the doors weren’t open yet, , , they didn’t unlock the main doors until 8:30am. Oh well, I’m standing on the front porch of the IBM building looking pretty dumb (I’m thinking) as car after car passes me on their way to the back parking lot. They were all IBMers coming in for work and they entered the building via a back door I didn’t realize was there, , , wouldn’t have mattered because I couldn’t have gotten in anyway.

Finally, I meet Bryan Hathcock, , , a big gray haired gentleman with a rough exterior. Later, I would learn he was just a big teddy bear and someone I would look to as one of the best managers of my career.

After a short meeting, Bryan showed me around and introduced me to the IBMers of our division who were in the office that day. It was a very friendly group and very professional as I remember. The guys all wore white shirts and pinstripe suits in those days and so did I although my suits were on the inexpensive side at that point.

Bryan told me to make a copy of some paperwork and I made a big mistake by asking him, “Where is the Xerox?” He quickly made me understand that we used IBM copiers, not Xerox, , , I never made that mistake again.

Bryan gave me a piece of advice that first day that I have used throughout my career and I still use today. He said, “Mike, I’m going to pair you up to make client calls with some of our senior System Engineers (SE) and Marketing Reps. When you’re with them, observe how they do things, , , how they organize their time, how they plan for a client call, how they deal with client issues, etc. What you need to do is learn from them and incorporate the best of what you see into how you do things. If you see something that works really well, use it to your advantage and become the best you can be.”

I’ve done this my entire life and many of the things I do today are because I observed how well they worked for someone else. It was very good advice.

Growing up in Mayberry

29 04 2012

Well, it wasn’t called Mayberry where Barney, Andy, Opie, and Aunt Bee lived, , , but Hohenwald, Tennessee in the 1960’s was real similar.

Life was good, people kept their doors unlocked, we rode bicycles all over town at 10 and 12 years old. You didn’t dare do anything bad because the news somehow got back to your parents before you got there.

My best friend was Billy Marbet and he is still my best friend. We see or talk to one another almost every week, , , our families go to eat dinner together quite often, sometimes two times a week. I’ve known Billy since he was 4 hours old, , , or at least that’s what I tell people. I’m two months older than he is and our parents were close friends so I know it was very soon after he was born when we were introduced.

Great pals all during school, , , riding our bicycles all over town. We even had a special trail to ride our bikes to each other’s houses so we didn’t have to be on the highway. Billy and I along with our other friends were like The Little Rascals, , , playing Swamp Fox and exploring streams and woods surrounding our homes, playing on baseball teams together, , , I remember we even had a “Woman Haters Club” and issued homemade membership cards at one time.

We named the little streams things like the “Sabatoochie River”, , , learned how to hunt and fish with our Dads, , , going camping over a weekend was very special. It was a great life and a super environment to grow up in, , , super memories.

As we grew older and left for school, we lost touch with one another only seeing one another every 5 years or so. Then, in 2003 Dorine, Eddie and I moved back home to middle Tennessee and reunited our friendships with Billy and Jo Ann. It is just like we were in high school last week.

Growing up in Hohenwald was great. It has changed quite a lot but still remains the quiet little town we remember so well.

Arrival at Parris Island

29 04 2012

Our bus pulls into Parris Island around midnight on April 23, 1969, , , almost exactly 43 years ago as I write this post. It was dark, cool and I could smell the sea air of the Atlantic Ocean. My Marine Corps experience had begun.

The bus stops, the door opens, and enters a Marine Corps Drill Instructor who immediately begins shouting at us to, “wake up, , , wake up, , , get off the bus, , , hurry up, , , move it, , , move it”. This was the “wake-up call” and something that got your attention and quickly let you know that you were in someone else’s house now, , , “This is not Kansas, Toto”.

We all scramble out of the bus where another Drill Instructor starts lining us up in single file. Then we have our first Roll Call and we are instructed to shout “Here” when our name is called and run to a new line they create in alphabetical order. Life will not be fun for anyone who answers, “Present” or messes this up.

Everyone seems to be here so they march us to a processing center, , , a large room with rows of tables. There, we are instructed to empty our pockets of anything and everything on us, , , money, key chains, wallets, jewelry, , , everything. There will be dire consequences for anyone found with “contraband”. We put our personal belongings in a plastic bag and write our name and address on the outside.

Then we are instructed to write a short note to our parents telling them we have arrived safely and are now “in the care of the US Marine Corps”.

Then, we march to an empty barracks where we are told to stand in front of the bunks at attention. This would be a position we would get very accustomed to, , , standing at attention in front of our bunks. We would also get very used to the guys facing us and on either side of us, , , this will be who we see the most for the next 12 weeks.

No sitting or lying on our bunks except when we sleep, , , even then we had to sleep at attention.

First thing in the morning, , , around 5:00am we head to the barber where all our hair is cut, , , we get a high and tight Marine Corps “buzz”. We all looked pretty sad with no hair, pale skin, and a look on our faces that looked like, “What have I gotten myself into?”

No talking allowed, , , the consequences are not good, , , you learn quickly to do exactly what the Drill Instructors tell you ( and nothing else) if you have any smarts at all. Still, there are always a couple who just “don’t get it”. These guys will pay for their mistakes over and over during the course of our 12 weeks at Parris Island.

I can’t call myself a Marine yet, , , still just a lowly recruit at this point. Graduating from Parris Island Recruit Depot will allow me to actually become part of the Marine Corps family.

USMC physical

29 04 2012

I remember going to downtown Nashville to get my physical for the Marine Corps. It was March of 1969 and I was excited as well as a bit nervous about enlisting but I knew I needed to do something.

I had recently been kicked out of college for doing some improper things, , , seems that I discovered women and alcohol at the same time, , , and at a church school at that. When I was put on probation and couldn’t play on the golf team, , , things just got worse until the Dean told me I should go back home. This Dean and I made amends four years later after I got out of the Marine Corps and he told me, “Some kids just need more time to grow up, , , and you were one of those kids.”

My Dad did the best thing for me when he told me, “Son, you are either going back to school or you need to get a job, , , but you are not going to lay on my couch all day.” Best thing he could have done and it worked, , , I decided to enlist in the Marine Corps.

There was about 100 of us being processed through physicals, , , young men and boys preparing to go off to boot camp for their selected service, , , Army, Navy, Air Force, and the United States Marine Corps.

I learned quickly that the Marine Corps was something special. When they brought us our box lunches, the Marine Corps lunches were bigger and better than the others.  Oooohhh,,raaaahhhh!!

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