My first presentation

27 01 2014

scientistHave you ever been truly scared of something, , , I mean really, really frightened?

I have been truly scared at least once in my life, and it probably isn’t what you might think it would be. It was when I had to make my very first presentation in front of a group of people I did not know.

You need some background
It was a cold, snowy January day when I arrived at my first IBM class in Atlanta. I was 28 at the time and had just graduated from college, , , I was a bit older than a typical college graduate because I took a 4-year detour with the United States Marine Corps.

In the class there were some 30 or so students from all parts of the US, , , we were all proud “IBM rookies” eager to make our mark in the world, , , and we were about to go through IBM’s class called A-Mod.

I remember having to introduce myself to the class like everyone else did and how nervous I got as it got closer and closer for my time to speak. I would soon learn this would just be a teaser.

At the end of the first day, our Instructor brings out flip chart pads and magic markers, , , then he passes out assignment material to each of us. He returns to the front of the class and proceeds to assign us a task for the evening, , , we would learn that homework was going to be a common theme in all IBM classes.

Our assignment — develop a short, 5-minute flip chart presentation on the topic we were given. Everyone had a separate topic, , , no teamwork in this exercise. The following day we were to deliver a stand-up presentation of our topic using the flip chart bullet points we came up with from the material we were given.

The presentation would be recorded so we could view it and our Instructors could critique them to help develop our presentation skills. Our presentations were to be graded and this is important because it leads to our final grade average, , , something our future Performance Review from our IBM managers back home would take into consideration.

Grading would be based upon three things: content, organization of the content, and presentation delivery.

I had never made a presentation to a group of people I did not know, , , never, , , and even though I was older than most in the room and a former Marine, , , I was intimidated by the whole thing.

Intimidated is putting it mildly, , , I was scared.

Not physically scared mind you, , , but afraid of making a mistake, looking foolish, or just generally not doing well in front of my peers, , , even though I didn’t know any of them. It’s a trait I would learn 15 years later is pretty consistent among IT people.

Well, we all go to our apartments and everyone focuses on developing their presentation. My flip charts look great and I believe I have created bullet points that capture the key points of my topic. I was totally comfortable with this part.

But I’m still very much afraid of this task because of the presenting part to come, , , so much concern that I gave real thought to checking out, going to the airport, and heading home to tell my manager that I did not sign up to be  a salesman.

Fortunately, I didn’t go through with it. Can’t hurt that much, can it?

The next day we begin making our presentations and we deliver them in alphabetical order, , , so my name beginning with an “S” means I’ll deliver mine in the afternoon.

How much of the morning sessions do you think I heard?

That’s right, , , none of them.

Why? because I’m thinking through my presentation and analyzing every aspect of it, , , trying to remember what I need to say, etc. The closer we get to my turn, the more nervous I become.

Well, it finally comes my time to deliver, so I go up to the front of the room, they help me place my three flip chart sheets on the stand, , , put a microphone around my neck, , , , , , , ,

Did I mention they were going to place a microphone around our neck and record the whole thing?

More pressure!!!!!!!

OK, I’m finally all set and ready to begin, , , but first, a question for you:

Are you aware of what happens when you are truly scared, , ,  I mean truly frightened about something?

presentation_8Well, your body does some strange things that I learned for the first time at this moment in my life.

First, you can perspire or sweat.

Your body can tremble or shake.

Your voice can quiver, even come out at a higher pitch.

Your heart certainly beats faster and pounds like it’s coming out of your chest. I know this to be true.

But there is another thing that happens to you that I had no idea of until it occurred to me in this presentation.

Your mouth gets very dry, , , cotton dry, , , dry as the desert sand.

Well, when you speak your tongue actually bounces off the roof of your mouth as you say certain words and when your mouth is cotton dry, your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth. As you talk, your tongue gets stuck and when it releases, there is a distinct “POP“.

That’s right, you will hear an intermittent “popping” sound, , , you don’t know exactly when the “POP” will occur but it definitely does.

And remember, I have a microphone hanging around my neck.

As I work through my presentation, I hear this “POP” from time to time and I’m sure everyone else hears it. It’s a bit unsettling, but something occurred during this ordeal, , , as I went further and further into my presentation, it all got easier and easier.

My presence here today is testimony that this frightful event did not kill me, , , but it truly did scare the “bejeevies” out of me leading up to the event.

Mike Sisco – early IBM presentation – 1977

I’ve been very nervous in a few other large presentations in my career, but they got easier the more I gained experience in presenting.

The lesson
Today, I can deliver a presentation to hundreds of people and I don’t get nervous, , , as long as I’m prepared and know my material. What this says is that you can overcome your fears and learn how to do things that once intimidated you. It’s all about making an investment to become what you want to become.

They say the two things people are most afraid of are public speaking and death. Well, I’ve overcome the first one. If I can do it, I’m fairly confident anyone can.

Strong communication skills can help you considerably in your career, , , well worth the investment to gain them.

Something to think about
After I made my presentation in the IBM A-MOD class, the lady sitting next to me went up to do her presentation, , , and she “knocked it out of the park”. She was really good and did a super job, , , partly I thought because she had some teaching experience and had experience getting in front of people.

I was impressed so during a break I told her what a great job she did. Her reply surprised me. She said she was extremely nervous because of all the people in the room with IT degrees and experience, , , he degree and background was in History so she was intimidated a bit, , , just like me and probably the rest of us in the class but for different reasons.

What this told me is that “everyone gets scared” when presenting or doing things out of their comfort zone. From that point on, presentations got easier, , , and easier, , , and even better as I gained more and more experience.

Marine Corps Base – Kaneohe Hawaii

26 01 2014

There are some great memories of the two years I spent in Hawaii from March 1970 to March 1972. The first year I was single so I played a lot of golf. Dorine and I married on December 26, 1970 so my second year was our first year of marriage – what a treat being able to spend our first year together in Hawaii. We didn’t have any money but we sure had a good time.

USMC Kaneohe gateMain gate leading into the Kaneohe Base

USMC Kaneohe_13th hole13th hole at KBAY Golf Club

The first 12 holes are away from the ocean and on relatively flat ground. You don’t notice the ocean is there because you can’t see or hear it as it’s protected by steep hills between most of the golf holes and the three ocean holes.

I’ll never forget the first time I walked out onto the 13th tee at KBAY Golf Club. It was breathtaking from the elevated tee with the deep blue Pacific Ocean lining the hole and the Ko’olau Mountains filling the background. This par-5 could play very short with prevailing right-to-left wind. I remember we  aimed our drives out over the edge of the beach and let the wind help draw the ball back into the fairway. A great tee shot could leave you with just a wedge to the green.

usmc Kaneohe_14th hole14th hole at KBAY Golf Club

The 14th hole is another good ocean hole on the KBAY Course. The green has a severe slope from back to front. In a KBAY Men’s Association Club tournament I shut out Joe Capri on this hole because he 3-putted. He had a long putt from front of the green to a pin located in the back and he literally putted his ball off the green. We joked, “Caddie, , , bring my wedge!” as the ball rolled down the steep slope off the back of the green. After the hole Joe broke his Otey Crisman putter and threw it away as we walked to the 15th tee, , , I got it reshafted and still have it.

usmc_kaneohe bayArial view of Mokapu Peninsula and Kaneohe Hawaii Marine Base

usmc_kaneohe golfGolf photos at KBAY Golf Club – 1970

Notice the “high and tight” Marine Corps haircut, , , worked well when the wind was blowing like you see on #10 green. Quality of our film photos back then was not so good.


usmc_mike and dorine-2Dorine and me right after our honeymoon and the day I left to return to Kaneohe.

I returned to Hawaii after my 2-week leave expired to find us an apartment. Dorine would join me a month later.

Harold Estes, a retired Navy Chief was extremely helpful to us. He helped me find an apartment in Waikiki (just happened to be the same one his 75-year old Mother lived in). The senior Mrs. Estes became a great friend and she would visit Dorine often when I was at work. Mr. Estes, a successful entrepreneur, hired Dorine as his Executive Assistant which helped us out financially, , , he even found us a great car that we purchased from one of his friends.

usmc_67  convertible mustangThe 1967 Mustang Convertible Harold Estes found for us – perfect for Hawaii

usmc_mike and dorine-1Dorine and me at Karen and Randy Watson’s home on our last day in Hawaii
March 1972 – Kailua, Hawaii

As I mentioned earlier, we didn’t have much money at the time but we sure did enjoy our first year of marriage in Hawaii plus the special friends made while we were there. I married a great looking girl, didn’t I?

Introduction to information technology (IT)

26 01 2014

It was March 1970 when I reported to Marine Corps Base – Kaneohe, Hawaii. My orders were to report to Data Processing Platoon 10 (DPP10) and work in the computer operations section of Headquarters Company. I had recently completed Computer Sciences School in Quantico, Virginia and stationed a few months in San Diego, California while waiting for permanent orders. When they asked, “Would you like to go to Hawaii?”, , , it was an easy decision.

USMC_KaneoheDPP10 – MCB Kaneohe, Hawaii – 1971
That’s me standing underneath the DPP10 sign

We are standing in front of a mobile data processing vehicle which houses the necessary equipment to run an IT shop in the field at that era. Today, you can do everything in the field from a laptop, tablet or SmartPhone.

After a couple of weeks training they assigned me to the 3rd shift to run the 3M applications for the air wing section of the base. 3M stood for Machines, Materials and Manpower. Anything that took place within the air wing of Kaneohe was reported through the systems I ran.

This was still early in the days of computers. We used an 80-column card computing system and machines related to the IBM 1401 Computer Systems. It was a very manual process to sort, collate and prepare the cards so we could run them through the 1402 Card Read/Punch machine to print a report. For example, in one of my end-of-month jobs it took me over 8 hours to sort over 50,000 cards and print a single report, , , I spent all weekend at the end of each month producing a few monthly reports.

storage_IBM 1401 computer systemstorage_IBM punch card technology

The good part was that 3 weeks out of each month I only needed to run the daily reports for my area of responsibility. This took about 3 hours to do, , , when finished I could leave the office. This is how my golf game improved tremendously my first year in Hawaii.

I would go into the office early and 2nd shift usually finished their jobs by 9:00pm, , , so I got started early and finished my work by midnight to 1:00am. On many occasions I would go sleep on the beach just off the 15th hole of KBAY Golf Club and get up at daylight, , , take a shower in the clubhouse locker room and then play 36 holes of golf every day.

Walked and carried my golf clubs the whole time, , , no carts because we couldn’t afford it nor want to use them, , , a great time. It was a tough living but someone had to do it. 🙂

There were some real characters in DPP10. Joe Rock and Frank Bonomi from Boston, Don “Gibby” Gibson from Salt Lake City, Bruce Fagrie, Mike Northway, Gunny Crawford, Dave Sistek and others.

usmc_DPP10 MarinesGunny Bill Crawford, Bruce Fagrie, Don “Gibby” Gibson, Dave Sistek

Working in a “card shop” gave me basic understanding of data early in my career because you could physically see what it is on an 80-column card.

storage_80 column card

An 80-column card represented a record of something, , , it might be the details of a helicopter or possibly transaction details of a flight taken with the helicopter, , , it could be information about a piece of equipment or a part,  or it might be information about a Marine assigned a post within the air wing of the base such as a pilot, crash crew member, or mechanic.

I remember thinking it was really strange when a certain Staff Sergeant would walk in, ask for the 3M aircraft master card deck, , , thumb through it until he found the card he was looking for, , , pull it out and then tear it up before handing the card deck back to me. It was how he physically deleted an aircraft or piece of equipment from inventory.

Life was simple in those days, , , but processing data was much harder and more time consuming. I like having the computing power we have in our laptops today.





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