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.





My best pal

16 12 2013
Billy Marbet_Mike Sisco

Billy Marbet and Mike Sisco – 1950’s

Billy Marbet has been my best friend for a long time. I tell people, “We met when he was 4 hours old.”

I don’t know exactly when we met but our parents were close so I’m sure it was within a day or two. We have been close friends ever since.

Growing up was a blast in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Here is a photo taken by Billy’s Mom, Sue, , , “my second Mom”. We played “Army”, “Swamp Fox”, football, baseball, basketball, , , we were active kids and at 10 and 11 rode our bikes all over Hohenwald and Lewis County.

It was a different time, , , a great time to grow up.




Best golf of my career

16 12 2013

1970 was my best golf by far while stationed at Kaneohe Marine Base in Hawaii. Pictured below are Allan Westbrook, Joe Capri and me (driving) in the 1970 Hawaii Marine Golf Tournament. We finished 1, 2, and 4 in the tournament. We were all 19 or 20 years old, , , good times.

Mike Sisco_Allan Westbrook_Joe CapriKBAY Marine News article

I played 18-36 holes of golf every day because I worked midnights as a Computer Operator so I took real advantage of it and improved my handicap to a “1”. That means I shot par or better on most occasions.

I even remember asking a fellow Marine, Jim Rainey, “How can you be a “7” handicap?”

Those days are long gone. Dorine and I got married on December 26, 1970 and priorities changed, , , a good thing :).

Joe Capri became a good friend and we played many rounds together. Two of them are memorable. I was with him when he double-eagled #7, a par-5. We thought his 2nd shot was in a bunker but it finished in the hole, , , double-eagle is the 2nd rarest feat in golf behind “shooting your age”.

The 2nd memorable round was when I beat Joe in the KBAY Men’s Association Tournament, , , primarily because he putted terribly. On the 14th hole, he literally putted a 30-footer off the back of the green and had to chip back onto the green. After that he was so frustrated he broke his wooden shafted Otey Crisman putter and threw it away. I asked if I could save it and still have it.

Joe was one of the best ball strikers I’ve known. When he putted well he was hard to beat and a great teammate on the Hawaii Marine Team of 1970 and 1971.

I can’t play like I once did or hit it nearly as far as I could back then even with the new technology we have today, but I have some very positive memories of “when I could play this great game of golf”.

Time for a career change

15 12 2013

career-3It was September 1, 2000, , , my 51st birthday and a day that changed my life forever.

I walked into my CEO’s office and told him that I planned to leave the company and wanted to transition in a way that would create a win-win for both of us.

We agreed to a 6-month contract that would help us both make the transition a positive one. This contract would get extended twice and run 13 months before we finally parted ways.

I had been considering the idea of creating a company and working for myself for some time. This isn’t something you do haphazardly and without considerable thought, , , or at least I don’t.

So, , , on September 1, 2000, , , MDE Enterprises was born, , , sort of.

I still wasn’t sure what MDE would do, , , i.e., what products or services we would sell. Initially, the company was a consulting company because most of the revenue came from the contract with my former company our first year.

What I did know in the early days of the company was that I did not want to be a traditional consulting company. I didn’t want to have to “work an hour to be paid an hour”, , , plus the travel and the seemingly constant need to be in marketing mode to insure you have contracts lined up was unappealing.

I’ve never looked back even though there have been times when the going was difficult and at least once when I thought I might have to go work for another company again.

In future posts I’ll chronicle some of the key events that have allowed us to run a successful small company for 13 years that “helps IT managers of the world achieve more success”.

The last 13 years have been an amazing ride full of interesting coincidences, travel, and being able to do things that helps many around the world achieve more success.

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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