My wife will testify that I am horrible when it comes to keeping things organized and tidy. My colleagues who have seen my office can attest to this as well. My usual defence is that a messy environment is an indication of how busy you are (consequently how productive you are) and basic creativity. But every once in a while, usually when I hit a mental block, I launch into clean up mode to do something completely different hoping that when I’m done, my mental block will be gone. I just went through one of these moments. This time, my cleansing took me to the bottom of one of my office desk drawers to a pile of photos that I had stashed in there ten years ago. Glancing through these, four immediately jumped out and helped me flash back to some key moments in my life. Yes, my 15 minute sabbatical digging through my desk was one of the most productive quarter hours I’ve had in a long time. Here, then, are these four photos that respectively offer a compelling reason to reflect a bit on the past ...
Reason 1: Remember those who got you to where you are
Dr. Robert Lopez, pictured here at a conference in about 2000 I think (based on the Maple 6 sign), was one of the pioneers of applying mathematical technology (ours in particular), to education and in many ways, he was critical in establishing Maplesoft’s reputation as the mathematical tool of choice for many people. He was our original evangelist and one who inspired and continues to inspire generations of students and faculty alike. At that point in time, he was a professor at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Today, he continues his good work as a Maple Fellow and colleague at Maplesoft. He is a constant reminder that introducing an innovative technique into an established community, whether it’s mathematics or engineering, is hard work ... but also a lot of fun.
Reason 2: Remember those who’ve passed through your life but who have left an indelible mark
Dr. Jason Schattman worked with Maplesoft for a couple of years at around that time. He earned his PhD in optimization at Rutgers University. One day, he showed up at our door and asked for a job and we gave him one. Good thing because he was one of the most creative and, in many ways, interesting people that passed through this company. In the early days of Maplets and UI innovation for Maple, he was a never-ending source of creative demos and apps. He even created the first engineering parameter optimization example for a suspension system long before we had any street credibility in modeling and simulation. In addition, he and his wife Dr. Therese Schattman are fabulous ballroom dancers. Ultimately, he chose to pursue a career in teaching highschool and he’ll be my son Eric’s computer science teacher next year ... hence this tribute in advance ;-)
Reason 3: Remember those who became surprisingly significant in your life
This picture is from one of my very first trips to Japan. Appearing in this photo are some very notable characters. On the far left is Mr. Yukinari Igita, Cybernet System’s very first Maple application engineer and my first contact with the company. He recently retired after a very long and accomplished career helping Japanese industry (and us) deploy the best new computing tools. In the front is Ms. Yoko Oggi, our main sales person at the time. She worked tirelessly in the interest of our customers and to help us understand the particular needs of the Japanese market. Today, she still keeps in touch as she lives out a dream existence as a pastry chef in Florence, Italy. Che bella. The gentleman on the right tucked away to the rear is Mr. Kuniyaki Tanaka. At that time, he was the sales manager for the Maple business. The more astute among you would recognize the name as Cybernet’s current CEO and one who envisioned the merging of our companies. Other than Tanaka-san, the staff at Cybernet who work directly with the Maplesoft business have all changed (and grown dramatically in number). But I chuckled looking at this photo of the group celebrating during the early days ... and completely oblivious to the wild ride we were all in for in the years ahead.
Reason 4: Remember how fortunate you are
At last count, I have visited over 340 distinct cities in my life, mostly triggered by work. Although business travel is always hard work, our customers tend to be located in some of the most interesting destinations on the planet. One memorable trip was my first and only visit to Australia ... for two days ... one day in Sydney and one in Melbourne. I’m not sure why I chose such a ridiculous itinerary but one of the consequences was that I would have very little record of my trip. So I thought, until I found this picture. So now I can prove to everyone that I’ve actually been there. But the real story here is that I’ve been very fortunate to have been associated with a company and a technology initiative that has been so foundational for the world engineering and mathematics community that it has taken me to places (frequently) that most people go to once in their lifetime if at all. And typically, when I go to these places, I’m not accosted by panhandlers and cheap souvenir vendors. I am welcomed by accomplished engineers, scientists, and professors who genuinely appreciate the work that we do. Cheers mate!