25 years of Riding the Wave in Silicon Valley

“Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.”
Coach John Wooden

Prologue (Part 4 of 4)

The intent of this final prologue is to briefly review my 25+ years in Silicon Valley to provide a glimpse into the viewpoints I carry into this blog. This starts with a quick summary of how I ended up here from my roots in Southern California.

Somehow, I decided to leave the surfer’s paradise of Corona del Mar for what turned out to be a wonderful four years of college for me at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. I majored in Sports Management in the “Recreation & Leisure Studies” department, which was predicted to be the “boom” industry of the future, as the emergence of the computer in the late 1970’s would soon provide the baby boomer generation with an over abundance of free time. Ha! Well, not quite.

My dream job coming out of college was to find a tennis club in Southern California where I could spend my workday lounging in tennis clothes, while socializing and hitting tennis balls with club members on my breaks. And as fate would have it, I landed that very job as General Manager of the Covina Hills Racquet Club in West Covina. However, it wasn’t quite as good as it had sounded, as my days were some of the longest I have ever worked (we were open 6am – 10pm), and I seemed to always be at the club when everyone else was off (weekends, holidays and evenings). Balance went right out the window, even if I was wearing tennis clothes all day!

CHRC_OpenHouse

Marketing for new members at the tennis club

After 2-years at the Covina Hills Racquet Club, I switched careers and made my debut at an emerging Silicon Valley telecommunications firm by the name of ROLM. As the government mandated breakup of AT&T’s monopoly of telephone service in the U.S. was taking shape, companies like ROLM were hiring and investing heavily in technical training of their work force to get a jump on the new opportunity. This was perfect for me, as my skills did not go much beyond washing tennis courts and counting tennis balls in the Pro Shop; I did not know the slightest thing about computers! Best of all, I met the love of my life at ROLM, and we soon moved up to ROLM’s headquarters in Santa Clara following our marriage in Newport Beach. There we put our roots into the ground, raised our two children, and began to call Mountain View home.

My first impressions of Silicon Valley in 1991 are best summarized with three questions, which seemed to slap me in the face when we first arrived:
– How COLD is the water at the beach?
– What does everyone do in their free time if they aren’t going to the beach?
– Why is everyone at work so much!?

IBM_Tennis

From Tennis Clubs to Silicon Valley

It took me 5 years to brave the cold water in Santa Cruz and realize that Silicon Valley had access to some of the best surfing on the California coast, less than an hour from our doorstep in Mountain View.  As soon as I surfed Steamers Lane in Santa Cruz at low tide on a winter pacific swell, I realized home base had officially moved up north. With the right conditions, Steamers Lane is a world-class wave, which can provide a longer and more exhilarating ride than any wave I’ve experienced in California. It was a dream of a discovery for me, and has been pivotal to keep me in balance while struggling to maintain my career in the fast lane of Silicon Valley high technology companies.

Following are four short stories to help explain a few experiences that have shaped my beliefs over these past 25 years in Silicon Valley.

4.1 — SLOW DOWN
4.2 – The Circle of Life
4.3 – Peace of mind
4.4 – Hit over the head by a 2×4

**Resources**
“Starting Up Silicon Valley: How ROLM Became a Cultural Icon and Fortune 500 Company” by Katherine Maxfield

For those of us who were lucky enough to be a part of the ROLM story, this book is a must have.  And for those just curious to understand how ROLM set the stage in Silicon Valley as a center of innovation years before Apple, Google, Facebook and others came along, it is a good lesson in computer history.  But most of all for me, the stories of the personalities who worked at ROLM are wonderfully captured.  It truly was an amazing company.

ROLM_Book