A New Challenge!

Posted by Ian On June 5, 2009

I'm pleased to announce that I have started my own little company - mare ad mare, which is latin for 'sea to sea' and part of the Canadian motto (check the cover of your new passports). Our goal will be to build a fresh new brand of clothing for Canadian (and wannabe Canadian) girls. I will be using this blog, much as I have in the past - to continue showing people around the globe (over 50 countries now!) what it's like to be a Canadian girl, tracing the footsteps of our 3 girls as we explore more of this great place we call home.

Un petit baiser

Unique shirt for Canadian girls

'Gimme a little kiss' - says it all. Now for big girls! Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

JUMP IN!

Fall shirt for Canadian girls

A big pile of leaves for you here! As a Canadian summer turns to fall, the leaves change colours and then fall off the trees. Kids rake them up and play! So go on, Jump into Fall with this Orange T. Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

Pass the Marshmallows!

Summer shirt for Canadian Girls

Summer in Canada is the time for camping, camp fires and of course - Marshmallows! Get ready to go roast some in this summer yellow T. Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

Spring...Finally!

Spring shirt for Canadian Girls

After a long Canadian winter, spring can never arrive too soon! Pull on this Spring Green T and go planting girls! Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

It's not ALWAYS cold in Canada...

Winter shirt for Canadian Girls

How many times have you had to tell someone that it's not always cold here? Well, sometimes it is cold - but to make your point, grab this little winter blue T and let them know that it's not just snow and ice up here all the time! Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

Un petit baiser

Unique shirt for Canadian girls

'Gimme a little kiss' - says it all. Girls, grab this little white T, and go get your kiss ;-) Check www.mareadmare.ca for more details. All designs copyright of mare ad mare.

This is my last day with Qimonda/Infineon.

It comes without celebration, without handshakes, without the sympathy smiles of those left behind - and without 'the walk'. No goodbye lunches, no drinking til dawn to reminisce... I am missing out on all the best things about leaving a company. I even had to mail in my badge yesterday...

I guess for me it's somewhat fitting that there is no big goodbye at any one site. For me, my life at Qimonda/Infineon was nomadic. Even when at my 'home' sites - I was never at home - well until recently when I 'formed' Qimonda Canada ;-)

While there is a lot of anger aimed at the company for its collapse, I would prefer to remember the good times. This company gave me the opportunity to travel to many places, and meet so many great people - friends - many of whom have already left the company... all I want to do right now, is remember the extrodinary times.

I know that this note would really be the only fair way to say goodbye.


Rough start
One of the best stories I used to hear, was from Bussey. He was the manager that was hiring me. He called up one night, and Sara answered and told me who it was - now the way Bussey tells it - she yelled down to me 'It's that guy with the southern accent from Texas!'. In one sentence, she managed to offend him twice ;-) One - he doesn't claim to have an accent, everyone else does and two - he wasn't from Texas! Now to be fair, the hiring agent that we were working through WAS from Texas, so probably got them confused... nice start to a new job!
It was all good though, and he still remembers that to this day.

A few weeks in to the job - it was February - Richmond, VA. A little snow was falling... I thought nothing of it of course, having just left 6 feet of it - but everyone was at the window watching it fall. I joked about it with Peterson, the IT manager, a northeast guy, but snow in Richmond was serious stuff. Schools and government agencies would close in advance of even the threat. Bread and milk were the first off the shelves in all stores, and the local news would be sitting at the airport - literally watching the sky - for the first snowflake to fall!

The guys...
I got to know the guys in my team a bit better, and you'll have to indulge me a few inside jokes in this little section... The 'warroom' became a bear's den of sorts for us. My shoeprints might still line the wall in one little area. Chris was/still is - the butt of most of our jokes. Over time, we built up a nice little arsenal of quick jabs on Chris, and he never helped himself... 'clean water', 'pitt stains', 'colour blind', 'and I'm g__!?!' to name but a few. In the first two years with Infineon - there were times where we had WAY too much time on our hands, had a lot of great laughs - some great trips to Germany with lots'o'beers involved - but that all came to a crashing stop one day in September of 2001.
This was the day we were having our final meeting in Richmond, with Brooks representatives and colleagues over the phone in Portugal, Germany and Austria. Presenting our case as to why we were cancelling the 40 million dollar software deal... Tim received a page and left the room, over the phone one of our Portugese colleagues Joao, interupted the session by saying that the World Trade Center had been struck by a plane. Moments later, Tim came back in and shouted that 'we are under attack', that the second tower had also been hit by a plane.
I have no idea how that actual meeting ended - other than the fact that we were able to get out from under that contract. But that day, that event - affected us all forever.

International Business
We did manage to resume 'normal' business again, and soon we were on our first major international project. It's the thing that not many people understand about these international business trips - you're there to work. Not tour. We don't get the time to really look around and take in the whole experience. I was luckier than most, and was able to go back to many of these places time and time again, get to know the people, and have them tour me around - to really get to know the places as the locals do - for the great places that they really are...

Portugal
Our first implementation was in Porto, Portugal. Now I have had many, many trips to Portugal in the meantime - but these trips, during this project, left us with a not-so-good impression of Portugal. Long workdays meant meals in the factory and the hotel, and the general consensus was that Portugese food was bland food 'cum ovo' meaning with egg on top... We spent plenty of time joking about this with our Portugese colleagues, but over time I got to love it there. They got tired of me bashing them, and so I told them - show me Porto! I had a great day in downtown Porto on a walking tour with Tiago and his wife. Augusto took me with his wife and son, to a fishing village in the north and his favourite restaurant and introduced me to vinho verde and a special crab dish - fantastic. Joao took a few of us to a place where they had his favourite bacalhau (codfish). One night, some of the DC guys took me for an evening out on the town to show me the Portugese nightlife.
A few things that I got to know and love about Portugal. My hotel - right across the street from the ocean, and the beach bar - bar de la playa! Franciscina (sp?), a hot sandwich with all sorts of stuff on it... The Brasileirao, a Brazillian steakhouse - drool... and Portugese wine. My favourite region is the Alentajo.

China
I don't have near enough time to describe all my experiences in China. I've spent almost a year in total in China helping get the factory up and running (through many, many long trips), and got to know Suzhou quite well. It almost deserves a chapter to itself - and I will have to write about it all some day. But I'll highlight the good, the bad and the insane work...
I'll remember the insane traffic, that almost seemed to work for them. The seemingly never ending number of high-rises going up. The overwhelming pollution that prevented us from seeing the sun through the summer. The absolutely wonderful food - provided you knew where to go ;-) The shopping and bargaining with the locals and my portugese colleagues that managed to turn it into a sport... The beautiful gardens (on the odd day that we were off). Tom's Bar (I have the shirt!). The hot as hell, sweaty summers. The circa 1984 VW Santana Taxis - blue if you wanted the cheaper ride, but safety and A/C were optional - or gold, for the 'nice' ride with A/C. The Indian restaurant that we found on our last trip, and were there almost every day (yeah - you do get tired of chinese food after having it at EVERY meal). TEA! Found a love for tea there - still have some leaves. Last but not least - the singers. The ladies from the Phillipines that entertained and tortured us each night at the hotels, restaurants and bars...

Crazy Insane Suzhou Project 1.
We had spent months preparing for an upgrade. Friday afternoon, 4 days before the go live, we found a problem (which should have been detected by their testing - but I digress). Tiago and I stayed in the office working through the problem for 40 hours from Friday night til Sunday night where we finally found the fix! That was the weekend that introduced me to Portugese swearing! We had our Austrian colleagues bring us beer and pizza to the office - that's right - beer! We got about 6 hours sleep TOTAL that weekend. Stood outside waiting for a taxi from 4am to 6am after we couldn't think any longer... Then Monday morning came, we arrived did some work and went to lunch. Came back only to be told that they were cancelling the upgrade.
We got up. Walked out. Went drinking.

Crazy Insane Suzhou Project 2.
Another major upgrade months in the making - I inherited partway through, all came down to the last 3 weeks somehow. 14 hour days, we worked 16 of the 17 days there (the Irish Ian actually worked all 17) and narrowly made it... Even the night of the rollout, the mgmt team was not confident and tried to cancel. I stretched the truth saying how long it would be to fall back - just so that we could continue and successfully complete the project - WHICH WE DID!
The best night though was on day 14 - after having worked 14 days straight - we finally had 99% of it done. I told the team to take the next day off - we were walking zombies... We arranged a team dinner, and then went to Karaoke! I piled in the beers, and everyone had a great time. Enrico singing Christmas songs and David brought his fancy dance moves ;-)
It was a great way to release some misplaced energy over those long days...

Sick in Austria
One of my worst trips ever, a short week trip to Austria to work with the team there. I wasn't feeling well, but decided to go anyways. My head was clogged by the time I arrived at the airport - and once in the air, the pressure on my head was immense. I still think that trip screwed up my hearing in my right ear. (not the punk rock band...). At any rate, I attempted the first day of work, but felt the fever ripping through me. Stayed home the next day - could barely swallow - was officially the worst I had ever felt. Slept for almost 24 hours straight - came out of it STILL SICK AS A DOG. Couldn't eat/drink/breathe... finally called in a doctor who got me some meds and back to health. But that was my worst week ever - without a doubt.
Luckily, the winter Olympics were on the TV - better than having to sit through Austrian soap operas!!!

The Richmond project
This was the most hectic time of our lives. Years of work to fully automate a semi factory - that will now be closed.
This project was absolutely BRUTAL on all of us. I'll try to avoid the bad stuff - you can add whatever you feel appropriate later if it helps you vent...

I'll remember the fishbowl. We jammed 30 people in there to work together and get the project rolling. I remember the flip chart, where I wrote our first list of code snippets we needed to have delivered from our Porto DC. Making the daily calls to prioritize, and then trying to establish some sort of process. Having to introduce this offshore development process to a team in Richmond that was used to writing their own code... building the UTP process for requesting changes. Fighting with Applied for fixes to their horrific system... a system we finally were able to help them make somewhat useable in the end - I guess their new customers will appreciate it - but they'll be one customer short in the near future ;-) The clown in the corner, that the guys used as a punching bag when things got really bad. The UML model for how to operate the coffee maker, a clever distraction blurring the lines between our overwhelming workload, and our brief escapes... and Marcus... how he barely escaped being strung up by the locals.
For me, the project was shorter than for others - as I was asked to move to Germany (well actually Austria...which turned into Germany a month before we were set to move!).

Dresden, Germany
We lived in Dresden for 2 years. These years were the most challenging of my life. I was to setup an Integration Center, a test and deployment group for our product set. My problems in Dresden are well known, and I don't need to get into that. But I did have some great times there too... I was lucky enough to have another Richmond guy with me - to help me through it, someone to drink with non-stop at times...Gene had to go through the same thing, and we both endured the ups and downs - but came out stronger for it.
Upon leaving Dresden, I did a bike tour and wrote up some blurbs about the different aspects of life in Dresden, and the parts that we will look back on fondly. Please have a look at this entry for more on that.
Setting up my team was very interesting. Half the team was local German guys, and then the rest was a mish mash of foreigners. I had hired an American, a Portugese guy and an Irishman to balance the team. These guys helped me through our many projects, I couldn't have done it without them - and couldn't have been happier with having to go through it with them. Winding down my time in Germany, the 'band' started to fall apart. I left the team and headed back to Canada. Ian followed close behind, was nice enough to last through the last crazy project in Malaysia before leaving. John's contract wasn't renewed and now poor Tiago is the only one left.

The Dresden Project...
This project was doomed from the beginning. Despite our best efforts, we never did get the buy in from the user side - and that never ends well... They delayed, made changes, kept the target moving long enough to burn through 30 million+ euros before it was finally cancelled.
But again, there were good times mixed in here. Living in Dresden, we were able to host a number of foreign colleagues for evenings out, or dinners at our place and show them around for a change.

Malaysia
My last major international project was in Malaysia. I was living in Ottawa by this point, and had to make the 35 hour trek to Malaysia a few more times than my back would have liked! This was a site still being built when we got started. There were stories of robberies and rapes, abductions - heard that it was not near a city, but in the middle of a jungle... all sorts of crazy things were being reported to us out of that part of the country. Of course, most of these stories were coming from the Singapore team - who were accustomed to it being a little more comfortable and safe ;-)
We did finally go - and no, it wasn't the best of work conditions... no working bathroom for the first day, and chairs and desks weren't available for the first few days. Witness the evidence:



But it was hardly dangerous or scary. We stayed at a nearby resort - that had a pool (would have been nice if we could have seen it during the day!) and golf course. I even got to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road here! (Barely survived a road trip to Kukup for our celebration dinner)
I was also able to go into Singapore for a short tour the one weekend. Goh Pei Boon, gave me a great walking tour - unfortunately while wearing my work gear... I was sweating so bad - that I had to ring out my shirt at the end of the night!
I have a few videos posted about this trip to Singapore and Malaysia - please have a look.

Romantic Weekends and odd dinner dates?
It wasn't always work though. I had a few rare occasions that was not quite business as usual... like the weekend in San Francisco with Andreas.... Or the Valentines Day dinner with Ricardo in Porto... The weekend in Vienna with Fui-Lian Liow... Mike almost kicking my @ss in Villach... beer tastings at Separ's...BBQ's at Meredith's... and certainly Andreas' wedding in Vegas with Marcus and Gene. - to name but a few.

The actual goodbye...
I watched a tv commercial this morning - saying that everyone should have one extraodinary chapter in their biography - for me, this will be one of them.

Please help me add to my memories of Qimonda/Infineon - by adding a short note in the comment section of an interesting (good/bad/otherwise) time we had together.

Thanks - and good luck to all of you.

12 Response to "My not-so-short goodbye..."

  1. Anonymous Said,

    Hi Ian.
    You were always nice to me.

    I will miss see you and that beautiful head!! ;)

    Take care,
    Steve

     

  2. Chris Said,

    Man oh man...where to begin. OK, for the record: i am not gay, my wife wanted the $5000 clean water system (happy wife, happy life), pit stains never happened, and what else? Oh yeah, Tim Horton's is not nearly as good as Krispy Kreme! And you never could find maple ketchup for my daughter.

    But seriously, i've worked with a whole bunch of coworkers, but not too many would i call "friends". You are one of those friends (along with Tim, Senthil, Mahan, Robin and a few others). You know you're friends when the other guy can call you gay and you don't punch him in the face (i think that's the dictionary definition, actually).

    I will miss working with you. I will miss OOTP (baseball simulation game). I will miss that fantastic Canadian wit and humor.

    The odds of us meeting again are slim to none and that actually makes me kinda sad. You're a good guy with a great family who i wish the very best for in the future.

    OK, enough sap. One more thing before i go:
    Step into my office
    Why?
    Cuz you're f**ing fired!

    Later,
    Chris

    PS - Fire it up!

     

  3. XUP Said,

    An amazing farewell!

     

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

     

  5. Curiously, today is Valentine Day and we (fortunately :-)) won't have a "romantic" dinner again. Thank god, this year it will be much different!!! (nothing personal)

    Yeh, the Phillipines singers are something frequent in asian bars and pubs. In Senai it was horrible but in SuZhou at Tom's Bar, mainly until the time of the "Crazy Insane Suzhou Project 1", it was quite acceptable. Don't you remember when you climbed up to the stage and sang with them?!

    "Crazy Insane Suzhou Project 2" was another interesting experience... I remember the night before the rollout when you were walking around resisting to the pression to cancel the project and giving the management team confidence that we had everything to succeed. As we left the SuZhou-DC office very late, just about 5-6 hours before going to the FAB to make the rollout, we had the opportunity to take funny photos in the reception... Besides being tough, it was rewarding to see that we were able to get it through and getting some fun in the middle.

    Keep practising the portuguese language. You were achieving a good level! (btw, the right spelling for "Franciscina" is "francesinha")
    Do not forget the useful word "sapatadas" that I taught you, someday it may be useful. ;-)

     

  6. mare ad mare Said,

    Steve - from one beautiful head to another ;-)

    Chris - you're like a brother to me, well... maybe not a brother, more like a weird cousin from the south - but definitely a great friend. As for getting to see each other again, it'll happen - I'll find you when you least expect it and you won't like it :-)
    BTW, Krispy Kreme is waste of lard... and yes, I'm firing it up!

    Ricardo - I'm a little hurt about the Valentines Day crack... hope you have a better looking date this year! I was lucky to be able to have you with me on those horrific projects, even though they were difficult - we had some amazing times. Got a share for those pics?

     

  7. Augusto Said,

    Ian,

    You still owe me one of my nine lives because of that trip to Kukup...

    All the best, and don't forget to pay me a visit if you come back to Portugal.

     

  8. Ira Said,

    Mind you, the horror stories did not come from 'the Singapore team', but it did come from 'one' Singapore team member! But yeah..pretty much every single place other than Singapore is very deadly! Lol..

     

  9. Anonymous Said,

    Ian,

    I want to comment your goodbye, especially the Dresden section, from a perspective of a born "Dresdenite" [you see I read the longer Dresden post too] who, working with Qimonda, also got the chance to travel to some of the places you mentioned. Including a 2 (extended to 3) years stay in Richmond. Speaking of the latter I can tell you that going the other way for a long term stay is not exactly easier. Example bureaucracy. I always thought that it can not be worse than in Germany. But I had to find out that in the U.S. it is at least on the same level. Only different. Most memorable for me were the experiences to get a Virginia drivers licence, to buy a car, or to (try to) transfer money using online banking. Not to speak of writing checks, e.g. as the only way to pay for the rent of the house.

    I am sorry that you had to go to McDonald's in Dresden to eat beef. Maybe you did not meet the right people who could tell you where to find a place in Dresden to have a nice burger? If not Jim or Separ told me where to find a good burger place in Richmond I would not have found those locations either. And for Dresden, actually there is a nice place right around the corner of Schillerplatz, even closer to your former home than the Schillergarten. Sometimes the
    good lies so close. So next time you come to Dresden we can go there and try it out ;-)

    Guess what! Finally they build a high speed internet connection in Striesen/Blasewitz based on the fibre optics cable they buried years ago. I know that because I live close to the place you lived during your stay in Dresden. Deutsche Telekom promises to provide the high speed internet by April.

    And yes, the way the Dresden migration project came to an end it somehow stands for the destiny of the whole company, as we know now. But actually I did not want to think about that but nice things.

    I hope we will meet again. I always liked your (Canadian?) sense of humor even so I sometimes had to ask again what you said because I only got used to the southern accent...

    Take care,
    Holger

     

  10. Anonymous Said,

    I remember one specific very technical meeting where we had a discussion in the hallway. Phil X was the technical lead and was seriously discussing with a few then-Infineon guys out there...

    We both noticed at the same time an unexpected wind and associated noise. Apart from that, the whole discussion continued as if nothing had happened. I even got to wonder if this really had happened - but the laugh that we had after this event confirmed that wind really happened ;-))

    Take care, good luck
    Antoine

     

  11. mare ad mare Said,

    Augusto - you and me both... I still doubt that Goh has recovered!

    Ira - you caught me generalizing shame on me! I still think it was funny how everyone wanted all the local info from you - having been there a whole 6 months? haha

    Antoine - oui monsieur, c'etait vraiment drole! Je n'ai pas oublier ca...

    Holger - you are absolutely right. Moving internationally is a huge pain, no matter where you go. I did it twice - and couldn't get over the fact that everyone wrote cheques at the grocery store in Richmond - didn't even have debit when I arrived... The circumstances had very little to do with Dresden itself, just the bad start we had. I'm glad you read the longer post - so you understand that I did enjoy a lot of what Dresden had to offer.
    Beef - there was a good one in the Neustadt (hells kitchen?) but wasn't so good with kids...
    To go back to the international relocation - like I said, it's no fun. It's why I've been trying to help out a former Qimonda Dresden colleague relocate to Ottawa.
    I want to help him avoid the early pitfalls - so he can have an easier time adjusting than you or I did.
    You can read about it here:
    http://mareadmare.blogspot.com/2009/01/new-to-canada.html
    Just like when we moved - there are certain oddities with every place, so was fun to turn the focus back on us as Canadians. To some of his questions, I could only say - yeah, it's like that, no, I don't know why - but yeah - it is kinda stupid...

    Thanks for reading and keeping me honest ;-)

     

  12. Anonymous Said,

    Hi Ian,

    That is a really excellent farewell! It reminds me of so many experiences with my Qimonda friends....

    And please mail me a copy of your biography once you get it ready ^_^

    Blessing you & Take care

    Linda Yan

     

    About Me

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    It's not about the money you make, the toys you have, the clothes you wear - it's about the life experiences you go through, the challenges you face and the stories you tell... Having just moved back to Canada (after almost 8 years in the U.S and Germany), we have lots to show our girls and our friends around the world about Canada. We're going to be telling our stories, hope you enjoy our adventures. Mare ad Mare means 'sea to sea' and we want to show the world, from Sea to Sea - this is what it's like to be a Canadian Girl!